Vol. 1, Issue 13, August 12, 2003
Think Difference (Engine).
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Family Sues School Over Blank Books

Harold and Ginny Valencia, parents of a high school student in Sacramento, California are suing a publisher, Penguin USA, the local school district and the state Board of Education for what they describe as a flagrant example of negligence.

"When our son signed up for American literature, we were initially pleased to see that the curriculum still contained many classic works," said Mrs. Valencia in a press conference on Monday. "However, after purchasing the books, we soon found that they were blank after the first chapter."

The books, including such works as "Catcher In The Rye," "The Great Gatsby," and "Catch 22," contain fewer than ten pages of text each, with the rest of the volumes consisting of blank paper. One book on the list, "Of Mice and Men," was actually not even a book but a heavy block of plastic shaped like a book. Further inquiries revealed that this has been standard practice for years, although no one had complained before now.

Teachers are aware of the situation, but tend not to say anything.

"What's the point?" said Myrna Felicitas, a high school English teacher. "They are all using Cliff's notes to get through the class discussions, and downloading their term papers from the internet." Felicitas said she once tried a program designed to check whether papers turned in had been plagiarized from the Web, but gave up after the program located 95% of her students' papers in under five minutes.

"I would have had to flunk my entire class," she said, "which would have made them ineligible to take the AP tests. That would reduce our school's scores, and our school funding would be cut by $2 million. My superintendent would kill me, if my principal didn't kill me first." Under California law, school funding is dependent on meeting minimum standardized testing scores among a majority of the students. Administrators have been known to take the tests themselves on students' behalves in order to assure continued state funding.

"We feel that minimizing the actual primary source load on our student body maximizes the efficiency of the educational process," said California Secretary of Education Kerry Mazzoni. "It fuels ingenuity among students seeking ways around reading the books, and allows them additional time for important tasks such as test prep. Besides, it's permissible under the California Educational Code."

Reporters were unable to verify this fact, because their 9-volume copy of the California Educational Code is blank after page 34.


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