June 22, 2018
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Parent seeks removal of civics textbook at Brewer High

By Nok-Noi Ricker, BDN Staff

BREWER, Maine — An Amherst resident has asked that Brewer High School remove a freshman civics textbook from the curriculum, Superintendent Daniel Lee said Monday.

“His concern is about the preamble of the U.S. Constitution,” Lee said. “I don’t understand what the problem is. Anyone who objects to instructional materials can ask for a review. We’re reviewing it.”

The request to remove the civics book was made last week by Carter Jones, an Amherst school board and planning board member with children attending Brewer High. A five-member committee is reviewing the material, Lee said, adding that the process could take several weeks.

“It is unusual to have a citizen challenge instructional materials, particularly in the area of civics,” Lee said in an e-mail Monday. “To my knowledge this is the first complaint about this book. Nevertheless, it is important that we respond thoughtfully to such requests.”

Jones, in a Sunday e-mail, said the panel will “reveiw [sic] allegations of leading and false information in a civics book being used in a freshman class. It is beleived [sic] to be inappropriate by many.”

While doing civics homework with his son, Jones said, questions at the end of Chapter Three, made him question whether the answers were leading or false.

“One question asked: ‘Many traditions observed by the government are part of an unwritten constitution,’” he said on Monday. “The answer is supposed to be true. According to me, there isn’t an unwritten constitution.”

His issue with the federal Constitution preamble has to deal with a definition in the textbook that “defines promote and uses the word provide,” he said, in reference to the phrase “promote the general welfare.”

“If the Founding Fathers wanted provide there, they would have put it there,” he said.

The preamble reads, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence [sic], promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Parents with concerns about a curriculum can ask that their child be excused from that portion of the lesson, Lee said.

“In fact, parents may choose to restrict their child’s access to certain instructional materials,” he said. “In this case, the parent is requesting to remove curriculum material from school.”

The review panel includes Kathleen Kazmierczak, the school department’s director of instruction, Brian Doyle, Brewer High School assistant principal, a department head, a teacher and a resident.

“They have been charged with reviewing the material in question, checking on its general acceptance in the field by reading independent reviews, as well as weighing its values and faults,” Lee said. “Departmental policy instructs committee members to form opinions based on the instructional material as a whole and not on portions pulled out of context.”

Once the review is complete, a written report will be sent to Lee, he said.

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