Should students read Ayn Rand instead of a book about poverty?


A parent in the wealthy Texas town of Highland Park has challenged a book about people living near the poverty line, and suggested books by Ayn Rand, Ben Carson and Karen Hesse as replacements, the Dallas Morning News reports.

The challenged book, David K. Shipler’s “The Working Poor: Invisible in America,” was one of seven suspended by the Highland Park school district in September. Those suspensions were eventually reversed, but the district announced in November that students would need permission slips from parents to read “The Working Poor” and five other books. Shipler’s book, which is being taught in an advanced placement class for high school juniors, will be reviewed by a committee including school staff, students and parents, and will remain in use until then.

The parent who objected to the book wrote in her complaint: “‘The Working Poor’ is not a great work of literature or an example of rich writing we want our students to emulate. One must ask, is this the best piece of literature our students can read to learn to write?” The Dallas Morning News notes the parent criticized the book for its “depiction of abortion, and sexual abuse and ... its portrayal of women ‘as weak, pathetic, ignorant, sexual objects and incapable beings.’”


The parent offered three suggestions for a replacement book: Ayn Rand’s “We the Living,” Karen Hesse’s “Out of the Dust,” and Ben Carson’s “America the Beautiful.” Carson’s book was the subject of controversy earlier this month after BuzzFeed reported that sections were plagiarized from several sources, including a website called

Shipler defended his book to the Dallas Morning News, saying: “There’s nothing prurient, obscene or sexually explicit in the book. The women who told me they had been sexually abused as children told me that because they felt the trauma was relevant to their lasting problems.”

The challenge comes just before a report from the charity Oxfam that almost half of the world’s wealth is controlled by 1% of people. Highland Park, adjacent to Dallas, is one of the richest towns in Texas -- according to the United States Census Bureau, the town’s median household income is about $190,000, with 4.4% of residents living below the poverty line. The median household income for the United States is $53,000, and 15.4% of Americans live in poverty.