Toni Morrison classic, other "inappropriate" books targeted by parents' petition

Categories: Education

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Photos, video below.
Novelist Toni Morrison is a Pulitzer Prize winner for Beloved and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom just last year. But that doesn't mean a group of concerned Adams County parents want high school age students to read her work.

The parents in question have launched a petition calling for "inappropriate" books to be yanked from approved reading lists, and they're using Morrison's The Bluest Eye as exhibit A. But a student is fighting back with a petition of her own.

According to 7News, Erin Gee is among the parents behind Concerned Citizens of Adams 12 Five Star School District, the entity named on the Change.org petition. She tells the station that The Bluest Eye is "kind of in a league of its own," and there's no question the book deals with tough themes. Here's an excerpt from the SparkNotes summary:

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Wikipedia
Toni Morrison.
Cholly returns home one day and finds Pecola washing dishes. With mixed motives of tenderness and hatred that are fueled by guilt, he rapes her. When Pecola's mother finds her unconscious on the floor, she disbelieves Pecola's story and beats her. Pecola goes to Soaphead Church, a sham mystic, and asks him for blue eyes. Instead of helping her, he uses her to kill a dog he dislikes.

Claudia and Frieda find out that Pecola has been impregnated by her father, and unlike the rest of the neighborhood, they want the baby to live. They sacrifice the money they have been saving for a bicycle and plant marigold seeds. They believe that if the flowers live, so will Pecola's baby. The flowers refuse to bloom, and Pecola's baby dies when it is born prematurely. Cholly, who rapes Pecola a second time and then runs away, dies in a workhouse. Pecola goes mad, believing that her cherished wish has been fulfilled and that she has the bluest eyes.

Yet while The Bluest Eye is the only book mentioned by name in a suggested letter to the Adams 12 school board featured in the petition, it appears to be emblematic of what the parents see as a broader problem. The intro to the petition reads in part:
We are not seeking to censor or ban any book from school library collections or to hinder student access to reading material. We simply do not want developmentally inappropriate and graphic books used for classroom instruction. Ultimately, we desire a safe, supportive, respectful and productive learning environment for all students, as stated in the Adams 12 mission statement.
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An early cover of "The Bluest Eye."
The censorship reference doesn't convince Legacy High School student Bailey Cross, who launched a petition of her own at Change.org. Her introduction points out that no one is forced to read The Bluest Eye. She writes:
We are asking that teachers be allowed to retain the freedom to choose what reading materials they would like, or not like, to teach in their classrooms. No student is forced to read this material, as parents and students who object to these choices have always been, and will continue to be provided with an alternative reading assignment. The freedom to teach what some might call controversial material (such as The Bluest Eye that has previously been reviewed by the district and received district approval to be taught in classrooms) in a safe, supportive environment where students are allowed to ask questions and understand the material through careful instruction should not be taken away from any teacher or class simply because a minority of parents disagree with its content. If one book is banned from being taught in a classroom setting, then it opens the door for all books -- and ideas -- to be banned as well.
Both petitions have reached their goals, with the parents exceeding 400 online or in-print signatures and Bailey clearing 500. Now it's up to the school board, which may make a decision about The Bluest Eye and other books concerning to parents at its upcoming August meeting.

In the meantime, comments on the parents' petition suggest that some people see a crisis scenario. One person notes that the issue "makes me question our educators if they feel this is their best choice for a school curriculum. What's next, Fifty Shades of Grey?"

Here's the 7News report.

More from our Sports archive circa 2009: "Adventures in Censorship: How to call Jay Cutler a 'pussy' without pissing off your readers."

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35 comments
pmcgervey
pmcgervey

SOME MILD QUOTES:

Page 174:  “He further limited his interests to little girls. They were usually manageable . . . His sexuality was anything but lewd; his patronage of little girls smacked of innocence and was associated in his mind with cleanliness.” And later, this same pedophile notes, “I work only through the Lord. He sometimes uses me to help people.”

Page 181:  “The little girls are the only things I’ll miss. Do you know that when I touched their sturdy little t*** and bit them—just a little—I felt I was being friendly?—If I’d been hurting them, would they have come back? . . . they’d eat ice cream with their legs open while I played with them. It was like a party.”

Boohunney
Boohunney

I wonder if these concerned parents check up on their kids' teevee habits.
Please, keep telling the kids this book is inappropriate over an over. That will make them curious and want to read it.

redtsunami
redtsunami

As a teacher I had a parent who didn't want their junior in high school son to read One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest because she considered it pornography. I told her he could certainly read an alternate book, but that if she wanted me to agree with her assessment of OFOTCN we would never reach a meeting of minds. She had found one or two passages in the book that dismayed her, and it was obvious to me that she had never read any real pornography. Many books have been banned or taken out of schools, many more challenged--from Huck Finn to Harry Potter.

caldwell3971
caldwell3971

As usual, neither you nor the complainant in the case has actually read the book- yet you follow along like lemmings which shows a serious lack of critical thinking skills.

Educators wish to lessen the number of ignorant people who cannot or will not think for themselves by using literature that challenges the students to develop and support their own opinions.

The Supreme Court has said that school boards must consider the educational value of a book and disregard personal opinions when deciding a book challenge ( Board of Education v.Pico) The educational value of a book written by America's only living Nobel laureate is above reproach

caldwell3971
caldwell3971

By the way ... Safe- you must not have read the article- ( do you actually read?) The book has been approved for use in the classroom for the past 10 years . You are also sadly undereducated in First amendment case law- (see Board of education v. Pico) or do you consider the Supreme Court just another left wing organization?

caldwell3971
caldwell3971

That's the problem; you small minded fools don't actually read the books you want banned. You get on sparks notes and then look up "the dirty parts" to justify your myopic views. If the bible were distilled down in the same way , by your standards, it should be banned as well.

safelibraries
safelibraries

Keeping inappropriate books from children is not censorship.  I have not read the book, but people in that community who do are entitled to determine if the content is inappropriate for school children, then to petition to have the material reconsidered.  If the material does not meet the school's selection policy, "get it out of there," as the 40 year de facto leader of the American Library Association said.  It's common sense, folks.  Don't let the ALA/ACLU mislead you otherwise.  For example, when parents in Howell, MI, complained about The Bluest Eye for, if I recall, containing bestiality, the ALA advised that the parents were racist because the author was Toni Morrison.  Based on that, the school decided to keep the book because it did not want to appear "racist" or "censorious." Hooey.  You get to decide if the book is inappropriate.  You get to ask the school to reconsider.  The school gets to apply the school's book selection policy.  The school gets to act on that policy and remove the book.  Why have a policy if it never gets used?  There's no censorship involved in this case.  There are people screaming censorship, however.  As Dan Gerstein said, "The ... elites have convinced themselves that they are taking a stand against cultural tyranny.  ....  [T]he reality is that it is those who cry 'Censorship!' the loudest who are the ones trying to stifle speech and force their moral world-view on others."  Any parent want my help? Contact me.  Any media want balance?  This is what I do.

caldwell3971
caldwell3971

I would also like to appeal to all of you against censorship to both sign Bailey's petition and then share her petition on Facebook, if you have one.  We could really use some help, we have until Monday to present this petition and we would like to get to 1000 signatures.  

thank you 

caldwell3971
caldwell3971

Beautiful summary Backoff-  But you haven't heard the most galling part-not a single one of the complainants have read the entire book.  They admitted to only reading the " controversial parts." Only one of the complainants actually have a student taking the AP class in which this book is used.  The other sheep are just following along.  

BackOffImStarving
BackOffImStarving topcommenter

Uh oh, a book with something unpleasant in it.  Might as well ban The Pearl, Native Son, Red Badge of Courage, Great Gatsby, Scarlet Letter, Brave New World, To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, Flowers for Algernon, Lord of the Flies, Animal Farm, Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer,  20,000 Leagues, The Crucible, the Glass Menagerie, etc.  Actually, the Bible, to which some of these overly-sensitive pukes probably cling, has more rape, torture, infanticide, war, and witchcraft than the majority of the books I just listed.  Ban it.  Come to think of it, I think there might some scary images in one or two of the Bernstein Bears books.  We should probably ban them, too.  Maybe a good old-fashioned book burning would save us some time and money.  I'll get the marshmallows. 

Kendra Wiig
Kendra Wiig

The counter-petitioning student has it right. A rule that requires that something not be said is the very definition of censorship.

Ozzie Perch
Ozzie Perch

well, it is; you just have to be creative in your presentation with euphemisms...

Michelle Geiger
Michelle Geiger

really wish these overly sensitive people would just stay in their own caves and leave everyone else out of their paranoid state of mind.

Chris Bursian
Chris Bursian

I say bullshit. It is censorship and I don't see how they can claim otherwise. As a parent with a child in this district, I really hope that the school board can see through this and not give in.

Sean Branson
Sean Branson

That everyone needs to learn how to goose-step. Bit by bit, people, bit by bit.

safelibraries
safelibraries

@caldwell3971 That's not the point.  Neither am I.  Just stop the nasty personal attacks and try to have a conversation.  You're not going to win by beating people over the head when they say things you don't like.   

"The educational value of a book written by America's only living Nobel laureate is above reproach."  I agree, but that's not the point.  The point is whether this book meets the school's selection policy.  If not, out it goes.  Even the ALA's leader Judith Krug said that.  

And parents may ask a school to review material for compliance with school policy without being attacked as censors.  Yes, in 2009 the ALA attacked all 480 parents who raised concerns as censors, but even a self-proclaimed "progressive" librarian has revealed ALA's tactic of attacking book challengers is wrong.

"disregard personal opinions when deciding a book challenge" - Yes, that is correct, but deceptive.  Parents bring challenges to schools.  Then the schools act.  The schools act on the school's own findings.  The parents "personal opinions" are essentially cut out of the equation by the school acting on the school's own findings.  When a school removes a book, it does so based on its own authority to do so.  Not once, never have parents removed any books from schools (under school materials reconsideration policy).

safelibraries
safelibraries

@caldwell3971 So once it's "approved for use" no one is ever allowed to file a request for reconsideration?  Many books are "approved for use" simply by buying in bulk or by selecting off ALA lists and are removed only after a challenge forces the school to look specifically at a book and apply its book selection policy.  Even ALA leader Judith Krug said if a book does not meet a school's selection policy, "get it out of there."  Is she a censor?  I believe some schools have even removed The Bluest Eye one way or another.  Indeed at least one school superintendent has complained that sources such as Scholastic and ALA's Book List do not provide info about potentially inappropriate material in books.  So allowing people to ask schools for reconsideration is the way to go.  Claiming it's already "approved for use in the classroom" is merely a clever way to convince people to take away the right to have a school exercise its materials reconsideration policy.  Clever, but it won't work.

caebryn.ireland
caebryn.ireland

@safelibraries He's right. "Safe Libraries".org helps people impose censorship all over the country while pretending to be a patriotic, child-protecting American. He fully supports, for instance, Ohio ex-governor Mitch Daniels' recently exposed attempt to force Ohio schools and libraries to remove Howard Zinn's "A People's History of America" because it doesn't comport with his radical, right-wing views.  So take what he says with a grain of salt. or something.

BackOffImStarving
BackOffImStarving topcommenter

@safelibraries "I have not read the book..."  Anything you have to say beyond those words is superfluous, biased drivel.

reckless.reliance
reckless.reliance

@caldwell3971 You hit the nail on the head. Why are they hiding. Who these "Concerned Citizens", AND did you know there are 12. It's kinda IDK. I better real it in. I'm supposed to shut up. 

michael.roberts
michael.roberts moderator editortopcommenter

@BackOffImStarving Love the post, BackOff. We're going to make it an upcoming Comment of the Day. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

caebryn.ireland
caebryn.ireland

@Chris Bursian The Adams 12 school district was taken over by Tea Party extremists in the last school board election.  Stay tuned for more of this right-wing activism and censorship tactics to be approved by them.  Adams 12 should consider a RECALL petition if the board members don't listen to the majority who signed the anti-censorship petition (nearly 1,200 so far).

BackOffImStarving
BackOffImStarving topcommenter

@safelibraries If the parents have this much time on their hands, perhaps they should work on getting a degree in education and actually do something worthwhile.  You're only a notch-and-a-half above those Westborough Baptists douches.

caldwell3971
caldwell3971

Trying to remove a book that has educational value beyond reproach because a small group of people find the book offensive is, by definition censorship- not an attack, just a fact. It is also a violation of the first amendment.

finette
finette

@safelibrariesHey Dan, why don't you put this quote from Judith Krug--who was the director of OIF and FTRF, not the president of ALA--in its original context, e.g.: "On rare occasion, we have situations where a piece of material is not what it appears to be on the surface and the material is totally inappropriate for a school library. In that case, yes, it is appropriate to remove materials. If it doesn't fit your material selection policy, get it out of there."

I don't see anyone (except you maybe) saying that The Bluest Eye was masquerading as anything other than what it is. And it's already been affirmed that it matches the district's curriculum selection policy (since we're talking classroom and not library here), and no, they do not just throw books in the curriculum based on ALA lists or by "buying in bulk." Give teachers some credit for being professionals who can judge what the majority of their students can handle, eh? (While providing alternatives for those who are not ready for it or whose parents do not want them reading it, of course.)

safelibraries
safelibraries

@caldwell3971 It is not censorship.  No book has been censored in the USA for about half a Century (barring maybe the military removing jihad references from training manuals).  Further, if the book is ultimately removed in accordance with Judith Krug's "get it out of there" statement where the book does not meet the school's selection policy, that has absolutely nothing to do with "a book that has educational value beyond reproach because a small group of people find the book offensive."  That you continue to push your view while completely ignoring significant facts like what Judith Krug said evidences you know your argument is false so you need to rely on repetition and brute force. 

safelibraries
safelibraries

@finette CONTINUING As to your other statements, they are false as well.  My sources are school superintendents with whom I have spoken directly and learned exactly what I wrote.  And I blogged about it and about the underlying news articles that grabbed my attention in the first place.  I'm just not pasting this post with links to my own out of courtesy.

You have found me year after year saying the same things and pointing to reliable sources for evidence, and you year after year continue to play word games and mislead people about me.  Like your false claim I took something out of context.  That tells me I'm saying something you don't want people to hear.  Thank you for the tacit affirmation I'm effectively helping people see through the false claims of "censorship."

safelibraries
safelibraries

@finette The quote was not out of context.  In the context you provided, the quote means exactly what I said it means, "get it out of there."  To say otherwise would be to say that I implied Judith Krug supported removing all manner of books, and that is not only not true but silly.  Further, I said, in full context, "Even ALA leader Judith Krug said if a book does not meet a school's selection policy, 'get it out of there.'"  And that is exactly a summary of the quote you provided.  As you quoted, she said, "If it doesn't fit your material selection policy, get it out of there."  I said, "Even ALA leader Judith Krug said if a book does not meet a school's selection policy, 'get it out of there.'"  You need to be honest, Finette, and win on honest argument, not on game playing.

caldwell3971
caldwell3971

@finette @safelibraries  - Thankyou finette for clearing that up. I should have known the quote was taken out of context and used to spread misinformation- this is what these people do. 

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