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High school summer reading stirs attention

Nothing spices up a good list of school-assigned summer reads like a dose of political controversy.

A high school teacher in Spanish Fort, Alabama, assigned students a summer report on one book from a list of options. More than 30 books were listed, and most have a strong conservative focus.

Among the titles are “Liberalism Is a Mental Disorder: Savage Solutions,” “Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto” and “Guilty: Liberal ‘Victims’ and their Assault on America.”

Authors include prominent conservative personalities like Michael Savage, Mark Levin and Ann Coulter.

The teacher, Gene Ponder, did not respond to a request for comment over email. His phone number listed on the Spanish Fort High School website is disconnected.

County removes list

The picture of the reading list, for an advanced-placement government class, was pulled after being shared on Twitter and Facebook.

“Mr. Ponder’s reading list that’s going around on social media has not been endorsed by the school or the school system,” Superintendent Eddie Tyler said in a statement. “The list has been removed by the teacher.

“Baldwin County Public Schools has a process to vet and approve reading lists so that a variety of sources are used,” the superintendent added. “I expect all employees to follow our processes, procedures and policies.”

Bringing politics into the classroom

Ponder teaches American government, economics, and AP government/political science at Spanish Fort High School. He’s taught there since 2007.

Ponder ran for lieutenant governor of Alabama in 2010 and lost in the Republican primary.

Inside the classroom, this is not the first time Ponder has incorporated his beliefs into the curriculum.

On Ponder’s page within the Spanish Fort school website, there is nothing currently posted under the “Reading List” section. But there is a page of links to websites and resources that features conservative voices and news organizations, including Breitbart, Drudge Report and Infowars.

And in another section on class materials, Ponder uploaded a slideshow presentation in 2013 on firearms and the Second Amendment.

“When you remove the people’s right to bear arms, you create slaves,” a message on a slide reads.

The Baldwin County Board of Education Employee Handbook does not have a rule about teachers sharing political views with students or about incorporating politics into the curriculum.