Sunday, December 25, 2011

School Superintendents May Remove Explicit Books Immediately; Waterland by Graham Swift Removed from Salem High School, Canton, MI

Cover of Waterland
What a pleasure to see a school superintendent using common sense by immediately removing inappropriate material from children.  See, for example, "School District Bans Swift Novel," by Brad KadrichObserver, 25 December 2011, if you can wade through the media spin, right down to the word "ban" in the title.  It's not book "banning" to keep inappropriate material from school children.  Besides, most people support keeping explicit material from children in public schools.  Bravo to Superintendent Dr. Jeremy Hughes:

Hughes said he asked the book's use to be discontinued after reading a passage that contains a particularly explicit depiction of a sexual act.

He made the decision without following the district's usual process, and admittedly without knowing there was such a process.  He has since learned the process includes the complaining parent filling out a form documenting their objections, which is then reviewed by a committee before a decision is made.

Hughes said he "jumped over that process for a couple of reasons.  He thought the material was too graphic for high school students, and he felt whatever process was in place would take too long and a decision 'needed to be made' on the material.

"I read passages from the book and I was personally shocked and offended," Hughes said.  "I decided the presentation of the material was so graphically sexual that I just felt it was not something high school students should be reading."

Even better, he does so despite the American Library Association [ALA] making up the rule that you can only remove such books after a long "materials reconsideration" process.  "A hearing on challenged material is serious and often lengthy."  "Be clear that materials under reconsideration will not be removed from use, or have access restricted, pending completion of the reconsideration process."

Other school superintendents have reacted similarly.  The squirting sperm book was immediately removed from a school in Arizona, for example, despite the false cries of censorship from the ALA acolytes.

School superintendents should know they can immediately pull inappropriate books and not have to comply with some rule made up by some organization from out of town.

Whom should the community trust with their children?  Their own superintendent who has a long history of dedication to education of community children, or the American Library Association who allowed an ACLU state leader to change the way librarians would approach children by enforcing the ACLU's anything-goes policy on the ALA and thereby local communities.

Dr. Hughes, don't give up, and you didn't "ban" the book:

But with social media and other websites blowing up with criticism, mostly of his unilateral decision to ban the book, Hughes admits that idea backfired.

"Most of the criticism has been over the lack of the process as opposed to the content of the book itself," Hughes said.  "There are many people who believe had the process been used, the book would have been exonerated.  I'm not sure that it would have.

"I don't know if this could have been avoided if I had used the process, but there are many who think so," Hughes added.  "Certainly in the future, I intend to make sure the process is used."


The school superintendent has decided to do exactly what I recommended or would have recommended, namely, keep the book from the children while the review process takes place.  He has not caved in and he has not followed ALA guidance to do the exact opposite:

"Statement Regarding the Book, Waterland, by Graham Swift," by Jeremy M. Hughes, Ph.D.Plymouth-Canton Community Schools, 29 December 2011:
Over the past several weeks there has been a flurry of comment regarding my earlier decision to withdraw the Graham Swift book, Waterland, from the Advanced Placement Literature curriculum at the Park.

I had originally explained that passages from the book that had been submitted to me in a parent complaint were shocking in their graphic explicitness and, in my judgment, not suitable for a high school English class. As a former high school English and Latin teacher, I am certainly aware that much of modern literature contains sexual material. It was my judgment, however, that the passages I read from Waterland had crossed the line in terms of graphic portrayal of sexual activity.

Although it has been argued that I took action solely on the complaint of one parent, it was my judgment at the time that the majority of parents in Plymouth-Canton would have a similar objection if they read what I read.

As it turns out, from the comments I have received from parents, community members, students, and media commentators, what HAS become overwhelmingly objectionable to the community is my decision to remove the book without instituting the complaint and review processes provided for in our district’s Administrative Guidelines.

Respecting what I now perceive to be the wishes of the community at large, I am modifying the earlier decision I made regarding the book and will be putting the book through the review processes outlined in the Administrative Guidelines. Until that process is finished, I will ask that the book still not be used in class.

The process requires the creation of a committee of teachers, parents, administrators, literary experts, and community members who will be invited to read the book, consider arguments for and against its use, and in the end, develop a recommendation to the administration. It will be my intention to accept the recommendation of the review committee.

Jeremy M. Hughes, Ph.D.
Plymouth-Canton Community Schools
December 29, 2011


Res ipsa loquitur:

This poll from the CantonPatch shows, like the Harris Poll, most
want the explicit books removed from the public school.
Res ipsa loquitur.


Please visit a new parent group opposing explicit books in local public schools that started as a direct result of the few falsely shouting "censorship":

And see the story about them:


Yesterday I noticed that the poll I pictured above showing most people wanted the books removed was substantially similar in percentages to yesterday's percentages.  Both those numbers from my first publication and from yesterday are remarkably close to the majority determined in the Harris Poll who also oppose explicit books in public schools.

Today is different.  A massive shift has occurred.  The poll has been inverted.  In a single day.  Statistically, that is impossible, particularly many days after the initial publication of the article in which the poll appears when less visits could be expected on the page.  Therefore, I conclude that someone has launched an effort to intentionally skew the poll.  Let's sit back and see who uses that poll to promote the way it has now been skewed.  That would indicate the likely deceptive party.


  1. Dr Hughes showed that he has a backbone unlike most of today's leaders who tap dance around most tough decisions. Thanks for being a leader. I do agree that he should follow the process that is in place though.

  2. Kim Jong Il and M. Ahmadinejad think they have backbones. If one objects to reading material, one should opt out, or read another selection, not tear things down for everyone else. "Fear of ideas makes us impotent and ineffective." -Justice William O. Douglas

  3. Right, but inappropriate material for children that the US Supreme Court, the American Library Association, case law, local law, common sense, and community standards say may be kept from children has absolutely zero to do with the "ideas" to which William O. Douglas was referring.

    If you disagree, consider the following: "Fear of public school-provided pornography makes us impotent and ineffective." -Justice William O. Douglas

    Your subtle ad hominem argument by comparing by implication the school superintendent to world class killers helps to further illustrate you have no legitimate argument to make, at least not here.

    Perhaps you would care to make a substantive argument why public schools should allow access to inappropriate material despite the US Supreme Court, the American Library Association, case law, local law, common sense, and community standards. No one ever makes that argument. I am hoping to encourage you to write here with legitimate, substantive argument.

  4. Though I agree that there should be age restrictions on certain material, perhaps by grade level, but "children" in this case are 17 and 18, studying advanced material, there by choice and parent permission, preparing for college. The audience is already very restricted. The issue here is whether the material and what part is inappropriate. It is not ALL inappropriate. The book is over 300 pages. A few selective sections should not cause its eviction, especially when parents have permitted it for these "children." The school is not providing pornography - which in this case not only raises other inaccurate, non topical issues, but is also a "masked man."
    Maybe there are other fallacies you can resort to besides Ad Hominem?

  5. It appears we have common ground. Thank you.

    As to the rest, I never said Waterland was pornography. None of the material challenged in schools is ever pornography when taken as a whole. Some material has been legally removed, however, precisely because portions of the work could be considered pornographic, like the picture of the children watching the two adults having anal sex. But that's besides the point. The point is adherence to standards provided by resources such as Board of Education v. Pico. Please read that.


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