Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Too much skin...

Where did we go wrong?  What happened in society that showing the human body in a children's book is suddenly being equated with pornography?  In a children's book the image is simply being presented as a body, but in porn, the images are highly sexualized and portray adults in sexual acts or posed to invite a sexual gaze.  In The Dirty Cowboy, a children's picture book by Amy Timberlake, illustrated by Adam Rex, a cowboy takes a bath (something that usually involves the removal of clothing, if I'm remembering correctly) and his dog, who no longer recognizes his smell, refuses to return his clothes.  The book, therefore, contains images of a cowboy with no clothes on, though with his genitals and bum always covered by various objects, and is in no way sexualized.  How these images are pornographic is beyond me!  How did the human body become so disgusting to some parents?  Are they trying to teach their kids that their bodies are something to be ashamed of?  *sigh*

Because one parent felt that the book was inappropriate for her child, and because this parent decided the images were somehow pornographic in nature, the book was banned from two elementary schools in the Annville-Cleona School District.  A recent article in the Lebanon Daily News had this to say:
The Annville-Cleona School Board's decision to remove an award-winning children's book from the district's elementary schools is "ridiculous," the book's author said. 
Amy Timberlake, author of the "The Dirty Cowboy," said in a phone interview Friday that she was saddened to hear that her book was essentially banned from the district's two elementary schools. 
"I just think it's ridiculous," Timberlake said. "It's sad that now if a child wants to check that book out, they're going to have to go ask their parents for their permission, which is going to involve the parents explaining why they have to get permission to read a story about a bath. 
"They all take baths," she added. "They all remove their clothes to take baths. They're making a situation out of something that isn't really a situation."
Amy continues on her Blog:
Okay, so what if a parent doesn't think this book/this story is appropriate for their child? That's fine. Truly fine. I mean, the parent is the one that is raising the child. They're the one that knows the child and what that child can handle. If they can't handle it, don't let them check it out. Return the book. Whatever. 
But banning a book about a bath gone awry? That's odd. But to call The Dirty Cowboy 'pornographic' is just downright wrong. It's a misapplication of verbiage. Does the library patron have access to a dictionary? Or has that been 'banned' too? (I gotta say I've never been so happy with the way those dictionary companies add new-fangled terminology willy-nilly.)
In a slightly more harsh, but also very true commentary on the situation, the Rogue Librarian Blog has this to say:
I pity the librarian. She gave the student the book because “the little guy is a cowboy fan, and I have provided him with other cowboy books in the library.” She did what librarians are supposed to do—connect readers with books they will enjoy. She praised the boy’s parents for taking an interest in what their son reads, but cautioned that their discomfort with the illustrations did not warrant removal of the book from the library. She spoke publicly that she opposed the challenge to the book. When the board voted unanimously to ban the book from the library, she walked out of the meeting room in protest. What the school board did with their unanimous decision is not just ban a book; they stripped the librarian of her professional authority. The board’s decision told parents that they are better qualified than a licensed professional to decide what should be in the library for their children to read. The school board effectively nullified the librarian’s professional education and experience.
Even with all of this controversy (and actually, probably because of the controversy), the Lebanon Daily News notes that " sales of the book have shot up in the past 48 hours," since April 20, 2012.

I am disappointed, frustrated, and upset with the decision of the school board.  What do they think they are trying to accomplish by taking this book out of the hands of children in their elementary schools?  Do they seriously think children are so dumb that they would view this book as pornography?  Or that they would somehow sexualize the story, and therefore make it something dirtier (excuse the pun) than it was meant to be?  Do the parents of this child seriously believe that a book about a bath and some rather humorous consequences will actually negatively affect the development of their son?  Let me just say this: Argh!!

Thanks for reading, and as always, please feel free to comment.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Tucson School Board Fires Ethnic Studies Director

On April 11, 2012, a truly sad even occurred in Tucson, AZ: Sean Arce, director of the Mexican American Studies program was fired.  The director of a program that improved student achievement scores, expanded students' understanding of different perspectives on ethnic minorities through history, and was overall fantastic, was let go because of his failure to cooperate with the State's despicable decision to shut the program down.  An article in Common Dreams had the following to say:
Sean Arce, the director of the embattled Mexican American Studies program in Tucson, Arizona was fired last night after a split vote by the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD). Students, teachers, and community members gathered before the vote to champion Arce as a vital member of the school district and berated the TUSD board members for targeting Arce for dismissal due to his outspoken support for the ethnic studies program. 
Calling the board’s move “irresponsible, unlawful and reflects yet another step in TUSD’s descent into abysmal discrimination,” Arce’s attorney Richard Martinez warned in a letter on Tuesday that the non-renewal notice sent to the former MAS director also failed to follow proper legal procedures. “The Pedicone era at TUSD,” Martinez added, “has proven to be a complete disaster, one that has allowed racism to prevail over the educational needs and rights of our students.”
Another article in the Tucson Sentinel reported on the proceedings prior to the vote from the School Board, noting that "A call to the audience lasting over two and a half hours saw nearly four dozen supporters of the Mexican American Studies program alternately berate the board and praise Arce. No one rose to speak against the program during the meeting."  Support for the program and the director were shown through displays of "anger, tears, raised voices and sometimes quiet dignity as [those in the audience] pleaded for the board to retain Arce and restore MAS classes...."  At least I can rest with the assurance that the general public in Tucson are NOT in support of this decision.  

It's interesting, in this age of censorship and book challenges that one or two parents can get a book removed from the hands of hundreds of children, but when dozens of supporters speak up, students protest, and organizations write letters of protest, the School Board is suddenly deaf, and the State's support is nowhere to be found (mostly because the State ordered the dissolution of the program to begin with, but the Tucson School Board did nothing to fight the decision.)

To remind us of the importance of these sorts of programs, and article in Education Week states:
“On Arizona’s achievement tests in reading, writing, and math, its students also outscore students of all racial and ethnic groups in the same schools but not in that program—a remarkable record. As schools nationwide struggle to close racial achievement gaps, Tucson’s Mexican-American studies program should be one from which we are learning.”
Thanks for Reading!

And for interest's sake, here are a few other articles of interest for the week:

Monday, April 9, 2012

Top ten most frequently challenged books of 2011

(According to the Office of Intellectual Freedom of the ALA)

ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: offensive language; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

The Color of Earth (series), by Kim Dong Hwa
Reasons: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins
Reasons: anti-ethnic; anti-family; insensitivity; offensive language; occult/satanic; violence

My Mom's Having A Baby! A Kid's Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy, by Dori Hillestad Butler
Reasons: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: offensive language; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

Alice (series), by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Reasons: nudity; offensive language; religious viewpoint

Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
Reasons: insensitivity; nudity; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit

What My Mother Doesn't Know, by Sonya Sones
Reasons: nudity; offensive language; sexually explicit

Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily Von Ziegesar
Reasons: drugs; offensive language; sexually explicit

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Reasons: offensive language; racism