Thursday, November 8, 2012

2,300 Petition to Stop School From Requiring Explicit Reading Material

Hundreds of parents in Guilford County are protesting a piece of literature that has been required reading for upperclassmen in some schools for at least 10 years, The Handmaid's Tale written by Margaret Atwood.  ....  Right now the schools offer an opt-out clause for students, but the parents want to take that step further.  And many agree.  They have gathered about 2,300 signatures from parents and students.  But they want to be clear, they are not asking that the book be prohibited in school, just excluded from the syllabus.  
Not prohibited, just removed from the syllabus.  Source:

Wow!  Over 2,300 signatures!  Of course from parents, but from students as well!

Watch Parents Speak Up for Appropriate Public School Reading Material

Watch parents speaking at a Guilford County Schools (NC) Board of Education meeting, and see how one parent gets a standing ovation:

See the Petition That Garnered Thousands of Signatures

Here's the petition that garnered thousands of signatures online and on paper (and I've reprinted it at bottom):

Many of the signatures are from concerned citizens, not parents of children who were actually assigned the book or in the school system.  However, school board policy for "addressing challenged educational resources," states, emphasis mine: "When there is a challenge to an educational resource expressed by students, employees, parents or guardians, or citizens of the school's attendance area, the following procedure shall be utilized."  So these thousands of petition signatures really are relevant to the educational issue facing that community.  Here is a news story prominently displaying the signed petitions:

Details About the Contents of The Handmade's Tale

What's in The Handmaid's Tale?  The book, while deemed appropriate for school children, could not be read on an evening news broadcast for fear of the loss of an FCC broadcast license:

"March Against "Banning Books"; Support for The Handmaid's Tale as Required Reading

I hear there may be a "march" against "book banning" at the school, so I informed many people the day before:
Dan Kleinman

BREAKING:  " " march  8 Nov re  's "The Handmaid's Tale"   
Some support the book being required reading in public school:

Sourced Information on Book Challenges You Won't Hear From the ALA

For the benefit of the Guilford County Schools Board of Education and the citizens of the school's attendance area, I provide some information, in no particular order, that will assist them in making a decision based on solid resources instead of emotional appeals opposing "censorship" or "book banning" as is likely to be displayed in the "march" against "book banning."  Agence France-Presse said I am "a clearing house for information about challenging books" and I've been advising communities for over a decade so please consider what I say.  Here's more about me, including a telephone number.  Reliable sources are provided, and where I cite to my own writing, the reliable sources are contained therein.  I have not read the The Handmaid's Tale so I will not comment on it, other than to say I support all authors and oppose true censorship.

Let' begin:
  1. No book has been banned in the USA for about half a century, Fanny Hill being the last: "Banned Book Favorites: Fanny Hill (Reprise)," by RasoirJ (George Clack), 3:17am, 25 August 2011.  This must be said because of all the false claims of book banning being bandied about, particularly by the media, e.g., "Parents Seek Ban on Certain Books," by Morgan Josey Glover, News & Record (Greensboro, NC), 1 November 2012.  Compare that title and its inherent spin and one-sided effect on the reader with another title that is truthful, namely, "Guilford Co. Parents Want Changes to Required Reading Lists," by Amanda McKenzieNews 14 Carolina, 2 November 2012.  Further, no parent ever bans a book from anywhere, except perhaps his or her own home.  Parents bring their concerns to the schools.  This is perfectly legitimate.  Schools even have the means set up to respond to such concerns.  If the book is indeed inappropriate and removed or some other action is taken such as removing it from a reading list, then the action is taken by the school, not by the parent.
  2. Sometimes the claim is made that every single person who ever questions the appropriateness of books for children in public schools is a censor or a book banner:  "The Parent Trap: ALA Uses Banned Books Week to Ridicule Patrons Complying with ALA Materials Reconsideration Policies," by Dan Kleinman, SafeLibraries, 29 September 2010.  Such claims are false and are intended to bully or intimidate people into silence.  If someone is making that claim, he or she is bullying both the parents and the community generally.  Even a self-described "progressive" librarian knows this is wrong when he says, "Regardless of what the school's decision turns out to be, regardless of its reasonableness or unreasonableness, and regardless of the objectivity or bias within the decision-making process in a specific case, all challenges to a book by a parent get counted as an attempt at book banning":  "Banned Books Week Propaganda Exposed by Progressive Librarian Rory Litwin; ALA Censors Out Criticism of Its Own Actions in a Manner Dishonest to the Core," by Dan KleinmanSafeLibraries, 1 September 2011.  Besides, as Dan Gerstein said, "The ... elites have convinced themselves that they are taking a stand against cultural tyranny. .... [T]he reality is that it is those who cry 'Censorship!' the loudest who are the ones trying to stifle speech and force their moral world-view on others."  See also, and you'll love the authors writing in the comments, "Kentucky School Superintendent Exposes False Cries of Censorship; Removes Educationally Unsuitable Books from Curriculum Despite Being on ALA's List for Reluctant Readers," by Dan KleinmanSafeLibraries, 30 November 2009.  
  3. The creator of the American Library Association's "Banned Books Week" said if a book does not meet its school's selection policy, "get it out of there":  "Marking 25 Years of Banned Books Week: An Interview with Judith Krug," by Judith Krug, 46 Curriculum Review 1, September 2006, p.12.
  4. Sometimes people who challenge inappropriate material in schools are made to look like they are the only ones who think this.  That is simply false.  2,300+ petition signatures show that is false.  In addition, a Harris Poll shows that is false.  Indeed the poll shows, "A majority of Americans say ... that books with explicit language should not be available to children in school libraries (62%)":  "Most Oppose Explicit Books in Public Schools Says Harris Poll," by Dan KleinmanSafeLibraries, 26 April 2011.
  5. Books that are "pervasively vulgar" may be removed from public schools immediately.  "[A]n unconstitutional motivation would not be demonstrated if it were shown that petitioners had decided to remove the books at issue because those books were pervasively vulgar":  Board of Education v. Pico, 457 US 853 (1982).  The American Library Association misleads communities on this case by advising on only a part of the truth, not the whole truth.  See, e.g.:  "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," by Dan KleinmanSafeLibraries, 26 April 2011.
  6. There are those who say children should never be kept from anything whatsoever, that they must choose for themselves.  That may be their view, but the US Supreme Court says otherwise in a case that protected children from inappropriate material on the Internet in public libraries:  "The interest in protecting young library users from material inappropriate for minors is legitimate, and even compelling, as all Members of the Court appear to agree":  US v. American Library Association, 539 US 194 (2003).  
  7. In Evans-Marshall v. Board of Education of the Tipp City Exempted Village School District, the 6th Circuit Court ruled unanimously that "[t]eachers have no First Amendment free-speech protection for curricular decisions they make in the classroom": "Court Backs Local School Control in Evans-Marshall v Board of Education; ALA Loses Another Means to Propagandize Local Communities," by Dan KleinmanSafeLibraries, 22 October 2010.
  8. Inappropriate books for children is a concern for everyone, not just "conservatives" or "Christians."  Consider, for example, leading feminist, President Bill Clinton political consultant, and The Beauty Myth author Naomi Wolf who wrote in The New York Times that parents looking at reading for their children "might be in for a surprise."  For example, "sex saturates the 'Gossip Girl' books, by Cecily von Ziegesar, which are about 17- and 18-year-old private school girls in Manhattan.  This is not the frank sexual exploration found in a Judy Blume novel, but teenage sexuality via Juicy Couture, blasé and entirely commodified":  "Young Adult Fiction: Wild Things," by Naomi Wolf, The New York Times, 12 March 2006.
  9. You know how you hear that this or that challenged book won awards or is highly recommended by reliable sources?  That is one excuse to promote allowing children access to inappropriate material.  At least one school principal is no longer falling for that excuse, saying, "You rely on a professional service such as Scholastic to review your books.  Everything I read gave glowing reviews and didn't go into the graphic sexual details of the book":  "School Excoriates Book Reviews that Fail to Disclose 'Graphic Sexual Details' in Books for Children; Lush by Natasha Friend is 'Wildly Inappropriate' for Certain Children," by Dan KleinmanSafeLibraries, 16 December 2010.  Also see, regarding the Wall Street Journal, "False Censorship Claims Exposed by WSJ Author Attacked for Exposing Truth About Young Adult Books; Meghan Cox Gurdon Decries Incomplete and Uninformative Book Reviews," by Dan KleinmanSafeLibraries, 8 June 2011.  And from another school in another state, see, "Humble ISD Now Screens Books, Guests Closer," by Bryan Kirk, Houston Chronicle, 11 September 2012.
  10. People view the American Library Association as being authoritative.  The organization has done a lot of good, but not all is good.  Its "Office for Intellectual Freedom" and "Freedom to Read Foundation" were created by a three year Illinois state ACLU leader.  She injected ACLU views into the ALA.  No longer would ALA librarians keep children from harm; suddenly librarians were to provide anything at all and it was up to parents to monitor their own children.  So, as these issues are being discussed, as the parents are being viewed as "censors," remember we are here because of an ACLU leader's effective control of the ALA, and the ALA thereafter changed the playing field and terminology.  Now the parents are wrong for challenging sexually inappropriate materials, and it's called "censorship" or "banning," instead of the schools being wrong for making such material available to children in the first place.  In reality, far from being authoritative, the ALA knowingly and intentionally misleads communities.  (A) In one case, its "Freedom to Read Foundation" quietly granted money to a person in West Bend, WI, leading the charge in seeking to ensure children retained access to sexually inappropriate material.  Only an official request for public records revealed the grant recipient bragging about the $1000 grant.  Neither the library nor the ALA made the grant public.  (B) In another case I recorded an author essentially admitting that the ALA faked its 2010 edition of its annual list of the top ten most challenged books.  (C) Recently the ALA openly suggested that public libraries should begin to consider collecting pornography.  (D) And the ALA joins with similar groups to intentionally mislead schools about challenged books.  (E) Prominent librarians point out that the ALA is the only organization promoting sexually inappropriate material for children.  (F) The author of the Children's Internet Protection Act wrote that the ALA misleads a third of American libraries into potentially harming children.  These are just the tip of the iceberg.  The ALA should not be viewed as authoritative.  If your school hears from the ALA, its argument likely contains similar false and misleading information.  I will help you see through this upon request, and I will use reliable sources.  
  11. I have a list of many articles on the topic of public school book selection and reading lists in the following story, which illustrates, by the way, that schools can react immediately to remove inappropriate material without being constrained to follow the American Library Association's suggested constraints: "School Removes Squirting Sperm Book After 8-Year-Old Complains To Her Mother," by Dan KleinmanSafeLibraries, 14 March 2011.

Opt Out Provisions Are Just an Easy Way Out

Let me add this about "opt out" provisions.  Opt out rules are really a means to allow the school boards to opt out of doing the right thing in the first place.  Children are supposed to have an equal education and governments bend over backwards to make that happen, correct?  Then why have "opt out" policies as they lead to unequal education.  Children who do opt out are necessarily left out of the classroom discussion of the material.  Schools shirk their responsibility to students when they intentionally allow students to take a path the teacher will not follow.

What is really being opted out is the requirement for fair and efficient education.  In every single case of opting out I've seen, the opt opt process is used to bully students and parents into not opting out because who wants the social stigma of standing out.  For example, most kids want to dress like the others for fear of standing out like a sore thumb.

I know the parents in Guilford County are asking for the ability to opt out.  Likely they do not realize the above.  It is similar to why Guilford County school policy says challenged books "shall not be restricted during the review process."  That policy comes from the ALA.  In reality, schools can toss that aside anytime they wish, as alluded to in the Pico case, just like was done in Phoenix, AZ, where the former head of the Arizona Library Association attempted to bully the school into keeping the sperm squirting book available to third graders while a review was underway.  You see, schools answer to the citizens, not to the ACLU/ALA.

Article and Petition Appear Below

Finally, here is that excellent article I have discussed above and the petition below that:

by Amanda McKenzie 
News 14 Carolina 
2 November 2012

GREENSBORO — Hundreds of parents in Guilford County are protesting a piece of literature that has been required reading for upperclassmen in some schools for at least 10 years, The Handmaid's Tale written by Margaret Atwood.

Lisa Reid was looking up her son's required reading list for Grimsley High School when she saw the list came with a warning.

"I had never seen a warning label on a public school reading list," said Reid.

It warns of mature content and after these parents read the book, they said it was not appropriate for teenagers.

"They need to be taught in a responsible manner that doesn't allow pornographic material to be read by our students," said parent Cathy Barnette said.

Right now the schools offer an opt-out clause for students, but the parents want to take that step further. And many agree. They have gathered about 2,300 signatures from parents and students. But they want to be clear, they are not asking that the book be prohibited in school, just excluded from the syllabus.

"The petition does not talk about banning books. It talks about setting standards that do not denigrate religion," said Reid.

Reid has brought her concerns and petition to the Guilford County School Board, and while no official response or action has been declared, some school board members are supportive of her efforts.

"I just wonder sometimes how books like this get on there," Paul Daniels said.

Daniels said he agrees that there should be standards that are in line with what the schools already promote in their values.

"We shouldn't be denigrating anybody's faith, not in required reading," said Daniels.

A controversial discussion that will likely continue.

by Lisa Reid
Greensboro, NC

Petition Letter

I just signed the following petition addressed to: Guilford County School Board.

Guilford County schools have assigned reading that specifically targets and denigrates Christianity. Two specific examples are The Handmaid’s Tale and Cat’s Cradle.

The American Federation of Teachers, the National School Board Association and 17 other national organizations have endorsed a document that specifies that 1) Religious conviction must be treated with fairness and respect. 2) Religion must be taught objectively and neutrally. 3) Schools educate about religion—they do not promote or denigrate religion.

The two books mentioned are in direct violation of these provisions.

According to the courts, the school board as the public's elected representatives must set the standards in this area. Our school board has not been willing to intervene when religion is denigrated.

We, the undersigned, are concerned citizens who urge our leaders to engage in one of the very purposes for which it exists and make sure that our school assignments do not denigrate anyone’s religion and that in addition, such assignments promote rather than tear down traditional values.

[Your name]

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