Page 7


Houston Houston’s public schools are well known and well liked by conservativesfor the prophylactic protection they give the students. Although through Houston’s port has come the outside world, and through the personnel of the Manned Spacecraft Center the outer world has intruded, the schools still ply the notion that outside the province of Texas there is still a large, rather unimportant land. At best, if there are people out there somewhere, they are a filthy lot, with foreign ideas, speaking of sex and poverty or revolution and the perversion of all the Absolutesand they do it in strange tongues. It almost seems that the Houston school system has found some sort of magical contraceptive drug to inoculate the young against the fertile spermatozoa of knowledge. There is no drug, of course, there is half-truth, or better, there is rose-colored truth; the truth of fables, fantasies, and stories for children. I recently came across a reading list for the Spring Branch public schools, one of the many smaller school districts on the fringes of the Houston district. It became clearer why so many parents choose to live in these smaller communities and send their children to schools which do not fear federal and national standards, which do take part in the federal free milk, program and in the surplus food program. The reading list consists of books, plays, and stories that are both recommended and required for children of junior and senior high school age. The Spring Branch list was a rather complete and adult anthology. Some of the books were classics, some of them were quite contemporary, and some of them were not very good works of literature. But the list completely and accurately reflected what was important to read, and what is being read. They included most of the works of Louisa Mae Alcott, and all the works of Mark Twain, most of. the books of Dickens, Dumas, Cooper, and of course, Robinson Crusoe. But the freshman reading list also included Sherwood Anderson’s Dark Laughter, five books by Conrad, Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth, Samuel Butler’s The Way of All Flesh, the works of Thomas Costain, Richard Dana’s Two Years Before the Mast, Alan Drury’s Advise and Consent, two books by Faulkner, several by Ferber and Forester, Hemingway’s Farewell to Arms and For Whom the Bell Tolls, four novels by Henry James, Harper Lee’s To Kill a The writer is the Houston reporter. His work has appeared in Atlantic and other magazines. Mockingbird, the major Work of Sinclair Lewis, George Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984, two novels of Maugham, four novels of Steinbeck, four of H. G. Wells’, Saroyan’s My Name is Aram, and Mrs. Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. This was the freshman list, and as the Spring Branch student advances, the works become more difficult. The senior student reads Chaucer, Homer, Fielding, Huxley, Joyce, Wilde, Woolf, Balzac, Stendal, Shaw, Pasternak, Tolstoy, Dostoyevski, T. S. Eliot, Ibsen, Goethe, Moliere, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes, Shakespeare, and Chekov. The Houston school reading list by comparison is completely childish. The books and stories listed are those that should be read long before high school. Often, of the authors listed, only their most innocuous works are chosen. There is, on the senior reading list, not a single American Nobel prize winner represented: Only The Red Carthage, Tex. An African man has lived four months in the Negro residential section of this segregated East Texas town, studying the farming among the piney woods around. Amos Akintola, 35, has a wife, a son, and two daughters back in Northern Nigeria, where he is a government superintendent of agriculture in charge of a district of the Ilorin province. He has about eight workers under him there. He is a man of medium height and broad Negro features, and is blacker than most Texas Negroes. A member of one of the three main Nigerian tribes, the Yoruba, he was educated in the provincial secondary school of Okene and won a scholarship to the College of Agriculture in Zaria, where he studied three years. His visit to Carthage was sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development in cooperation with the government of Northern Nigeria, the largest region of the new nation of Nigeria, which has 45,000,000 people. He was taken care of here by the local Negro agricultural agent, in whose offices the Observer interviewed him. Akintola was careful what he said. He did not want to embarass his sponsors, who have four other Africans studying agriculture, home economics, and rural youth work in the South, and seven more in the North. Negroes in Carthage have accepted their Pony is recommended, on the junior list, of all the things writen by Steinbeck. The books and stories that are recommended, it should be said, are good. But they are far from what is best and what is representative in literature. They are what would be called “nice” works. Here are some of the selections on the SENIOR reading list for the Houston schools: Little Women, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Charlotte Bronte’s Jayne Eyre, Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers, Robert Louis Stephenson’s Treasure Island, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Kidnapped. Wilder’s Bridge of San Luis Rey, is a surprising selection, but Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer seem to be the only things written by Twain. Connelly’s Green Pastures and Wilder’s “Our Town” are included, but nothing by O’Neill or Wilde or Miller or Williams. As far as the reading list reflects, for the Houston school system there was no Steinbeck, or Buck, or Faulkner, or Lagerkvist, or Tolstoy, or Lewis, or Dostoyevski, or Hemingway, or Pasternak. Perhaps, for the policy-makers of Houston’s schools, they don’t dare exist. lot without much complaint and have not demonstrated. “I do not observe any conflict between the Negroes and the whites. They move about amicably,” Akintola said. “At least, I have not observed any unpleasantness. “Of course, when I came over here, I was told where to go and where not to go, and I tried not to go there,” he -said. “I wasn’t quite happy about that.” At Prairie View College, the all-Negro Texas college near Houston, Akintola said, “I was told it would be a white cafeteria, so we should not try to go in. I’m not here to cause any . trouble, and I’m not here to make any attempt to change things.” In Nigeria, he said, “There’s nothing like segregation. We don’t have segregatiOn. There is no room for it. The whites are very few in number. They walk in harmony with the natives. We play together, we eat together, we walk togetherthere is no segregation.” The advice he was given not to go into whites’ public places here was good “because since American Negroes are not allowed to enter into a cafe, so I should not,” Akintola said, hesitating a little as he sought the English words. His native language is that of his tribe. “We feel that Negroes here are part of us, and we are part of them. Their forefathers came from Africa, so we think they November 29, 1963 11 Textbooks in Houston Saul Friedman An African in Carthage