News » Mountain News

Mountain News: Chicano book bumped from assigned reading in Idaho



DRIGGS, Idaho – If sophomores at Teton High School read Bless Me, Ultima, it will have to be on their own time. The book has been replaced on the assigned reading list by Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights because of protests by parents.

Wikipedia says that Bless Me, Ultima, published by Rudolfo Anaya in 1972, reflects Chicano culture in the 1940s in rural New Mexico. By recounting folkways such as the gathering of medicinal herbs, it "gives readers a sense of the influence of indigenous cultural ways that are both authentic and distinct from the mainstream."

But one mother who lives in the valley, located adjacent to Jackson Hole, had a different take: "I opened the book and I was appalled," Shaylee Kearsley told the Valley Citizen. "There's just a lot of profanity, and the f-word is used a lot, and there are some satanic rituals in the book."

Kearsley expressed her heartburn on Facebook, explains the Citizen, and soon, other parents were also protesting the book. It ended up being discussed during a Sunday school (church) class, where it was identified as an example of "bad media."

The book had been assigned to a junior class in English last year with no controversy. With that success, a local non-profit foundation purchased 120 copies for the sophomores. The book is assigned frequently in high school literature classes.

Teton Valley school administrators backed off. "At times, we're a real diverse community," said Monte Woolstenhulme, the superintendent of schools.

Although a graduate of the high school himself, Woolstenhulme sparked the ire of many community members last summer when he announced that the use of "redskin" as a mascot for the high school be replaced with a mascot less offensive to the local aboriginals, the Shoshonean people. But the change was hotly disputed, and he backed down.

After finishing Wuthering Heights, the local students will take up To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. It has no f-words, but it deals with hard issues: racial injustice and the loss of innocence.

Thud is much less worse at 70km than at almost 90km per hour

KETCHUM, Idaho – Dead elk were in the news in Ketchum. A science class at Wood River High School calculated the impact of a car hitting an elk or deer while going 88 km/h as compared to 72 km/h, reports the Idaho Mountain Express.

A car going 72 km/h will hit the animal and travel another 6.7 metres before coming to a stop. A car going 88 km/h will travel another 24.3 metres before coming to a step.

"The reduction in speed reduces the impact speed by approximately 50 per cent," the students wrote in their conclusion. "Energy is velocity squared, so it translates into a collision that only does one-quarter of the amount of damage."

But will it kill the animal? That was beyond the scope of their research.

Bilingual speakers hard to find in police forces

CARBONDALE, Colo. – Drawn by construction and low-paying service-sector jobs, Latin Americans began flocking to Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley in the late 1980s. Now, Carbondale, located about 48km down-valley from Aspen, is 40 per cent Hispanic, with many residents unable to speak English. Other towns also have high numbers of Spanish speakers.

This presents a problem for local police, and they have been trying to recruit bilingual police officers for years. One of the local jurisdictions, the Garfield County Sheriff's Office, pays an extra dollar per hour to any officer who can speak more than one language.

Still, for various reasons, both Anglo and Latino police officers with bilingual skills remain hard to come by, according to the Aspen Daily News.

Anglo police recruits with college-level Spanish skills are rare. Many Latino recruits who want to become officers do speak English well, but lack the reading and writing skills in English that are needed for a key component of the job, documentation.

But police who do speak Spanish say it gives them a leg up in a valley where the Latino population continues to grow.

"You find that there are cultural differences that make some Spanish speakers initially think that if you're a Caucasian, you don't speak Spanish," said Carbondale police Lt. Chris Wurtsmith, who has a working knowledge of the language. "Then, when you do speak to them in Spanish, you see some kind of relief come across their face, because they know they can come to you with problems."