Protecting “our” children from books whether you like it or not

I was watching the local news on Wednesday when I came across a story about a book controversy in a local school district.

It seems some parents complained about The Chocolate War an assigned book that they thought to be offensive.

What is ironic is that one of the book and film’s main theme is “conformity” – where the majority imposes orthodoxy in thoughts and belief. That is what censorship does. It imposes an orthodoxy in thoughts and beliefs by suppressing any that are contrary.

JOHNSTOWN, Ohio – Some parents are urging officials in the Northridge School district to place a ban on a controversial book that is assigned to high school students.

Michelle Doran and a few other parents are upset because students at Northridge High School are assigned to read The Chocolate War – a young adult novel written by Robert Cormier that was published in 1974.

Doran, whose son was required to read the book last year as a freshman at Northridge, took issue with some of the book’s passages, 10TV’s Tanisha Mallett reported.

“Her breast brushing against his arm set him on fire,” Doran recites. “If these books were a movie, they would be Rated R, why should we be encouraging them to read these books?”

Novel Draws Criticism From Parents

The Chocolate War was made into a movie in 1988 and it starred John Glover, Ilan Mitchell-Smith, and Wallace Langham and it was rated R. It is one of my favorite movies. The main plot is that a kid named Jerry Renault refuses to sell chocolate that raises money for his prep school which starts a war with the kids who controlled the school.

Ms. Doran continues:

“I understand they want to have freedom as to what they want to teach, but who are they teaching?” she said. “They’re teaching our children.”

I agree that parents should not only know what is being taught to their children but should have some control, but people like Doran not only want to “protect” their children they also want to prevent me from making the same choice for my children that she demands for herself.

If she wants to be able to opt-out her children from reading the book, I would support that, even though she is doing her children a disservice in the guise of protection, but she shouldn’t be allowed to have a say in what any other children can read.

The other point that bothered me about this issue is that the book is on a reading list for high school kids. That age range is something like 16 to 18. We call that young adult. Too young for 100% freedom of thought and action but too old to want them to think the world is just an episode of Teletubbies. It bothers me that some parents forget they were 16 once and also forget that words do nothing other than help children learn and relate about their world. It just seems warped that a parent thinks they can “protect” children from their natural reaction – in their bodies and minds – to becoming full and healthy adults.

Yet the American Library Association (ALA) ranks sex as the largest reason for challenges against books.

I had a job when I was 16, I could go see R rated movies when I was 17, and I was allowed to sign my own absence notes when I missed school when I was 18 – not to mention I could vote. I also knew all the euphemisms for a penis, that the clit was very important during sex, and a breast brushing against my arm would set me on fire. I was on fire pretty much 24 hours a day seven days a week during high school. A simple flip of a girls pony tail would hypnotize me for hours.

The ALA has, on it’s website, one of my favorite quotes against censorship:

“If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind. Were an opinion a personal possession of no value except to the owner; if to be obstructed in the enjoyment of it were simply a private injury, it would make some difference whether the injury was inflicted only on a few persons or on many. But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.” — On Liberty, John Stuart Mill

There is a video from my local station about the book challenge here.

Crap Happens

On Monday, the big news story was the shooting at the Amish school in Pennsylvania.

I watched some of the coverage on the news channels before going to work. It is a very sad time for their community. I was a bit saddened to hear some of the news people saying factually wrong things about the Amish. One of the things was that the Amish reject any help from the government – that is not true. Here in Ohio the Amish do accept some government support especially when it comes to health care and their children. When they do accept it, the community, later, will have an auction or market day to pay back the state for the aid they received.

Of course, after every violent incident involving a school or children, the religious wing nuts make statements like the one I read in a forum posting on our local newspaper website:

Do you think there is a correlation with taking prayer out of schools and the escalation of school violence? Innocent voices raised in prayer each day kept God’s protection over the schools. Parents better pray for their children each day, I know I do!

Then there was this bit last night on the “Free Speech” segment of the CBS Evening News by Brian Rohrbough, father of one of the students killed in the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Colorado:

ROHRBOUGH: I’m saddened and shaken by the shooting at an Amish school today and last week’s school murders [in Bailey, Colorado]. When my son Dan was murdered on the sidewalk at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999, I hoped that would be the last school shooting. Since that day, I tried to answer the question, “Why did this happen?”

This country is in a moral freefall. For over two generations, the public school system has taught in a moral vacuum, expelling God from the school and from the government, replacing him with evolution, where the strong kill the weak without moral consequences. And life has no inherent value. We teach there are no absolutes, no right or wrong, and I assure you the murder of innocent children is always wrong, including by abortion. Abortion has diminished the value of children. Suicide has become an acceptable action and has further emboldened these criminals. We’re seeing an epidemic increase in murder/suicide attacks on our children.

In response to Pennsylvania school shooting, CBS’ “Free Speech” featured Columbine father attacking evolution, abortion

That was just an uninformed comment. The Amish are about as religiously conservative as a religion goes, yet all their prayers didn’t “protect” them from the violence. It also doesn’t make one any saner. Mental illness doesn’t avoid the religious. In a press conference today, PA State Police reported the Amish school shooter wrote to his wife that he was angry with God.

Prayer is NOT a solution – it is what some do to cope with their lives.

People need to get some perspective. Mentally ill people, who perpetrate these killings, will do what they can to do harm. Unless we can gain some kind of psychic ability, we can NEVER prevent these incidents 100%.

The guy, who is said to have shot the Amish children, wasn’t on any law enforcement radar. The guy seemed to have just snapped (although I bet there were some signs his family and friends ignored).

My philosophy of life allows me to function without being crippled by the unknown. It basically boils down to “Crap Happens”. You deal with what you can control and try your best to slog through what you can’t control.

Cell phones in Findlay High School causing trouble

Back on May 9th a group of Findlay High School students approached the school board to ask for a change in the cell phone policy at school.

It seems that FHS as a zero tolerance for cell phones on campus and if found they are confiscated and returned at the end of the day. If the same person is found with one again then a parent or guardian has to come to school to pick it up.

Cell phones are like a part of the body of most teens these days. They are always talking, texting, or now taking pictures to share. Schools do have a reason to control the use of the phones during school hours for the same reason you can’t have a boom box. The phones not only can disrupt class but they can also be used to cheat.

When I heard about the issue I sided with the current policy.

In my younger days calculators were just being made affordable for most students. At first they were banned from school. It was considered cheating if you used one. But then they found out that calculators can help marginal students in math since most of the trouble is doing basic math functions. The policy changed and calculators were allowed but if you had a fancy one that could save formulas you had to bring them to the teacher before a test and he/she would reset the machine to wipe out any attempts to cheat on the test.

The problem with cell phones is, that unlike calculators, they have NO educational value.

The students suggested changing the policy to allow them to bring them as long as they are off and kept in their lockers during the day.

Sounds reasonable.

Then I read a follow up story in today’s Courier.

It seems that some students still bring the phones to school and some even use them during the day, fully knowing that it is against the rules.

But that wasn’t the kicker.

It seems that the administration is searching the phones they confiscate and punishing any rule violations contained on them like bad language in text messages and pictures showing underage drinking.

The kids are pissed. They feel that their privacy is being violated.

I think the kids had a good argument – if it wasn’t in school. Students have no privacy in school. When I was there in the mid 80’s we had a couple of school wide locker searches. Each class had to open their lockers and a staff member would look through them and punish any violation they found. One time they even brought a drug sniffing dog.

Cell phones are not school property but you really can’t blame the administration for searching them especially because they aren’t allowed in the first place.

As a teacher is quoted in the Courier article:

“Doesn’t there have to be some respect for the rules?”

Originally posted on the blog “Hancock County Politics Unfiltered”