Sunday, September 26, 2010

ALA Oppresses Kids on Banned Books Week and All Year Long; Opinion: There Is a Time to Ban Books from School Libraries

It's National Hogwash Week.  In addition to the gems linked therein comes the latest about the American Library Association's [ALA] oppression of children and its political correctness in public schools.  Yes, oppression and political correctness.  In public schools.  In your community.  Your children are the target.  As the author explains, do not trust the ALA.

Here is an outstanding opinion from Sylvia Cochran, bold emphasis mine, italic in original:

by Sylvia Cochran, Associated Content, 25 September 2010

Banned books are a sign of an oppressive regime.  That said, forcing age-inappropriate reading materials on youngsters not ready to deal with the material -- and doing so just for the sake of a bigger principle -- is just as oppressive.  Enter the American Library Association.

The ALA reports that between 2009 and 2010 there were three instances of school library book bans.  With Banned Books Week commemorated during the last week of September, it is only fitting to review the appropriateness of book bans in school libraries.

While I do not believe that a book should be banned from a public library, I do see the logic of declaring some reading material off-limits in the school setting.

The one and only reason to ban books from a school library?  They're not age-appropriate.

I have no problem with religious, political or even some adult situations in books placed in school libraries.  In fact, I believe that exposing kids to a variety of lifestyles, viewpoints, beliefs and politics is a good thing -- as long as it is done in small, age-appropriate doses on a voluntary basis.  I do, however, object to children being made to read books that are not appropriate for their emotional or intellectual maturity level.

Take for example The Fashion Disaster that Changed My Life, a thoroughly enjoyable book by Lauren Myracle.  Amazon quotes the School Library Journal, which rates it as appropriate for grade four to seven.  The story's 12-year-old protagonist experiences a static, cling-induced fashion faux pas as she enters seventh grade with her mom's panties stuck to her pants.

For me, the problem begins on page five, when one of the boys leers, "Strip show, baby!" and "Take it all off!"  A few pages later the same boy suggests to the hapless protagonist to "get a job at the Pussycat Palace" because "you could get paid to take off your undies."

I really, really don't want my fourth-grade son or daughter reading this.  (In part, because I really do not want to explain to either of them what a stripper is and why some people pay others to take off their clothes. At least not in fourth grade.)  Thus, I would like to see this book banned from school library shelves accessible to kindergarten students and other very young elementary school kids.

Can't we trust the ALA to look out for the kids?

The short answer is a resounding "no."
  As outlined in the ALA's materials for how to conduct a challenge hearing, the organization advises librarians that, "All those selected to testify should be reminded they are defending a principle more than an individual title.  The actual title in question should play a secondary role.  It is very difficult to disagree with the freedom to read, view and listen in a democratic society."

Unless you are willing to sacrifice your child at the altar of political correctness, it may be wise to question the age-appropriateness of some books.

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  1. Perhaps you don't mean it to come across this way, but some of your blog posts read as if the ALA has direct control over material selection in libraries. The ALA may take certain positions, and suggest librarians follow certain guidelines, but it is up to the individual librarians who are working in specific libraries to purchase materials appropriate for their communities.

    I'm sure you'd agree that there are plenty of librarians out there who make careful choices based on what they know of their community. As a school librarian who always considers her audience when selecting materials, I feel labeled as someone who blindly follows the ALA and deliberately chooses inappropriate books. This is not who I am!

    I don't deny the legitimacy of your concerns--I'm sure there are librarians who make unwise choices for their libraries. I just don't like to be lumped in with these people. You've spoken of how the ALA ridicules parents. Please be careful when you write that you do not ridicule the library profession as a whole!

    Thank you,
    Zaiga Alksnitis
    School Librarian
    Concord, MA

  2. Zaiga, thank you for writing.

    I clearly delineate the majority of librarians from the few who sit in control of the ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom [OIF]. See, for example, Good Librarians.

    Besides, sometimes I praise the ALA, including the OIF.

    As to the ALA having direct control over material selection in libraries, I have direct knowledge of that. SafeLibraries itself started when my partner attempted to have Playboy removed from the Oak Lawn Public LIbrary. The library refused. He got hundreds of signatures. The library refused. He had an official Playboy survey taken at a town fair. The library refused. The government of the Village of Oak Lawn itself wrote an unanimous letter asking the library to remove the magazine. The library refused. The ALA-President then high fived the library's director who was also an ALA Councilor. And the ALA's de facto 40 year leader (and creator/leader of the OIF and Banned Books Week, of course) said she was sick and tired of people trying to turn libraries into safe places for children.

    So I have direct knowledge in saying what I said about the ALA.

    I only wish the ALA was run by people like you rather than by the few radicals who got control of the reins of power. And a person coming from the ACLU to make libraries no longer protect children although no one else wants that or even knows about it until it is too late is a radical. She even calls herself a radical, militant librarian.

    By the way, since you are a school librarian, what do you think of this: "School Media Specialist Passes Sexual Content Review to Students; Dee Venuto Says It Is Discrimination to Keep Children From Material Including Lengthy, Vivid Descriptions of a Ménage a Trois"?


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