Does Paulo Coelho's "The Alchemist" Help Students Discuss "Middle-Eastern Customs and Practices"?

October 23, 2019


Years ago, I read Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist, but I don't remember anything "Middle Eastern" about it except some magic and fantasy.


The Columbia County Board of Education rejected some recommendations of a committee of teachers for supplemental books in literature classes, and I submitted an Open Records Request to find out more. 


This is the committee's evaluation of Coelho's book.



Somehow, the committee submitted that the book "addresses the literary reading standards by offering .. an under-represented, middle-Eastern world perspective. ... Students may participate in analytical conversations regarding middle-Eastern customs and practices."


Both the committee & superintendent approved the book. The Board of Education approved it.


I don't have an objection to the book. I am worried that a misinformed teacher may believe a self-help fable might give students an idea about the lives of of actual people in the so-called "Middle East." If a literature teacher wishes students to learn about the peoples of North Africa and Southwest Asia, a good resource is M. Lynx Qualey's blog Arabic Literature and Translation.


Expect an article soon about the issues raised by the Columbia County Board of Education's interference in literature classes and media centers.

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