|Back to May Ed Reporter|
|NUMBER 220||THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS||MAY 2004|
|Parents Demand Better Books in Schools|
Parents of children in public schools around the nation are becoming more
vocal in protesting educators choices of reading matter that is
age-inappropriate, contains graphic descriptions of sex or violence, uses deliberate misspellings, demeans America, or pushes an agenda contrary to the
parents religious or moral views. In some cases, they are getting results.
A gay-themed book for first-graders about two princes who fall in love and "marry" angered a Wilmington, NC couple, who successfully challenged the presence of King & King on their daughters school library shelves this spring. "My child is not old enough to understand something like that, especially when it is not in our beliefs," Michael Hartsell said. (Washington Times, 3-22-04)
The Hartsells and another couple submitted written complaints about the book to the school, which triggered a review by a committee of parents, educators and community members. The committee voted 8-3 to make the book available only to adults. (news.yahoo.com, 3-27-04)
Following objections by parents at a school board meeting, the board and principal of Colusa High School in California last year pulled five sexually graphic books assigned to 9th graders, apologized for including the books, and promised to establish a book review committee. At least four of the removed books were named in the American Library Associations "Best Books for Young Adults" lists in 1998 and 2000.
"It is completely outrageous and inexcusable that the American Library Association would recommend these profane books," charged Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, which assisted the parents. The five removed books were Way Past Cool, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Imani All Mine, Tenderness, and Bad.
An Arlington Heights, IL mother who was "simply livid" over three books assigned to her 4th-grade son waged an ultimately successful battle to have him excused from the remainder of the relevant classes last year. The books, which were read aloud in class by the teacher, contain passages about the violent deaths of animals that are too disgusting to be quoted in the Education Reporter.
"The teachers private response, But theyre reality, is a weak argument," contended the mother, Linda B. Baker. "The operating room, Saddam Hussein torturing people, the meat-packing industry and late-term abortions are all realities. But are they to be studied in graphic detail in school at this age?"
"Reading should be fun, enlightening, encouraging, inspiring, humorous and a host of other adjectives. It shouldnt be a time filled with dark, dreadful, anxiety-producing images that cause revulsion and invite kids to accept the violence without question," she added. The objectionable books are Woodsong, The Westing Game, and Sounder.
New York state officials so far are refusing to remove from the elementary school system a book entitled This Is My House, which portrays typical Amerians as homeless people living in cars, while showing smiling families living in a neat, carpeted tent in Mongolia, in a sturdy log cabin in Russia and in a mud-brick building in Mali. Below the caption of the title illustration is the alternative spelling "This Iz My Hows."
State Sen. Martin J. Golden (R-Brooklyn), responding to a parental complaint, wrote to the state education commissioner in January, urging him to remove the book from the list of "suitable texts" for pupils studying English as a second language. "Not only this book, but other books in the system should be pulled because were shoving multiculturalism down our childrens throats," the senator told the Washington Times. (3-1-04) The commissioner replied in a letter that he saw "no reason to overrule the judgment of educators."
Library Rules Irk Parents Too
Schools are not the only source of books parents consider unsuitable for their children. In Alaska, public librarians are unhappy about a bill to force them to tell parents what books their children check out. Parents already have the right to see their childrens school library records. State Sen. Lyda Green (R-Wasilla) is sponsoring a bill to give parents that right at all public libraries in Alaska.
Sen. Green introduced S.B. 269 after hearing from a constituent who received a call from a library saying that a book requested by her son was available. When the mother inquired what book it was, "the library informed her that because of privacy laws, they would not reveal any information to the mother on the books that her 8-year-old was checking out," Sen. Green said. The mayor of Wasilla, AK also reported that when she tried to ascertain which books her son checked out so she could return them before the due date, the library refused to tell her. (adn.com, 2-24-04)
Maybe Wisconsin could use a similar law. A Shorewood, WI father of five who received a notice of a $25 library fine was unable to find out by phone what materials his 12-year-old son had checked out. When he went to the library in person, he learned that the boy had checked out three R-rated videos. Because of the librarys lack of internet filters and its self-checkout system, the father felt compelled to destroy his childrens library cards. (jsonline.com, 3-26-04)