Jan 23, 2007

The lunatic fringe tries to ban books

The lunatic fringe was out in full force last night at the Howell Public Schools Board of Education meeting trying to ban some books that are part of the English curriculum.

An anti-gay hate group called LOVE - (Livingston Organization for Values in Education) – started the controversy some two months ago by trying to ban a book called “The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them.” It was approved for advanced 10th grade English class, but the group caused a flap over the book’s alleged profanity and references to drugs and sex acts.

The board was set to approve proposed curriculum adoptions, revisions and changes that apparently include the reading list for English classes, but members of the so-called LOVE group – including School Board Member Wendy Day, who is a member of LOVE and endorsed by the Livingston County Republican Party – got their “small but local minority” out to the meeting to try and disrupt it.

Now, the group is out to ban such subversive books as Slaughterhouse Five" by Kurt Vonnegut, and "Black Boy" by Richard Wright and The Bluest Eye" by Toni Morrison, taught in 11th grade English, according to the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus.

I was unable to make the meeting because I was at another meeting, but I did see the report on the news at WLNS-TV. It was shameful, and this small group of extremists again gave Livingston County a black eye and enforced the image of the county as a small-minded, racist community.

I have sat through a lot of local government board meetings and school board meetings, but I have never seen anyone act as aggressively and out of control as one LOVE member, apparently named Ann Blaine, according to the newspaper.

She read graphic passages from one of the books describing incest and rape, then wagged her finger at the school board members as she asked, "Tell me, what is the redeeming quality of a book like that?"

At every meeting I have been to they hold “call to the public.” It is held at a podium for the speaker, and they are usually limited to speak for two minutes. But I have never seen anyone act so aggressively at a meeting as this woman. It’s amazing she was not arrested or removed. The good news is these people are the fringe minority, and the majority of the sane people at the meeting got to see what they really are and what they are really about. They are angry, frustrated narrow-minded people who resort to screaming and shouting when they do not get their way.

By far the most absurd quoted I saw on the broadcast was from LOVE leader Vicki Fyke. Unfortunately, to further ensure our young people have a narrow view of the world, Fyke is also the advisor for the Livingston County Teen Age Republicans. She said – with a straight face, mind you, “we’re not about censoring books,” she said. “We’re talking about responsibility: we’re talking about what’s appropriate for certain ages.”

She’s kidding right. Here’s the vetting process the books went through.
Before being presented to the board, all the curriculum was approved by a group of teachers from the particular school, a district wide subject-specific content committee, a districtwide curriculum and assessment committee, Farina and Superintendent Chuck Breiner.

Apparently, the so-called LOVE group’s narrow view should be substituted for that of professional educators. I don’t think so. You don’t think sex is something 10th and 11th graders have not been exposed to before?

Unfortunately, the board did not take a vote because the full board was not present, and we’ll have to go through this fringe minority group trashing the image of Howell again next month. However, there is also some good news. Apparently more people in the community are improving their reading list.

Mary Ellen Aria, owner of Aria Booksellers in downtown Howell, said engaging young people in reading is a more important concern than protecting them from profanity. Aria said her store has sold 43 copies of "Freedom Writers" since the controversy began in December. And that's been a pattern for controversial books — they sell well once people object to them.

This in sharp contrast to Day’s reading habits.

Day was the most vocal critic of the books, and made the first motion to exclude them. "We have final accountability for what happens in this school district," she said. "You don't have to read the whole book to know the merit of this."


Pohlitics said...

Posts like these make me glad I live in Ingham County 8-)

Communications guru said...

You know, there are some great people here, and Livingston County really is a great place to live. It’s just we have a small minority of rightwing loons like what who continue to give the rest of us a bad name.

Anonymous said...

OK Kevin-

Let's try to look at it from LOVEs point of view for just a minute to understand what the driver is.

It's a philosophical difference.

By the way, just for fact checks here: the person who got up first and read the passage is NOT previously a member of LOVE- LOVE members had never met her before last night.

Now- let's go back to the discussion.

Have you read the Freedom Writers book? I have. IF you have not, please read it first.

Within the covers of that book are graphic sexual references. They easily qualify under Michigan Law (MCL 722.671 - .675)

as sexually explicit material that would land anyone other than a school teacher in state prison for two years.

Now, the exemption for teachers was put there specifically to allow the teaching of an approved sex education class, that had been developed in accordance with state law. You know, the law that requires the community to have parents and relisioug leaders as well as teachers on the committee, as well as school officials. It was becuase the state did not want to make a felony the sex ed course that had been through that process that the legislature exempted school teachers and school librarians from the felony distribution of sexually explict material to minors.

Now, you might not agree that the material is sexually explicit. Ok, fine. Let's get the county prosecutor to make that determination.

The parents in this case wanted to question the material. And you, and others at the meeting, make them out to be nazi book burners.

There is a big difference between wanting to protect minors from sexually explicit mateiral that is a felony, and nazi book burners. No one said the books should be burned. They said they don't belong in a public school.

So how do we get a debate between those concerned, work together, and find a solution that satifies both sides in this issue?

This is not as clear cut as you make it out. And these are not "right wing loons". That simply does not advance the process of learning how to get along with each other.

Don't you see that?

Each side is shouting at each other, rather than sitting down and talking with each other and finding solutions.

Each side is using the school system board meetings to yell over the tops of the heads of the other side, without anyone trying to actually understand each others concerns, and trying to find good ground.

No one wants to censor what your kids read in your home. What we want is not to have our kids required to read porographic material in a school setting, paid for by our tax dollars.

Let's sit down and talk, and try to find soluitions.

Communications guru said...

I don’t want to look at it anything from “LOVE’s” point of view. I could care less what an anti-gay hate group says or thinks, who-ever-you-are. I’m looking at it from the point of view of the Founding Fathers. Just because you say this person was not a member of “love” does not make it true. Why would I believe someone who is afraid to take ownership of their writing and refuses to identify themselves?

No I have not read the Freedom Writers yet. Wendy Day, o r you for all I know, said she has not read “Slaughterhouse Five," "Black Boy" or “The Bluest Eye,” but she proposed banning them. However, some people I trust did read the book, and they recommended it for the curriculum. It was vetted and reviewed– according to the newspaper - by a group of teachers from the particular school, a district wide subject-specific content committee, a district wide curriculum and assessment committee, the assistant superintendent of curriculum and Superintendent Chuck Breiner. That’s good enough for me.

To say the book is pornography or illegal is just ridiculous. The County Prosecutor? Are you serious? The parents in this case did question the material, and it was thoroughly reviewed by professional educators and rejected. Now, those parents who do not want their child to read Freedom Writers, or any other book they find objectionable for that matter, can choose another book. I would also like for you to show me where I accused you of burning books. You tried to ban them and censor them, but I never said you tried to burn them. Saying the material is a felony is as ridiculous as you saying its pornography.

There is a solution; have your child read another book. If you want your child to have a narrow view of the world, that’s your right, but what gives you and your vocal minority the right to press that narrow view on the majority?

I’m sorry, it is clear-cut. I’m a big fan of books and the 1st Amendment, and a foe of censorship. In my book, anyone who tries to censor a book or censor the free expression of ideas is a rightwing loon, at best.

bluzie said...

While I do not support the L.O.V.E group. I do see their rights to bring their criticisms of book selections to the school board. They elected one of their like minded friends on the Howell School Board, Wendy Day.

This group of Right- Wng radicals are of the same ilk and friends with the Lingerie Watch Group, who lurk around store fronts at underwear models, then protests out front, I am sure trying to recruit more of their own to join them.
We must endure their protests and out bursts at meetings as this is their right. But we can expose them for what they are and not bend to their whims or give them so much press as they are but one tiny group, splitting up and making these scenes throughout the county.

Communications guru said...

Bluzie. You made my day. I’m so happy you finally found me after my nagging all the time. Welcome, and I hope you are a regular visitor and help me fight the right wing hordes.

Of course they can bring their criticisms to the board, and they have not hesitated to do so. However, they had an option if they did not like the book all along, and they knew that. At any time they could have had their child read another book, but that’s not what they want. They want to impose their value system on all of us.

Take a look at how many steps the three books in question had to go through before it reached the board. It went through three separate committees made up of professional educators and two administrators before it was approved.
All the curriculum was approved by a group of teachers from the particular school, a district wide subject-specific content committee, a districtwide curriculum and assessment committee, the Assistant superintendent for curriculum and Superintendent Chuck Breiner. It made it through five approvals, yet a small, vocal minority wants to ban it for all.

That’s simply wrong. You and I both know they will never take no for an answer, and they will not be satisfied by merely having their concerns addressed because that has already happened.

They do have a right to protest, but if you will take a look at the video from the meeting one protestor crossed the line and should have been arrested.

Elaine said...

Yes, all sides should be heard when there are real issues. All the people who have objected to this book have done, is increase the sales of this book in Livingston County Bookstores, both large and small. I wouldn't be surprised if the objectors to the "Freedom Writers" book seek a Court order to see who purchased the book. The book is really a distraction and diversionary tactic to get people into a frenzy for future baloney issues. Once hooked in the talons of the 'Day' crowd they will feel great but they are just being used. The so called moral police are trying to save us. All they are doing is splintering and separating people. Time and effort are wasted are one issue hot air issues instead of for society at large.

Anonymous said...

Please let us not assume that all conservatives are right wing loons. I might not allow my children to read such things but under the 1st Amendment, I don't see fit to sit in judgement of what others do and try to limit their rights. The LOVE group is not about enhancing human rights, they are about limiting them.

Communications guru said...

You are correct, anonymous. Not all Livingston County residents are close-minded racists, but this group is reinforcing the stereotype that we are racist here and that all conservatives are right wing loons.

Anonymous said...

Where can I find the video of the meetings??

Communications guru said...

I’m not aware of any video of the meetings, other than a TV news report I provided in the post. Many municipalities tape their meetings for broadcast on their local cable access channel, but none of the school boards in Livingston County do that. You can also try the link to the newspaper. They are experimenting with video, and they may have some.