DOE takes right approach on book
A fictional book criticized as historically inaccurate will stay on public school shelves.
THE state Department of Education has taken a level-headed tack
on a 20-year-old fictionalized autobiography set during World War II that has been criticized as historically inaccurate.
Rather than banning the book, as have schools in Texas, Massachusetts and other states, the department simply identifies the book for what it is -- fiction rather than fact -- and makes sure students understand that and that teachers who use it present it as such.
The issue arose when the Korean Consulate in Hawaii warned that the book, "So Far from the Bamboo Grove," which takes place during the Japanese colonial occupation of the Korean peninsula, contained incorrect descriptions of historic events, portraying Koreans as villains and Japanese as their victims, and describing bombings by U.S. planes. Published in 1986, it was written by Yoko Kawashima Watkins, a Japanese American.
After the consulate's warning, the department asked school officials for comments on the book and received no critical replies. The department also reminded teachers that reading materials should be used in proper context and reflect "all points of view."
The book is among thousands of titles available in public school libraries, and it is likely that parts of many could be discredited for some reason or another. But schools serve to offer students a variety of ideas and stories. As long as it's not presented as history, and differing points of view and accuracy are acknowledged, there should be no problem with the book.
The consulate appears to be satisfied with the department's review. It also acknowledges that students have a right to read what they want. That's a fact.
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