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November 26, 2012

To Ban or To Parent?

Cindy A. Rose

Song of Solomon. If you don’t know that’s the title of a controversial Frederick County Public Schools book for required reading, you need to get out more.


The debate regarding it is “all books are safe” from liberals and “certain books should have age/maturity limitations” from conservatives.


The group espousing “all books are safe” is the same group that will cut off their right arm to ensure the Bible is not required reading in schools. If all books are safe…..?


Students won’t be corrupted by the filth in Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, but the Bible will turn them into ignorant religious zealots.


A liberal debater even said to me, paraphrased, ‘no one ever died because of a book.’ Hypocrisy runs deep with this crowd.


Literature and aggression have been studied. As have their companions, video games, comic books, movies and television.


Dr. Sarah L. Coyne and some of her Brigham Young University colleagues have written a paper entitled Backbiting and bloodshed in books: Short-term effects of reading physical and relational aggression in literature.


In their research they noted “… in the short term, reading acts of aggression would activate aggression-related scripts specific to that form of aggression.”


In 2011 the Federal Bureau of Investigation published Addressing School Violence (Booth, VanHasselt and Vecchi. In it there is this quote:


“The diaries of the Columbine shooters, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, suggest addictive behavior with first-person-shooter video games. Although the level of their influence is controversial, violent video games can have a detrimental impact on vulnerable adolescents and even college-age students.”


Will one book or one video game spark violence? In a normal person that is highly doubtful. However when these types of materials become the daily reading requirements of young, immature students, we should stop being puzzled when bullying is on the rise.


In the 2011 FBI paper there is this:


“Bullying remains one of the largest problems in schools, percentage of students reportedly bullied at least once per week steadily increasing… According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program, school offenders typically are Caucasian males between the ages of 13 and 18. However, the number of girls involved in school crime has increased from over 12,000 incidents in 2000 to approximately 25,000 occurrences in 2005.”


Between the ages of 13 and 18 we wonder if it is coincidental that this is when we start to introduce books like Song of Solomon that are vulgar, violent, and sexual?


My 5th grader was recently assigned Dangerous Skies by Suzanne Fisher Staples. Supposedly this is a book about friendship and slavery. However, it mentions the rape of a child. It’s pitched to be used to introduce children to “abuse.” The parent permission slip r for this work reads:


“After Thanksgiving my class will be reading our first novel of the year. Your child will be reading Dangerous Skies by Suzanne Staples. This is a 5th grade text that was selected by our reading specialist, but is not on the FCPS approved list, therefore I need parental permission before your child reads this book in class. If you have any further questions or would like to preview the book, I can send a copy home with your child over the holiday. We are starting our novel unit on Monday, November 26th, so I need all permission slips returned by then.”


The lack of information regarding the content of this book is insulting. However, the teacher handled this situation with grace and professionalism when I voiced my concerns. My child will be reading another novel.


These books are not anomalies, they are the norm. Of the 14 books recently adopted by the Frederick County Board of Education, almost all of them have one of the dark themes of slavery, abuse, isolation, segregation, racism, sexual violence and others. All touch on social injustice in its most ugly forms.


Because parents want to make sure these types of materials only make it to the hands of those fully ready to read them, we are made fun of and called “book banners.”


Some of us are interested in protecting the mental health and stability of the students. Others seek to impose their views regardless of the damage done. You’re looked down upon to if you don’t want your 13-year-old discussing “sexual sorrow” in the classroom.


Why do we read? Is it to live vicariously through the characters in the book? For knowledge? For expression? To find and understand ourselves?


Aren’t we moved to laughter, tears, sorrow and joy through reading? Why on earth would anyone ignore the possibility that others are moved to sexual exploration before they are ready – anger, violence, disrespect, hatred and revenge?


We aren’t banning. We are parenting.


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