Dec 26, 2006

Intolerance reigns in Livingston County

We have another case of so-called community leaders overreacting and practicing censorship.

For the last two months or so there has been a flap over Howell High School banning – or pulling - a book from its advanced 10th grade English class called “The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them" because of the book’s alleged profanity and references to drugs and sex acts. The district’s administration basically left the English teacher using the book out to dry by saying she never had approval to use the book in class.

For those of you who may have been watching TV recently, you may have seen the trailer for a film called “Freedom Writers” starring Hilary Swank that is based on this book. According to the plot line, “A young teacher (Swank) inspires her class of at-risk students to learn tolerance, apply themselves, and pursue education beyond high school. “ We do not want our young people learning tolerance, especially in conservative Livingston County.

It turns out that the book was used last year in class, and the book was approved by the English Department, according to an excellent article in the Daily Press & Argus by a good friend of mine and a future teacher.

A joint statement, signed by 17 English teachers at Howell High School, said the book was approved as a supplemental part of the curriculum by the Howell High School English department last year.
Ms. Capy is teaching the book because she was assigned to teach both of the two sections of accelerated 10th-grade English this year," the statement said. "It needs to be made clear that she has no responsibility whatsoever in the approval of the book other than being a voting member of the English department. The criticism of her by a few members of the community is completely unjustified."

Some of that unjustified criticism ”by a few members of the community” came in a letter to the editor in the newspaper today by Vicki Fyke, where she says, “It will be interesting to see if our administrators or our school board have the courage to enforce their policies and reprimand this irresponsible teacher for her total neglect in following the proper procedures and for not being the least bit sorry once she was scolded.” Maybe you should check your facts before you throe out unjustified accusations, Ms. Fyke.

The interesting thing about this letter is Ms. Fyke is the advisor for the Livingston County Teen Age Republicans. What a great job for an intolerant person, and she can pass that on to our future leaders. Apparently, she thinks only students with perfect records are worth educating. I suggest you read the book and go see the movie. Oh yea, I forgot, Liberal Hollywood is not going to stop you from being intolerant.


LiberalLucy said...

Ain't hypocrisy grand?

Happy Boxing Day!

Communications guru said...

Yes. Yes it is. Aren’t you glad you grew up in Livingston County, and aren’t you even happier you moved to a more tolerable place.
It’s kind of funny when you read the levelheaded comments and letters from some of the students involved in this mess. It’s too bad that most of them, like you, move on when they grow up, or the conservative wings nuts would not control the county.

LiberalLucy said...

It is too bad, and my parents bemoan it to this day (had to hear about while spending time with the family).
I'll be the first one to say that we need folks on both sides of the fence, and that both ideologies have good tenets, BUT, the problem is when people, regardless of their side, take it too far. I think this is a perfect example why the county (at least the examples I've seen) doesn't do enough to promote tolerance and diversity of thought.

Lights Out said...

Regardless of its merits, the book was cleared for use and was used by the English class. Then a small minority pointed out that the book was offensive to them. The district duly noted this and pulled the book so as to not give offense to parents who are paying the bills and entrusting their children to the schools.

The small offended minority has nowhere else to go (aside from leaving the public schools that they are forced to pay for) so under the prevailing assumptions of diversity the district has an obligation to respect them, does it not?

I'm not the sort to get worked up about my kids dealing with the taboo subjects of life and probably wouldn't have any problem with this book (which I have not read nor heard of). But this seems little different from the annual holiday wars over what values we will respect in the public square.

If the Three Wise Men and a manger outside the schoolhouse -- a mere IMAGE -- is an assault on tolerance and diversity worthy of ACLU lawsuits, then allowing tenth graders to read books inside that school which grossly offend the moral teachings of their parents would seem to be a nuclear war on tolerance and diversity.

This is your diversity, folks: nothing offensive, nothing interesting, nobody feels bad, no variety. A one-size-fits-all public education system for everybody's values. The only losers in this war are those of us without paper thin skin who kind of like the rough edges of life showing, even when the kids are watching.

Congratulations. You won. Get over it.

Communications guru said...

Thank you for taking the time to read the blog and especially for taking the time to state your opinion.

You are correct, when you say, “the book was cleared for use and was used by the English class.” So why is the advisor of the Teen Age Republicans asking for consequences for the teacher, and that was a major point in my post.
The thing in your statement that really jumped out at me was this, “Then a small minority pointed out that the book was offensive to them.” Why should a small minority set policy for the majority in this case? Couldn’t the parents who originally signed the reading list have chosen another book for their child to read?

The “small minority” certainly has other options, and they include private school, charter schools and home schooling. However, not having children in public school does not relieve anyone of their responsibilities as American citizens. Your question on diversity makes no sense.

The problem with the manager is this thing called the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that says, “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishing of a religion.” Now, if there is a Menorah, a statue of Buddha and a photo of Muhammad with the manager then there is no problem with it. That is diversity, friend. It’s not an “assault on tolerance and diversity” it’s the exact opposite, and its also an attack on the Constitution.

It’s ironic that you accuse me of having “paper thin skin who kind of like the rough edges of life showing” when the book depicts at-risk inner city kids – who I believe swear once in a while – who overcome adversity and succeed in life. I think all kids, and adults, should hear that story.

I won what? The book is still being censored by a group of small-minded people, and I will not have won until censorship had been stamped out.

Lights Out said...

You think ALL kids should hear this story. Your opponents think ALL kids should be protected in school from portrayals of teen swearing, sex and drugs. You both have very strong ideas about how tax dollars should be used to educate EVERYBODY else's kids.

How do we resolve this? I know! Why not protect everybody's values. How about teaching Intelligent Design in science class. Isn't that diverse? Kind of like putting up the Buddha, the Wiccan priestess, the Flying Spaghetti Monster and whatever else you want to toss onto the lawn.

That first amendment thing? You might want to read the whole deal, because it mentions some other things about freedom of association, speech, the press, etc... That's important when you're using state FORCE to compel people to pay for public education. They are effectively being forced to pay for speech that they deem offensive.

That may be "true diversity," whatever that angry god may be, but it isn't freedom of speech and it sure is not freedom of association. Why should THEY be forced to pay so that public schools can teach MY kids stuff that YOU approve of but THEY deem offensive?

The rules of this diversity game boil down to surrendering to whatever "offended" party screams loudest, regardless of what the objective truth is. The rules apply double when the aggrieved party is being forced to pay some of the bills.

These diversity rules are your own, and they are working just as designed. Everybody gets to toss their values into the public arena and force everybody else to respect them. The fact that the other side now has the bomb is just a new element to the success of a game that the diversity police created.

Mandated diversity has become a weapon of the narrow-minded on all sides. Universal acceptance!

That's your victory. Enjoy it.

Communications guru said...

I thought we were to have an intelligent debate, but I see that’s not what you want.

Yes, I think all kids should hear that story. My “opponents” only want one point of view heard, theirs. How are sheltering kids from sex, drugs and bad language helping them? Someday they will face those things. They should be protected from those things, but not shielded. It’s not other people’s kids. I went through public schools, my children did and now my grandchildren are.

Intelligent design is not a science, so it should never be taught in science. It’s fine in a philosophy class, a comparative religion class or a social studies class. I would never put Buddha and the “Flying Spaghetti Monster” in the same classification. I guess that’s part of your problem.

I have read the entire 1st Amendment many times; what argument are you trying to make using it?

I see public education as a huge benefit to society, and not something the “state is forcing people to pay for.”

No one is being “forced to pay for speech that they deem offensive.” There are plenty of other avenues for them to address something people think is offensive, and one is simply reading a different book. We are already a diverse society, so how is trying to understand someone who is different a bad thing?

I really don't understand the rest of your rant. What side has what bomb?

Universal acceptance is the ultimate goal, but unfortunately we have not achieved it.

Lights Out said...

Intelligent debate?

Okay, I was trying not to come right out and say this, but do you not see the hypocrisy in forcing somebody else to spend their money to teach your values when those value offend them?

You think exposing tenth grade kids to the reality of rough language, sex and substance abuse might have some benefit. I tend to agree. But some people don't. The difference in ethcics between you and I is that I don't think they should be forced to pay for something that they do not agree with. Indeed, I think it an assualt on everything we consider good in a pluralistic society to force them to pay for this even if their kids are not in the public schools or even if they have no kids at all.

Your opponents have figured out how to use your own weapon against you. If we must accept everybody's values, and we all must pay for what goes on in public schools, then ipso facto you must accept their desire not to be offended by what society is forcing them to pay for. It was inevitable. Like nuclear secrets, these things do not stay hidden forever. That's the bomb they have stolen. You're being nuked by your own weapons.

Would you let them leave the public schools with their tax dollars in the form of a voucher and give it to a private religious school that comports with their values? If not, then you force them to compete on your turf and under those rules, and the evidence seems to indicate that they are giving as good as they get in that environment. (Don't worry -- you'll be learning about the 6000 year old Earth in no time).

If so, then maybe you should have voted for DeVos

Communications guru said...

I have no idea why you would hesitate to say anything, but there is no hypocrisy. Taxes are an investment in our country and community, and having educated citizens is perhaps the greatest investment we make. Schools are not teaching values, and they are governed by elected officials of all political stripes to ensure that. There is nothing stopping you from running for school board.

So, you are saying people should not have to pay their taxes because there’s a book they do not like? That is ridiculous. Parents knew this book was on the assigned reading list they were required to sign. They simply could have asked that the child read another book. I have asked you that three times now, and you refuse to tell me why that is not a solution. If you want to look the bigger picture, again, taxes are an investment in the country to benefit entire community. Those people can run for school board, express their displeasure to those elected school board members or speak at a school board meeting.

We have already had the voucher debate in this state, and we rejected it. Vouchers are unconstitutional because they violate the 1st Amendment. When private schools must take every student and educate every student, including the most physically and mentally handicapped, like public schools then there might be some debate. That does not happen.

I would not vote for the Amway guy for a number of reasons. The voucher question is just one reason.