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Burlingame’s “Kaffir Boy” brouhaha

By Aaron Kinney
Friday, April 13th, 2007 at 6:36 pm in Uncategorized.

The Burlingame School District’s decision to “ban” a book based on the experience of a boy growing up in apartheid South Africa has become national news.

But the reality of the story is a lot more mundane than the word “ban,” with its connotations of oppressive government censorship, would suggest.

District Superintendent Sonny Da Marto pulled “Kaffir Boy” from four eighth-grade classrooms at Burlingame Intermediate School after a couple parents complained that Mark Mathabane’s autobiography uses graphic language to describe a scene of sexual violence.

As it turns out, the class was using an unabridged version of the book that the author himself deems too explicit for middle-school students. To that end, he publishes a version of the book, which is taught in schools across the country, that omits the graphic passages and is intended for middle-school use.

“I felt it was appropriate, since the book became popular with middle school students and teachers, to come up with an age-appropriate version,” Mathabane explained in an email to the Times.

Mathabane wrote that the controversy arose “when the students were mistakenly assigned the high school version.”

Dave Pine, president of the district’s Board of Trustees, said the district has ordered copies of the modified version and expects Burlingame Intermediate to have them by the end of the year, so students can finish the story. The board has also asked Da Marto to look at the district’s policy for reviewing books, since the abrupt removal of “Kaffir Boy” may have helped spark this controversy, Pine said.

Perhaps Mathabane can bring some of the abridged books with him April 30 when he visits the school. Pine said the author has agreed to stop by and discuss the book with students, which provides a nice ending to this chapter of the “Kaffir Boy” story.

“I hope that the net result of this will be positive,” Pine said, “although I appreciate that it has been very difficult for the middle school community.”

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One Response to “Burlingame’s “Kaffir Boy” brouhaha”

  1. Treyanna Says:

    I love who put up the images of TO KILL A MICKING BIRD up, because we need these kinds of thing for school an we need them for ourselves!

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