Mar 7, 2007

Banned books broaden student’s horizons

A lot of words have been written about the anti-gay hate group known as the “LOVE” PAC’s (Livingston Organization for Values in Education) misguided attempt to censor and ban “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” from Howell High School’s curriculum.

But the best opinion piece on this subject I have read to date comes from Livingston County Daily Press & Argus News Editor Mike Mallot. Mike made the obvious point on why the books should be in the curriculum for AP junior English.

What has been missing in the entire debate about the controversial books used in Howell Public Schools has been the question of why students should be required to read such books. Vicki Fyke and the Livingston Organization for Values in Education, of course, made their points that those books contain obscenities and explicit content to the degree that they should not be included on the reading list for an 11th grade advanced English class. The Howell school board approved the books to be a part of the curriculum anyway.
Simply put, students should learn about what other people go through in their lives. If the point of education is to broaden one's horizons and to understand the world better, we should all find out a little bit more about other people's lives. We should know what they go through. We should come to an understanding of how they arrived at the perspectives they hold. And that means exploring the environment they grew up in and reading or hearing about their experiences.

Kathleen Zaenger, director of the Howell Carnegie District Library, actually said it best. She said she could not imagine the books being labeled as pornography. She agreed that the books listed in Fyke's complaint should be considered classics of American literature.
"But that doesn't mean they are easy to read," she said. "They are searing stories. But they really do build empathy for other people."

As you may know, Livingston County Prosecutor David Morse ruled yesterday that assigning the books does not violate any criminal laws because the Board of Education had approved them, and the books are not harmful to minors as defined by the law when taken as a whole. The so-called “love” group quickly shot off one of its press releases spinning the story to say Morse agrees with them. What?

As we also know, even though the books in question went through a gauntlet of three separate committees of professional educators, two administrators and approval by the elected school board to be included in the curriculum, the administration still honored “love’s” request to review the books. But when they did know get the desired effect of getting the books banned, they tried this ridiculous investigation route.

After that fails, they have at least one more trick up their sleeves they are keeping secret. After all of this, there are still some misguided people out there who still say and believe “if all sides got together and sat down and discussed these matters an agreement could be reached.” The only result “love” wants is the books banned, and there is no compromise possible. How much more proof of that do you need?

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