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We continue with Part Two of Laurie Higgins' helpful article answering liberal educators' arguments when parents object to inappropriate books in schools. For the first five answers and the full essay, click HERE. For a letter by Higgins expressing outrage at the use of the vulgar and blasphemous homosexuality-oriented play "Angels in America" in high schools, click HERE. Remember: YOU have responsibility over your children's moral upbringing; use your authority confidently and wisely. -- Peter LaBarbera
6. There are other options for those who object to particular texts.
Response: First, opting out of reading an assigned class text results in a diminished, isolated academic experience for students. But equally important is the issue of whether taxpayers, even those who have no children in school, should be required to fund the teaching of offensive material. A text like Angels in
7. Refusing to offer this book will lead ineluctably to the world of book-burning à la Fahrenheit 451.
Response: This is an irrational, alarmist, specious canard. There is simply no evidence that including in selection criteria the nature and extent of obscene language or sexuality, or a consideration of highly controversial political messages will result in wholesale book banning. There is, however, ample evidence, that a steadfast refusal to ever take into account these elements will result in a slippery slide down the other slope to the use of corrosively vulgar and polemical texts.
8. This book has won prestigious literary awards or has been approved by the American Library Association (
Response: This justification begs the question: Who serves on committees that award prizes or review texts? And this argument calls for a serious, open, and honest examination of the ideological monopoly that controls academia and the elite world of the arts that for decades has engaged in censorship of conservative scholarship. To offer as justification for teaching a text the garnering of literary prizes or
What school committees, departments, administrations, school boards, the
9. Kids relate to this book and, therefore, it captures and holds their interest.
Response: If this criterion has assumed a dominant place in the selection process, then teachers have abandoned their proper role as educators. Appealing to the sensibilities and appetites of adolescents should not be the goal of educators. There’s another word for capitulating to the tastes of adolescents: it is called pandering. Schools should teach those texts that students will likely not read on their own. We should teach those texts that are intellectually challenging and offer insight, wisdom, beauty, and truth. We should avoid those that are highly polemical, blasphemous, and vulgar.
10. To remove this text constitutes censorship.
Response: Parents who object to the inclusion of texts on recommended or required reading lists due to obscene language, sexuality, or highly controversial messages are not engaging in some kind of inappropriate censorship. All educators evaluate curricular materials for objectionable content, including language, sexuality, and controversial themes. The irony is that when teachers decide not to select a text due to these elements, the choice constitutes an exercise in legitimate decision-making, but when parents engage in it, they are tarred with the label of “censor.”
Furthermore, virtually no parents advocate prior restraint and only rarely are they asking for the removal of a text from a school library. Rather, parents are suggesting that it is reasonable to include the nature and extent of profanity, obscenity, and sexuality when selecting texts to be recommended and/or taught to minors in public schools.
Are those teachers, administrators, and school board members who disagree with that suggestion saying that they will never take into account the nature and extent of profanity, obscenity, and sexuality? If they are claiming that they will never take into account these elements, then parents should reconsider their fitness for teaching.
In all four years of high school English, students read approximately 28-32 books. From the dozens and dozens of texts available, it seems unlikely that any student’s education would be compromised by teachers, in the service of respect for parental values, comity, and modesty, avoiding the most controversial texts.
Laurie Higgins is a writer and public school teacher in the
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