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Chatterbox: Learning up a storm


If one objection from one parent can remove one book from one school, can one objection from one parent remove every book from one school?

The answer, theoretically, is “Yes.” In theory, one single parent could object to every book in a school library. This is also plausible if there are more parents in the school than there are books in its library and every parent objects to a different one.

This is a complicated and inflammatory subject, deep and far-reaching. It also gets people so fired up that moderation gets lost. There are various circumstances that must be recognized; there are sensible and feasible solutions only hard but necessary compromises can achieve.

We recently have seen that in Miami-Dade County in Florida, one lone parent achieved removal of the poem “The Hill We Climb,” written by Amanda Gorman and heard by most of America during the Inauguration of 2021.

That parent is Daily Salinas. According to “Salinas challenged the Gorman poem – which she says she hasn’t read in its entirety ...” This is important “only to accentuate the need for overview by fully informed educators who can present a final fully unbiased and unemotional decision.” Still, she was successful, alone, instigating the school district’s decision to retain the poem only available for older students. Gorman wasn’t appeased; perhaps others weren’t either. A resolution, but is it a slippery slope?

Far less ink was spent on another parent, Tim Reiland, in Owasso, Okla., this past November. Claire Woodcock, a freelance journalist, wrote that his objection to one graphic novel resulted “with his daughter’s school district’s decision to recall upwards of 3,000 graphic novels from its library system after taking issue with one title his daughter checked out from the school library over the summer. 

“It led to the Owasso School Board recently approving a new policy, which requires every page of every graphic novel in the library to be screened for ‘potential material involving sexually explicit content and extreme vulgarity.’” Obviously, some responsibility falls with the student, but what a public high school library makes available to students must be established with care.

Determining objectionable subject matter is usually a matter of opinion. Often, what’s necessary and what’s questionable collide. Solutions will take time and concession. Obviously, especially in the upper levels of education, students must cover some ugly history, but history should never be edited.

Of course, access to what’s considered graphic indecency or perversion should never be given by a school, but too often parents don’t agree with what is necessary and what’s inappropriate for their children. These topics are very unclear. Some, which aren’t meant to be curriculum and collide with familial standards, are sometimes too ubiquitous to be avoided.

The responsibility of adults, as guides through the universe, is to familiarize those coming up the ladder behind them about their whole world and all those with whom they share it – good, bad, mainstream or extreme. That exposure must be as complete as is possible – until real life takes over. That level, rate, and the age at which all things are revealed is what most of us understand as being up for debate here.

Great compromise will be required to create educational exposure and guidelines. Once they have been established, all involved parties must accept the outcome. Beyond that, a family’s personal preferences will require parents to enforce their own guidelines with their own children. They do have the final say in what they get exposed to and when, and they must make their children responsible to respect that choice. Schools are public institutions and it’s not up to schools to read over a child’s shoulder. Moreover, no educational facility can create an environment for an entire student body based on the preferences or positions of any single person, or particular group of people.

Especially for our very young students, too much of what is questionable they learn at recess and on the school bus, but we can’t insulate any of them from everything. Positively and carefully defusing crises and mitigating issues about life, which arise in their classrooms or outside our home and control, is part of parenting and of life which parents must just take by the horns. It may not be what we want to hear or what we want to deal with. Still, it is always ours to mitigate one way or another. It’s one of the beauties of being a parent. We do get the final word.

To be continued.