WTF? Teacher may lose job for reading 'pornographic' sci-fi

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Dec 16, 2012

A lot of us have some pretty fond memories of hearing our teachers read aloud in class, but here's at least one kid who wasn't impressed. A middle school teacher in South Carolina is now under investigation for reading to his class from a sci-fi novel that a student and parent complained was "pornographic." And here's the kicker: The book in question has been read by middle school students everywhere for years.

So what piece of highly offensive, edgy reading material did this teacher read that caused a kid to get so testy? Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card's Hugo- and Nebula-winning 1985 novel that's been a fixture in American schools for 25 years now.

Here's what happened: The teacher, who has not been named, read aloud from three books as part of a "literacy initiative" at Schofield Middle School in Aiken County, S.C. One of the books was Ender's Game, and something about the reading prompted the student and his parent to complain to the school district and contact police, claiming the material from the reading was "pornographic." The teacher has since been placed on administrative leave while school officials investigate the situation.

No criminal charges have been filed against the teacher, but school officials are looking into whether he violated school policy by reading the book without first submitting it to administrators for review.

"One of the things that teachers are supposed to do is preview material for appropriateness for any questions that may come up," Joy Shealy, the school district's middle school academic officer, told the Aiken Standard. "By doing that, we make sure the materials that are presented to students are age and instructionally appropriate—all the things that make a good instructional program."

Numerous review and advisory sites describe Ender's Game as being appropriate for children ages 12 and up. The student who filed the complaint with his parent is 14.

The school says it has since reviewed all three of the books the teacher read from and found that two of them (including Ender's Game) "have materials (primarily swear words) and, in some instances, subject matter and terminology that school administrators consider inappropriate for the middle school."

School officials said they are dealing with the issue "promptly," and local police said their investigation into the incident is "ongoing."

Naturally, fan rage is already spreading, one example being The Incredible Hulk writer, Star Trek novelist and all-around geek icon Peter David, who tweeted about the case this morning:

"ENDER'S GAME pornographic? That's the charge in S. Carolina," David said, with a link to the Aiken Standard article. "Love the bit about 'ongoing criminal investigation.'"

(Aiken Standard via Peter David's Twitter feed)