Parents irked over choice of books for 7th-grade class in San Rafael

A book battle is brewing in San Rafael schools.

A novel that has been part of social studies lessons on ancient Rome for seventh-grade honors classes is drawing protests from some parents who complain that it promotes Christianity and casts Jews in a negative light. The story should not be required reading in a public school classroom, they say.

The controversy arises just after the district’s dustup over a plan to offer Transcendental Meditation to students at Terra Linda High School.

The book, “The Bronze Bow,” has been used in Davidson and Gallinas classes since 1999, but it started drawing complaints last spring.

The 1962 award-winning novel by Elizabeth George Speare is historical fiction about a teen-age Jewish boy growing up in Roman-occupied Galilee during the time of Jesus. The story deals with Roman oppression, Jewish resistance and the rise of Christianity.

Parents’ complaints about the book have dominated recent meetings of the district curriculum committee, said Superintendent Laura Alvarenga.

“It is a book that’s been used for a long, long time,” she said. “It’s been used all these years without a major issue.”

The debate now appears to be headed to the school board. The parents have even created their own Web site, www.bronzebow.info.

Their complaints led the district to make the book optional this fall, but some parents have sought to have it pulled from the district’s curriculum. With most students and classroom discussion steered to “The Bronze Bow,” it is essentially “required” reading, said parent Leonard Levy.

The debate over the book has drawn inquiries from the ACLU and the California Teachers Association.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday October 31, 2006.
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