Knox County students head back to the books next Tuesday, but some students at Hardin Valley Academy in West Knoxville didn’t leave the books behind during the break. A summer reading assignment, which alarmed one student’s parent, has stirred up controversy.
Students in the STEM Academy at Hardin Valley were assigned to start reading a science-fiction book, called “Robopocalypse.” Sam Lee, the parent of a 14 year-old incomming freshmam, is calling it “inappropriate” and tells 10News it should have never been part of the curriculum.
The New York Times best seller, written by Daniel H. Wilson, was published last year, and as one family discovered, it contains a fair amount of what they consider foul language. According to the book, Wilson has a Ph.D. in robotics from Carnegie Mellon University and is the author of several other fictional novels.
Lee showed 10News the book in question on Thursday. One sentence on page 79 reads, “I swear to God and all his cronies, darling I’ll…” The sentence continues with the “f” word followed by “kill you.” Similar profanity appears throughout the book, in addition to descriptions of violence. The book is described on the back cover as a “terrifying tale of humanity’s desperate stand against a robot uprising.”
Lee is concerned because his, and approximately 450 other students enrolled in Hardin Valley’s STEM program, were assigned to start reading the book as part of a summer reading program. The STEM page on the Knox County Schools website explains that students will continue reading, and discuss, the book in small groups throughout the fall.
“My child is being forced to read profanity. This is not something that kids are talking about. It’s an assigned assignment,” said Lee.
“We want our kids to be civilized citizens and be upcoming members of community, and this does not serve that purpose,” he explained.
Administrators with the STEM program told Lee’s wife in an email that the intention, when teachers proposed “Robopocalypse” for the summer read, was not to counter those lessons.