David Flood was the teacher who assigned Song of Solomon alongside The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Interview with David Flood.
Audio Transcription w/ Photos:
David Flood: Ok so to begin with, I was, I used to be an English teacher, Leonardtown high school. I graduated from St Mary’s College in eighty four and uh, I was student teaching right afterwards and they offered me a job right away because I taught writing and I’ve seen, I’ve immediately became that the be all end all be all of a writing across the curriculum. And the reason why I could write so well is because I came to St Mary’s College as, as a music major and I had never really written much papers, you know, and I had already been to East Carolina University for a year and University of Richmond for half a year and as a science major. And uh, I was here, I never had to write a serious paper. So I got here and a Michael Phelps had English. I mean the music department. And uh, I wrote a research paper that was basically just the history of guitar pretty much.
David Flood: He was like, what is this crap, you know? And here I was 25 going back to college. I was 27 and 26 at the time and here’s these kids that are 17, 18 years old. I felt about that big and so I made it. When I did student teach, I wasn’t planning on teaching. I was playing in a band that was playing like five, six nights a week in this area in Annapolis, Washington. And, and, uh, they had to talk me into coming in a supervisory Dolores Fleming black lady and said, you’ve done this before, you know, when she came in and observed me and I said, no, I’ve never done this before. And she said, well then you’re a natural. And I said, they’re not drunk. And she said, excuse me. I said, I’ve been playing in bars for a long time, man. I say something that these guys, they all look up, you know.
David Flood: And so I was really got engaged with teaching. It was a lot of fun. And so I realized that if I didn’t like high school that much, but it’s because I was bored all the time and I’d rather be working and I decided to make if I was going to take a job there, then they offered me a job from noon, from nine to noon. She said, could you get up, get to work by nine. I said, theoretically, could you leave at 12 and still do your band stuff? And I went, yeah, I could she goes if you want that job? And I went OK. So writing literature and writing about literature became really important for me because it was the best way for me to get kids to get engaged in something and then write about it and figure out how to write, you know.
David Flood: And a lot of them hadn’t done much writing. So to get into advanced placement, you had to pass a test, you had to be in the upper eighty percent and pass the test. You also had to write an essay and that had to be top notch also. And it’s, I would except 12 to 15 students a year. That was, the cap was 15, now it’s 35, so once they switched it to that, which they did, while I was still there, I didn’t leave until 2006 and 2008 actually. And uh, so in 1996 I really liked attorney Moreso than a lot and I really liked Mark Twain and so for summer reading I gave them Song of Solomon and Huckleberry Finn, the adventures of Huckleberry Finn and wrote them a letter and tell them them to fee that the class was focused on all these. It wasn’t just the literature.
David Flood: We’re putting it in perspective as far as like, uh, uh, going, we went through. So it was American literature and I write them a letter and say that will be left following philosophical movements including puritanism, age of reason, nationalism, racism, Romanticism. I’m sorry, realism, naturalism, transcendentalism and modernism, which is like, then they get up. So what is this a history class? Or if it’s like you can’t separate the two and you can’t separate philosophy from this. So it’s all that. This class is all that and they generally enjoyed it because I would bring in literature that they didn’t know anything about and they’d be like, wow, this is pretty cool. You know, it’d be like, yeah, so you guys have tricked everybody into doing whatever you want now, trick them into giving you a’s in that basically the people that got into advanced placement in very competitive also, and I tried to make it not competitive when I came back to school in 96, 97, there was one parent that was up in arms against Song of Solomon and she wrote this scathing letter about everything that was wrong with it language, which I have a copy of.
David Flood: And um, she, she roped you, first of all, my department supervisor, which now changed. It was Deanna Norrid, and she wrote back as you requested enclosed is a copy of the procedures involving textbooks questioned by members of the community. I’ve included a form that can be used to express concern. You have concerns, you have about Song of Solomon said they say, you know, she says later on, as a result of our conversation I know that your concerns are very important to you and that you are truly interested in your child’s education. I hope that involving you in this process will assure that we are also concerned. Well, what happened was they went to the board and they looked at it in the middle of all this. I have all these letters to the editor from the enterprise, from the Washington Post and from the Sun Baltimore Sun and actually from the evening capital in Annapolis too.
David Flood:And so I just started getting into here like, you know, then I got into other theater in two, Maryland counties a war over words removal folks park you to Maryland counties removed. And so there’s all these letters in here. Well, this lady was, was questioning my decision to use that novel and on every advanced placement class that the tests that I saw, there was literature that was literature oriented. So it was literature and writing. And then it was a literature and gee, I can’t remember what twelfth grade was. Anyway, uh, the, the whole class didn’t understand what was going on with this because they didn’t read this graphic that they didn’t see the big problem with these graphic things that this one parent saw but as one parents thought than many other parents started to chime in. Well then other people started to chime in about how it was appropriate to teach these kinds of things because it’s cutting edge literature.
David Flood: She’s been, uh, you know, uh, uh, uh, what is it a, not poet laureate, but she’s a, um, well renowned writer who’s many awards and, and so, um, all these people that were reading this, the ones that got turned on to it and really wanted to look into this would say to me, you know, I never read that novel before. Now all my friends are reading, these are adults, you know, great. OK, so now, now you’re informed. Well, the problem is, is that the county commissioners and the board only looked at the pages that were questionable. So they didn’t put it in perspective at all. No context. Right? And so they kept at me about it, but you know, why are you teaching this and everything else, like, you know, she’s on the advanced placement list and I thought this was appropriate and I haven’t had, I haven’t seen anywhere in the country with this has been a problem with this novel.
David Flood: And so they had many meetings and, and it, that the superintendent kept sending signals, messages to me to stop talking about Song of Solomon in the classroom. So I did. And uh, but she kept coming back to me because she thought I was. And at one point Mrs Jenkins, who was a Judy Jenkins, who’s a vice principal called me into her office after school one day and said, I need to talk to you about Song of Solomon. And I was like, OK, what do you need? Because I had stopped talking about it. I stopped anything related to it. She said, the superintendent wants you to stop talking about it. And I went, I have stopped talking and you tell the superintendent if she was to talk to me to talk to me personally, not send, some messenger. And she was like, well, I’m just trying to say no, I don’t care enough.
David Flood: I was like, this is ridiculous, you know, she sends messages for wherever I went, I got to go. And I just walked out and I went into my room and started washing the board and she followed me in there a couple minutes later and she said, are you all right? And I went, no. And she said, David, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you this mad. And I went, I’ve never been this mad you’d ever like every this book, they’re 40. I’d say 40 percent of the people were saying it’s a 60 percent. At least it could have been more than that. We’re like, what’s wrong with this? You know, she’s, you know, she’s a Pulitzer Prize winner. And that’s what I was trying to think of it in her novels are just killer novels. They’re really great novels. And um, I fought this tooth and nail with that, putting my name into anything.
David Flood:I never send anything to the newspaper. I never responded to them calling me. Post called me all come on.
Price Kinsey: So you remained silent throughout the entire thing?
David Flood: Absolutely. Yup. I didn’t have anything to say because anything that I said would be misinterpreted or it’d be either taken on one side as a see or the other side to go, well, he’s being so I couldn’t win and so for once I showed discretion and didn’t respond to it. So one of my teacher friends, an English teacher who was very active in the a Maryland State Teachers Association, came to my room and said, have you read our booklet on the guidelines and the rules and everything for for people you know, how we’re supposed to act and how we’re supposed to be treated and student. Everything is all in this little thing from the association. I said, now I’ve always looked at the calendar and he goes, you should read this he marks a page and it’s article 11, academic freedom and this is right.
David Flood: Just before Christmas break and they were really pounding on me and I was like ahhhh and so he gives me this and highlighted it and I read it. It says in performance of their teaching functions, teachers shall be responsible to provide students opportunity to investigate all facet sides and or opinions of and about any and all topics and materials introduced or presented and she’ll have a special responsibility to revise such opportunity with regards to those which are or maybe of controversial nature, such material presented to students must be relevant to the basic content of the course, and appropriate to the maturity level and intellectual ability of the students. The teachers shall further be responsible to permit the expression of the views and opinions of others and to encourage students to examine, analyze, evaluate, and synthesize all available information about such topics and materials and to encourage each to form his or her own opinion and views and opinions of others and for the right of individuals to form and hold different views and opinions.
David Flood: The basic content of a course and provisions for implementations and supervision shall be the responsibility of the board so then they lay it on the so it is the board’s decision in the end, but I was like, this is brilliant. Thank you Mike. And he said, the assignment I made up for them over Christmas break. ok, goes considered the controversial nature of this novel Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, students are to exam, examine, analyze, evaluate and synthesis, synthesize all available information about the topic and materials and write a personal essay which clarifies their own views and opinions of others and for the right of individuals to hold different views and opinions. Basically verbatim from the and said that. And I said all this, this is a personal essay assignments. Students are to follow formal essay guidelines used when writing the critical analysis essays previously assigned in class. So I sent this to my principal, just tell them this is what I’m doing.
David Flood: And he came back and went, you’re kidding right? And I went no. Have you read this article. And he said when he read it and I said, I’m obligated to do this. I don’t have a choice. OK, I mean if you read this, if I don’t I am delinquent. And he went ok Flood. OK. So my students went home with this assignment over Christmas break and they had to get a hold of the superintendent and anybody in that office that had anything to do with this, all the board members, any teachers that they could get a hold of or politicians that they commissioners, you know, so every commissioner, every board member, every person in, in the superintendent’s office was called over Christmas break by each and every one of my students, which was like at the time about 30 students and because I have two classes and they were livid, they were absolutely livid about because my students were like, so why do you think this, you know, why he can I meet with you?
David Flood: And you know, they were really professional about it. They did a great job and it just made people, so up in arms that they were like, this has got to stop. And I was not making any friends then. And um, they came back with these great papers. Some of them said nah, it shouldn’t be taught, but most of them said, yeah, it should be taught. It should be taught. There’s a lot of controversy about it. But isn’t there controversy about everything, you know, they bring up like the Bible you know? When it got actually when it didn’t get taken away and I was removed from a approved lists that wasn’t banned. Banning’s different. You’re not allowed to have it in school at all. He was still in the library, so it was just removed from the approved lists for advanced placement. And I said, that’s bullshit, you know, you’re banning this from.
David Flood: No, we are not. So I had to go to this meeting where all the heads of know is with the superintendent and all the English heads and everything were there and they made the decision to not put it on the approved list. And I. So I said OK great, that’s great. And I’ve been in trouble with it many times because I usually did what I wanted to pay it for it later. And it worked out with the kids but didn’t work out with adults and my kids were constantly getting better and better. You know what I was, you know, analyzing literature they got into it you know? It was just like, wow, this could be fun. You know, and it’s like, yeah, I’m not going to come here and not have fun, there’s no way. And that was the key to it was that they looked at this, all this came out and they were like, what are they talking about?
David Flood: And I was like, you don’t even know. And they’re like, no. Well where was that scene? I said find it. They talk about it. So find it, you know, it’s kids were like, I don’t remember reading that, you know, and what. So one of the letters with the original person who, who brought this subject to board here was uh, she said that it was completely inappropriate and that students in a high school shouldn’t be subjected to such language. And my response was really have, have you ever stood out in the hallway in between classes, you know, it’s like you would be very surprised what your kids are hearing and you know, and I stand out there and just go ok I gotta go, there because it’s like they’re being, you know, they’re not being rowdy too much or anything, but they’re using foul language and they’re talking about stuff that’s like what the novel was talking about only in a little different way.
David Flood:But it ended up that they got rid of it and I’d asked my. I was in the association, so I asked my rep. he was my lawyer, basically Charlie Purcell. I said, Charlie, am I allowed to say after this is all I ever am, I allowed to say what I want to. And he went yes David and I said, you think I should because I don’t think that’s going to matter. I think you’re gonna do it anyway. And I said, you’re right. I just wondering what you think. He said, well, I don’t see it at the end of it. I said OK , so it’s off the approved list. So I recommend. And I reached down and that we’d take Huck Finn off the approval lists also, it has the word n****r and 186 times and I did count them and catcher in the Rye, which we should take this off the approved list, the test words such as fuck in it.
David Flood: Shit, I’m being really graphic and open about this because it’s like, hey, you know, that’s what you were saying about this book, so why not these books? And there were two or three of them. And they went, well, would you like us to consider them for? I said, yeah, as long as you’re not approving books, you know that I was pushing the envelope all the time with them and they listened to what I had to say but didn’t go anywhere. But at the end I looked at Charlie after walking down and say, was I OK? And he is. Yeah, you’re pretty good. It was pretty good. You got real pissed but don’t know if you want to. In a while I was going through this. I got stuff like banned Books, if you think we’re free from censorship think again, that’s a good one. And books challenged or banned. I don’t know if you have these materials or not.
Price Kinsey: I don’t believe we have these exact materials.
David Flood: So I looked in on our program of studies and was trying to find out what, what would, what’s the wording in here and it says for advanced placement, English 11 and one at the sentence it says quantity and quality of assigned work for beyond the freshman college level and will be evaluated on that basis and so they should be treated as college students and no parent would go into a college student’s classroom and say, I don’t believe you’re, you, you know, it’s like they’re paying good money and they assume that whatever they pick is good. Whereas there just tax money for me and if they don’t like it, I mean I didn’t have the best reputation with, with uh, administrators and parents that were bull headed about things, you know, pretty open minded. But when you start having, no matter what I throw your way, you’re still have that mindset.
David Flood: I’m still wrong. Then I learned to just go ok.
Price Kinsey: Now I noticed in the 95 to 96, Toni Morrison, three of her books were challenged at this time. The bluest eye and beloved, did you also ever include those?
David Flood: No But I had students read them for research papers so they would choose Toni Morrison and try to find some way to work, uh, theory into it, you know, and then prove it. But I, I know this is all dated, but it’s all. This is all around 96, 97 and I’ve got some other articles in here. First read the book.
David Flood: This is the Washington Post I write in response to the article concerning Toni Morrison’s Work St Mary’s commissioners back removing Morrison, Morrison novel from curriculum, Metro Blah Blah Blah, and question commissioners, commitment to his own education when he said I think there’s a certain amount of maturity required by students in order to put of this language in proper perspective. I’m curious to know how Mr Chester was able to put his language into perspective for himself after reading only two pages to the book. This is like, this is from someone in Rockville. So it’s like. Yeah. So they’re responding to this saying, shame on you in any, this is a teacher too. In any of my twelfth grade English class is reading two pages of a book is not considered equal to having read the entire text an enjoyable pastime I think should be required of any government official who wishes to deny teachers the right to assign a book in their classes and it goes on you know saying that, you know, I failed to see Blah Blah Blah and St Mary’s students are getting a disservice and teaching them to denigrate what they don’t understand and giving them.
David Flood: This is an excellent letter. You know, it’s like if you don’t understand it then it got to be bad, you know, so don’t get too close to it. Don’t get too close to the tar baby you know? You’ll stick and stay. And Toni Morrison told race up to the light and reflect on the meaning of color. So there were some good articles about that are in here. And actually the it used to be the imprint. That’s the imprint from Leonardtown high school. Yeah. Even they wrote a thing about it.
Price Kinsey: The imprint? Is that a student paper?
David Flood: That’s the student paper at Leonardtown high school, so a copy of that with things like St Mary’s Today was always tried to focus on what’s wrong with people you know, and not really being as positive as they should and I forget the spin that they put on this book. It’s in here and I think most of these are cut out and put in sleeves here. Also. Um just more stuff about Toni Morrison and so I didn’t know about this until I came back to work on um, in, in September or August of 96 and I had to figure out how long this had been going on and being all summer basically of the complaint procedures that I highlighted this any school employee who receives a complaint about a textbook in use will promptly notify the principal who in turn will notify the teacher involved, which didn’t happen. Like we didn’t nip it in the bud right in the beginning.
David Flood: And these are, these are regulations for reviewing textbook. And so I highlighted a few things here.
Price Kinsey: So those are just the regulations for it a teacher has a complaint.
David Flood: Copy of page that was to have academic freedom and that guy saved my life, Mike Crimm and check it out. Then I, I even was like trying to find anything related to my class and [inaudible] then the MSTA Maryland State Teachers Association publication. Can you talk about how path for more rigorous courses, higher sat scores, Maryland rank third nationally in the percentage of public school scoring in the AP test. Highest range since like really gets they’re reading the right books aren’t they? Additionally astounding 72 percent of the AP exams taken in Maryland high school student by Maryland high school students student scored 3 above and I don’t know if you’re in any advanced placement classes. Where’d you go to school?
Price Kinsey: Archbishop Curley in Baltimore city.
David Flood: Yeah. Yeah. I’m not familiar with it, but I know I grew up in Annapolis and moved here in 80, 1980 and um, and, and was a music major here for two years. I was 25 when I came back to school and so, I’d, I switched majors after two years of being a music major. I get a professor has failed me in in a theory, so I’d take the course over and I was like, no way, I’m paying for this. So I switched to English and I had a great time with it because all I do is write papers, read books and write papers. I’ve been, I’m a science major for a year and a half and other schools, so I kind of jumped in and out of college, but my brother and I had a marine construction business so we went from from making money than to spend spending it to get to school and then it was like, now we’ve got to make more money.
David Flood: So it was. Then once I quit that business, I came back to school here because my mom was a professional musician and she was like, if you really think this is your calling then you should go to school. And I got accepted here by the thread. That shit was almost bare. It was bad, but when I turned, when I switched to English are, that’s when I really learned to start writing and that’s when I was like, wow, this is a lot of fun, you know, and it’s like, ah, I can use this. I’m a songwriter too, so I used all this stuff. I was too young to write songs and I never thought I’d be a teacher. Even when I was student teaching, I was like, yeah, whatever, man that ain’t gonna happen And uh, it did, it was, it was funny. And then after 25 years, research paper at the end of the year, I caught a student who was, it was a typing out a paper plagiarizing stolen paper off my desk.
David Flood: And it was really terrible paper too, I think it was an example of a bad paper. They didn’t realize it here that they’re going to say, well, he doesn’t think I’m that smart anyway. So. But I caught him in the media center typing it out on a very interesting I was behind them, you know, your way. And so I had to take him down to the main office, not the way she was cussing me out like a sailor. I mean, I was just going to. Yeah, yeah. And uh, we got close to the main office and she realized that, wow, we’re really going in here. She pulled out this paper and started ripping up and I grabbed her wrist it was on film. I was asked to resign about a month later. It really broke my heart too. I was just like, you know, oh my God.
David Flood: And now I think it’s the best thing that ever happened to me really being forced to resign because it made me reevaluate everything that I was doing anyway about myself, you know? So I did get kind of humble. I couldn’t say you guys just couldn’t handle me I was like nah, it wasn’t that I was just a loose cannon and I was doing what I thought that since I got such good results that I could do whatever I wanted to because it works. And so I even had this, it was in this briefcase before, but I had the, You never had to take the Maryland writing test that you used to have to take that test to graduate from high school and they stopped doing it about 15 years ago I guess because it took too long to grade.
David Flood: There’s a good message to your students, you know, we’re not going to do this because it takes so long to grade. So it’s not that important. It’s like really, I couldn’t believe that so things have changed quite a bit in, in public schools. You know, obviously with the shooting that was a Great Mills. I mean it’s in our community and that’s really weird and it just shows you that, you know, kids are crazy, man. Kids are a little more bold than they used to be when I was growing up. But I’d always say that, you know, it’s not teachers, it’s not kids who change. Teachers change because kids always want to get away with whatever they can get away with. And if you get them to get away with good grades, you know, and you see, it’s like, cool. Yeah. See, so I challenged you and you thought that you had to show me.
David Flood: It’s like, great. All right, that’s great. But it’s funny, the uh, you know, I, people were sending me stuff. So there was a press release for the Nobel Prize for Laureate 1993. That was Toni Morrison and a Song. Solomon and I have the literature survey for advanced placement at Saint Mary’s College of Maryland. A right. So yeah. So Tony Morrison came here in 97, 97. I’m pretty sure it was 97 because it was right on the heels of this again. Everybody was like, wow, to any more since coming to St Mary’s because, and I’m, you gotta be kidding me. It’s like, this is just too ironic to happen right now because I, you know, I talked to Robin Bates and I was like, I gotta talk to her. And he goes, well, we’ll see what we can do, you know? And so me being me, I showed up when she was signing books and I and I went up and I said, how you do Ms Morrison, my name is David flood. I’m the one who to assign Song of Solomon before it was taken off the approved list, but it was taken off the approved list because I assigned it and she says yes, that’s very interesting. And I said, act like you’re my best friend.
David Flood: So 1997. Then Toni Morrison. She was invited to St Mary’s college and this was the year I had this class and she was the 20th annual Margaret Brent lecture and I went to the lecture and everything and, and spoke to her and you can get this picture now, and then I sat next to her and said, you know, I was the one who got this that didn’t have taken off the approved list. And she said, Oh really? And I said yes just because I was teaching it and she said, that’s great. And I said, pretend you’re my best friend, which I always say to people, I play music too, so I get to see people play. I get pretend you’re my best friend. We’ve been jamming for a long time, so we just too funny because you see the person skewed and off to the side. ( this is a rephrase of the last audio block due to a recording error)
David Flood: It’s, it’s my supervisor. My supervisor was sitting next to her and she had to listen to me say, yeah, I’m a guy who had just taken off the approved list and I’m looking at Dianna, Hi Mr Flood how are you?, fine. Meet my best friend here. Sh. She thought it was interesting. Tony Morrison thought it was interesting, but there are a lot of people that really wanted to talk to her and get her signature. So I talked to her for about two minutes and then, which was a long time actually, and she was like, it was very interesting. She’s very interesting and she took it in stride when I told her that, you know, yeah, it’s not on the approved list here anymore. And she said hmm she didn’t comment, but she was like, yeah, she’s so used to it. I’m sure it was just great to have that happen though, right after all this, you know, hit the fan and hadn’t have all been local newspapers talking about how great Toni Morrison is that she’s coming to St Mary’s county.
David Flood: and i’m like, you know, what did she write Song of Solomon, you know, it’s like, did you forget that? So I can, I can actually leave you stuff if you want to take, you know, look at it or nothing now.
Price Kinsey: That would be excellent. And one thing that they’ve always tried to have us do for this project, we’re creating a website. So this, all this data that you have will be able to be accessed by anyone. But for on the complaint side, the only complaint that was filed went to the superintendent’s office?
David Flood: went to it, went through the right channels first, I think it went through my principal to superintendent and the superintendent decided to look into it, but it became such a hot issue in the paper for some reason something happened. The Lady Williamson did write a letter to the editor too, and she and her husband did.
David Flood: And uh, there were a couple of other peoples. It’s not censorship to suggests Song of Solomon is not appropriate school text. So there’s a number of letters like that. Um, but the original, they, this Guy Mike Williams also was concerned about it. He has a negative, but there are equal amount of a positive letters. So it’s really, it’s,
Price Kinsey: it was really a back and forth dialogue with all.
David Flood: Yeah. This is funny because they say you may not have been taught genuine literary analysis. This is written in response to, Oh see, this is very disappointing that the guy was Mike Williams, that I’m impressed that you responded. Which is more than I can say for any of the adults who choose teachers and taught the texts. But I found your letter disturbing for chairs about how you’ve been taught to deal with intellectual differences of opinion. Say stuff like this started coming out and it’s like, wow, that scathing, you know, it’s like they’re really getting into his character and say this guy, it was pretty hot.
David Flood: It was. And this was December still. So it was a, it was an issue still in December. And so that’s when I decided to give them this assignment and man, I got a couple of phone calls like, Hey, did you assign this to your.. And I went Yeah, sure. And you know, other board members and stuff were talking back and forth and they hated me man. They were like, you know, what is, who gives him the right that the association does, you know, and I’m backed by them with a million dollars. You don’t want to fight it. And so I would always push, push it, but just far enough so that it wasn’t like I’m not going to push it to far, you know, at least that respect the system enough that it’s like I can’t just try to tear it apart because I’m not like trump, I can’t rebuild everything myself.
David Flood: It needs, there needs to be a village there to do that. And so I try not to ruffle too many feathers on this. And that was the beauty of it is that I never had to say anything and I never responded to it. And I started that in the beginning and then I asked him about the halfway through it. I thought, man, I should say something, you know, it’s like everybody else is going to Mike, you know, back me up and everything. And I thought, I think I talked to Robin. And he went, no, no, no, no. I was like, OK, so I’m doing the right thing by not writing. He said, yeah you are. So I’ve got a bunch of articles and letters to the editor and then I’ve got all the papers that the students that turned their, once they wrote a paper, if they gave me a copy of the paper, then I gave him like five points or 10 points on their paper.
David Flood: So there’s some in here, there should be more papers but let me see a couple of them. But still there’s a plethora of information here. So I then looked at how the, you know, the program studies, which I looked at it earlier and then I was just looking at, you know, articles, this is Richard Cowen writing about books, you know, and how important they are and I wonder if this even had it on that didn’t have on their front front page so it wasn’t too bad. But there is an article in there, Song Song that. So. And it’s interesting. I can’t remember a paper of what Stan, the paper took her if they were just hands off and saying now this has to be analyzed. I can’t remember what I say. It’s probably a pretty good article, but you have any questions?
Price Kinsey: um no, A lot of what you were covering a throughout the entire spiel really covered a lot of these questions that my partner and I come up with. But I think one thing that’s always interesting, especially from a historical standpoint, um, so I guess the question would be, do you still feel the same way now, after all that time has past?
David Flood: Definitely. If I, if I were back in the classroom, we might find something else that was akin to that, you know, and, and I mean I had them reading a lot of stuff. Uh, uh, their eyes were watching God. If you ever read the Zora Neale Hurston who, who was a black woman who wrote in the early twentieth century and inspired uh Alice Walker and Toni Morrison and stuff. She was just a incredible writer and she died as a, you know, broke as a clean somebody’s house basically. And she was one of the best writers of her time you know so its. At one time she was Zora Neale Hurston would be. She was invited to all the social events, you know, in Harlem and stuff like that, and even with white people and uh, she just would captivate people and then it ended up she died as a maid and I said, it’s like kind of weird stuff like that, that inspired Toni Morrison for sure.
David Flood: And I really have yet to read a Toni Morrison novel that I didn’t like. So it’s like, it’s one of those things where that wasn’t just one novel that I thought was pretty good. I thought it was essential to read that because of Huck Finn was trying to find his identity in a lot of ways. And so Milkman in the novel Song of Solomon was trying to find his identity also. And so what happened was he went down south and he, he, his family was well to do head money and he wanted to get away. He couldn’t, he, he didn’t feel like he could find his, his identity. And so he goes to the south to, to look up his roots, you know, and there’s this one scene where he’s in a, in a diner in the really early morning and there’s a couple other guys in there and they started riding a little bit about
Price Kinsey: ah guitar
David Flood: and I, yeah, yeah. And uh, they started talking about um, sex and how its different in the north and the south and they use some pretty crude language. But that was the one page that was like, you know, and that, that page is in here and you could see it blocked out where they blocked out all the words, but it’s pretty obvious what the words were. But um, you know, people just react to things so weird, you know, before they make a decision before they’ve even analyzed it. And this was a good thing for, for my students to see. Also. It’s like, OK, so you analyze this. You’d look at how many of you think that, that these people that want to get rid of this book, this is the one where they now the blacked out the words. It’s just too funny, man. It’s like, it’s very obvious what the words are, but, but, um, my students learned a lot about clothes and being closed minded and about, and just how bold people can be two to denigrate someone else, you know, for the language that they use or something works.
David Flood: It was actually appropriate. I mean, that’s the way they talk and that’s what makes it such a great novel. Then she, she did that quite well set in Zora Neale Hurston so did Alice Walker. There was a time when I was reading a, my mother used to call me and ask me what kind of book would you like me to send, you now? And uh, I kept asking for different things first. Zora Neale Hurston and Alice Walker and I was working at one point she said, do you read anything besides what black women? And I went there, the honest ones out there, they’re, they’re the best writers you know. It just seems like to me, back in the nineties it did. You know, I have a little different tastes in literature now, but not much, but for teaching it there, there’s a whole different deal, you know, it’s like, well, if they can start to get on this level Song of Solomon and that was my goal was to make kids so good at analyzing things at once they got into college, they get, where did you go to high school, you know, and that’s what happened.
David Flood: I would get kids that would come back and go like years later and say man, I kicked ass in graduate school and I did in a, in undergraduate school. And I’m like really? Why? They said because I can write, you know, any curriculum and I’m like come talk to my students. They’d be like, they won’t listen, didn’t somebody talk to our class too and we didn’t listen, but you know, I made them write and I made them analyze things within open mind rather than just going, ah, you know, this has this in it, oh bad, you know? Because there’s a lot of great literature out there that you can pigeon hole like that because it’s so graphic. And I mean the bibles, it says, it’s just funny to have people questioning what they’re a teens should be made aware of or exposed to, you know, when you’re talking like, you know, there’s heroin out there and oxycontin and all this bad stuff.
David Flood: You’re worried about what they’re reading here and they’re trying to develop some kind of perspective on things, you know, it’s just like the, it was bad. This was a, this was a battle that I really wanted, but I really didn’t want because it was just too exhausting because everywhere I go, people that’s all they wanted to talk about it. It’s like, man, I can’t talk about it really. I would say my lawyer says I shouldn’t talk about it, which is bullshit, but it always sounds good. They say on TV, right? So I never had to really jump into a heated discussion with anyone about it. And the only reason why I got mad is because the superintendent wasn’t coming to me personally and saying, David, you gotta stop doing this. And for me personally, to be able to say I did, I stopped now. But it wasn’t til she kept sending these messages that I signed that paper over the break. I was like, fine you want me to put and end to this? This will put an end it. And it was beautiful. It was beautiful because it was like, I think my principal and the superintendent were getting calls all over the holidays because when I got back to school they were like, I hope you had a good holiday.
David Flood: So it was the era at the time it was. It seemed like everything was just so closed minded in that nobody really wanted to open up with this, but it was just the people that had power that were like that. The rest of the people that read this were like, wow, what’s wrong with that? That was pretty good. And I read people all the time and they were. No one would have read that off and seat in the newspaper. Like, ya’ know what’s wrong with that? It’s like, oh, it’s really, it’s really crude and rude. I think I’ll read it. Which is funny. And that’s one of the reasons why I Huck Finn is so, so popular is, is that it’s, you know, it’s a dialect of the time, you know, and, and Mark Twain overuse the N-word on purpose to show just how easy it is for them just to use that term and just how, you know, after a while it starts getting to you as a reader. It’s like man you sure do say that a lot in this book.
David Flood: And it’s like, yeah, he does because he wants you to go, that’s too much, man, that’s way too much. And by the end of it you’re tired of reading that because I used to have students that would read out loud and they just wouldn’t read that word. And I’m like, that’s fine. Say Slave, just say that they, you know, they were offended by certain things but they weren’t offended by this novel. But the adults were. That’s what was weird was that, that. And I had to keep the student in my, in my class too. And I actually he was a good student. I didn’t treat him any differently than anybody else because this was between me and the powers that be, you know, and it wasn’t really between me and the powers that be it was between the literature and powers that be. If I get personal on it, I would’ve made a lot of enemies on this.
David Flood: I would’ve made a lot of friends also. But I don’t want to get personal about it. It’s literature, you know what it’s like. One book couldn’t believe it. This, it just got such. He got, he got dragged through the mud and everything just because of some language that’s in it. That’s accurate anymore. I can leave you all this stuff. I’ve got off and we want to say high school, like I started looking at the poor learning goals, you know, the general regulations concerning all materials. And this is the approved with some recent. This fire department had sent, I mean, my, uh, supervisor David when the list was to fill up.
Here are some additional documents and photos relevant to David Flood.
Here is a PDF collection of all resources we received from David Flood.
This collection includes: A picture with Toni Morrison, complaint letters, newspapers, and responses form the school. It also includes some curriculum rules and outlines.