This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, June 30, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TUPAC SHAKUR: (rapping).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Is that English? A poet in the streets or just a thug who got rich by rhyming about gansta life. Some teachers say the late rapper, Tupac Shakur (search), is just Robert Frost (search) for kids of today. Heather Nauert, here with more rhyme and maybe some reason.
HEATHER NAUERT, FNC CORRESPONDENT: That's good writing there, John. Well, some parents across the country — well, actually in Massachusetts — are shocked to find out what's on their kids' summer reading list; that is, poetry written by the late gangsta rapper Tupac Shakur. Teachers in Worcester, Massachusetts putting his book of poetry on the students' summer reading list.
Now, school officials say they just want to get kids to read. Columnist and Fox News Contributor, Michelle Malkin (search), joins me from Washington. And that's the big question, Michelle. Shouldn't teachers use Tupac Shakur to encourage reading?
MICHELLE MALKIN, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Absolutely not. And I wouldn't call looking at Tupac Shakur's poems reading. It's more like deciphering verses that look like cell phone text messages. And I have to say, I read the whole book of poetry, which was published posthumously. It was called, "The Rose that Grew from Concrete." And I have read better poetry on the walls of public bathrooms than is included in the covers of this book.
NAUERT: OK. Well, Michelle, let me play devil's advocate her for a second because obviously one of the things that teachers try to encourage kids to do over the summertime is keep up their studies and keep reading. And this particular school district in Massachusetts has required that kids not only read Tupac but also Steinbeck, Dickens, more traditional authors. The teachers say if this can get kids, no matter, perhaps, how silly his writing might be, as you asserted, if this can get kids simply interested in reading, it could be worth it for the kids. You disagree?
MALKIN: I do. That's the line that you hear from a lot of lazy teachers and lazy administrators, and it's certainly not the line that you hear from a lot of public school teachers who are sick and tired of this capitulation to political correctness. I would like to know how it is that students who read lines like, "I'm more than you can handle, I'm hotter than a wax candle" are then going to make the leap to loving the sonnets of Shakespeare. It's not going to happen.
And there has been basically a relinquishment of the public school educator's duty. Instead of challenging kids to reach outside themselves, they've basically given up and said, "Well, we're not going to get them to read this stuff, it's too hard. Why don't we just give them something we know that they're going to like to read?" It's not popularity.
NAUERT: But, Michelle, they are still having students read Steinbeck and other more traditional literature. So it's not like they're just giving them this and then a couple of cartoons.
MALKIN: Well, actually from what I understand, you know, they pick books from this recommended reading list, and you can imagine that most sixth, seventh, eighth graders are going to gravitate towards this and leave the other stuff behind. I was flabbergasted when I talked to the curriculum manager of the Worcester public schools this week, who says that their method of evaluating the literary merit of Tupac Shakur's poetry was not to actually examine it and ask whether or not it met standards, but whether or not kids checked it out of the public school library.
NAUERT: OK. Well, you know, kids, of course, check lots of things out of the public school library. Not all of them, I'm sure, parents would want their kids to read. I should mention, we tried to call the school district ourselves and they, in fact, wouldn't return any of our calls. When you spoke with them, did they say anything to you about whether or not they would even consider pulling these books or giving parents other options?
MALKIN: No. As I mentioned, Heather, basically their measure of whether or not to keep a book on the list is whether or not it's popular with the kids, not whether it has any literary merit or not. And that's where I think that this school district has failed in its mission. And I would think that if I were a parent in this school district, I'd be up in arms. And there was some considerable debate last month, when this was initially placed on the list, but people seemed to have forgotten about it.
NAUERT: Now, administrators did, however, say that they were looking at this book of poetry to find out if there was anything offensive, and then they would reconsider whether they would keep it on the list or not. Have they said anything to you about that?
MALKIN: No. All the curriculum manager said to me was that she thought it was a good book because it encouraged students to think about character awareness and, well, I suppose there is some merit in that because the person who wrote this poetry collection was a drug-dealing, baseball bat wielding, convicted sexual abuser.
NAUERT: I want to ask you about that because the character awareness thing, it kind of raises some eyebrows. The school literally said to you that one of the things that they liked about this book was that it did, quote, "Heighten awareness of character education." What is that supposed to mean?
MALKIN: As I say, it's a four-letter word that rhymes with rap. I think that's what this whole exercise is about. And, you know, the thing is that the pieces of poetry here, as I say, have no literary merit whatsoever. But, of course, you can't say that without being accused of racism, and maybe, at bottom, this is what this is all about.
NAUERT: I would imagine that the school officials — if they had returned our calls — would counter that. That they would say, you know, this isn't about racism but, rather, this is about just getting kids to read something other than not doing anything over the summer. Isn't there anything good that you could find in this?
MALKIN: No. In fact, if you want to talk about racism, I think that there is latent racism involved in putting something like this on the list because it basically sends a message to at-risk students, particularly minority students, that the teachers and administrators don't think that they're capable of fathoming something outside themselves and that really, to me, is the big educational malpractice here.
NAUERT: All right, Michelle Malkin. Thanks a lot for joining us. Have a good night.