Feb 13, 2007
The long national – (actually local) nightmare is over. Not.
I’m afraid it’s not. However, cooler heads, sanity and the open minds prevailed Monday night when the Howell Public Schools Board of Education voted 5-2 to approve three books for the high school English curriculum, over the objections of a small but vocal anti-gay hate group.
The anti-gay hate group know as the “LOVE” PAC (Livingston Organization for Values in Education) - led by Vicki Fyke, the advisor of the Livingston County Teen Age Republicans and school board member Wendy Day – has been waging a book banning battle against “The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them,” Nobel Prize winning author Toni Morrison's first novel, "The Bluest Eye," an acclaimed memoir written by Richard Wright in 1945, "Black Boy " and the classic Kurt Vonnegut novel "Slaughterhouse Five.” The group claims they are pornographic.
After two stormy meetings and hours wasted on this when the board really needs to be addressing the school’s looming budget problems, they wasted hours and hours on this ridiculous “problem.” It would seem the issues is over, but the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus reported Day said she had filed a form to ask for an official review of the Morrison book. It will remain in the class while the review takes place.
Just a few says ago on Friday Feb. 9 Fyke sent a letter to the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District, Stephan J. Murphy; Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox and Livingston County Prosecutor David Morse claiming the books violate child pornography laws and further makes the ridiculous claim that the books' presence in high school classrooms violates the law by disseminating sexually explicit material to minors.
As I have said many times: even though parents have always had the option of choosing another book to read and the books have been through a lengthy review process, this group will never quit their self-appointed quest until the books have been banned.
The approval by the board is, supposedly, the end of the long approval process. The books have already been approved for the curriculum 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 for Curriculum and finally Superintendent Chuck Breiner before it made it to the board.
Let’s examine what this book-banning quest has accomplished. It reinforced Howell’s image as a small-minded racist community, it distracted the board from addressing the much more pressing problems with the budget and it completely divided this community. That’s a little hard to do when you consider the Republic Party controls every partisan office in Livingston County, but “LOVE” managed to divide the community and create discontent.
The only good thing to come out of this fiasco is the backlash against this hate group. It was nice to see the anti-“LOVE” buttons being sported by many people at the meeting. It also got many people reading some good books. I just finished reading "The Bluest Eye,” and I am currently reading “Black Boy.” There’s a waiting list for both books at the Howell library, and I had to go to Lansing to get one of them.
Obviously, Day voted no, but I was disappointed that Philip Westmoreland voted with the lunatic fringe. I mistakenly voted for him last May.
We need independents, progressives and liberals to run for school board to combat groups like “LOVE” and the naked power grab by the Republic Party that has decided to throw its resources into this nonpartisan race. Nominating petitions and affidavits for anyone 18 or older wishing to run for a four-year term are available at their county clerk’s office, municipal clerk’s office or school board office. The filing deadline for local, nonpartisan school board elections in May is 4 p.m. Today, Feb. 13.