Alabama Book Banning

An Alabama legislator wants to ban public and university libraries from buying books with gay characters — unless they're depraved.

A bill by Rep. Gerald Allen, R-Cottondale, would prohibit the use of public funds for "the purchase of textbooks or library materials that recognize or promote homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle."

Allen said he filed the bill to protect children from the "homosexual agenda."

. . . Allen said that if his bill passes, novels with gay protagonists and college textbooks that suggest homosexuality is natural would have to be removed from library shelves and destroyed.

"I guess we dig a big hole and dump them in and bury them," he said.

. . . When asked about Tennessee Williams' southern classic "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof," Allen said the play probably couldn't be performed by university theater groups.

They’d better dig a big hole.

It Ain't Necessarily So

Federally funded abstinence education programs tell students things that just aint so, concludes a report by Rep. Henry Waxman, a California Democrat.

Many youngsters participating in federally financed, abstinence-only programs have been taught over the past three years that abortion can lead to sterility and suicide, that half of gay male teenagers have tested positive for the AIDS virus, and that touching a person's genitals "can result in pregnancy," a congressional analysis found.

Those and other assertions are examples of the "false, misleading, or distorted information" in the programs' teaching materials, said the analysis released yesterday, which reviewed the curricula of more than a dozen popular projects aimed at preventing teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease.

Of 13 widely used curricula, only two present accurate information, the report says. One program declared a 43-day-old fetus is a "thinking person."

Nothing Sacred

A fifth-grade teacher in California claims he was told not to give students "documents from American history that refer to God — including the Declaration of Independence."

From Reuters:

Steven Williams, a fifth-grade teacher at Stevens Creek Elementary School in the San Francisco Bay area suburb of Cupertino, sued for discrimination on Monday, claiming he had been singled out for censorship by principal Patricia Vidmar because he is a Christian.

...Williams asserts in the lawsuit that since May he has been required to submit all of his lesson plans and supplemental handouts to Vidmar for approval, and that the principal will not permit him to use any that contain references to God or Christianity.

Among the materials she has rejected, according to Williams, are excerpts from the Declaration of Independence, George Washington's journal, John Adams' diary, Samuel Adams' "The Rights of the Colonists" and William Penn's "The Frame of Government of Pennsylvania."

Stevens Creek is a top-scoring school; a majority of students are Asian-American. I find it hard to believe they're not allowed to read the historical documents that state history standards require schools to teach, as The Remedy, Claremont Institute's weblog, points out. It sounds too crazy.

No Talking on the Bus

A school bus driver in New York was fired for discussing stem cell research with students the day before the election.

GRAND ISLAND, N.Y. — Just before her afternoon run, school bus driver Julianne Thompson was reading an interview with Mel Gibson, in which the actor spoke out against stem cell research.

When her elementary school passengers hopped aboard for the ride home, Thompson decided to share what was still fresh in her mind.

"I have a factoid for you," she told the 7- to 10-year-olds over the public address system.

Then Thompson told the students what she'd read — that in 23 years, embryonic stem cell research hadn't produced a single human cure.

She encouraged the students to tell their parents.

They did.

Thompson was fired a week later.

District officials in this northern suburb of Buffalo told the driver that her Nov. 1 conversation was inappropriate and that parents had complained. She said she was also accused of running an unruly bus, something she strongly denies.

You'd think a warning would have sufficed.

Too Safe

Children learn to cope with the world through outdoor activities, writes a British educator. But adult fears are restricting children's ability to explore the world. And they're not any safer as a result, Richard Bailey writes on Spiked.

No environment will ever be completely safe and risk-free, and even well-supervised children manage to hurt themselves. But by speculating on what can possibly go wrong rather than on what children might learn from experiences, we are in danger of creating anxiety in some children and recklessness in others. Children who are fearful will not be able to learn, and those who are overconfident will be unable to make sensible judgments about risk, because their learning environment has become sanitized and over-managed.

...Aside from the obvious benefits of taking children into the countryside — the greater awareness of the natural world and our place within it — outdoor and adventurous activities are ideal vehicles for many of the types of challenges and learning opportunities that are necessary for their development. These activities are physically active, and depend upon shared understanding, cooperation and trust. They also force children to draw upon their inner resources to address real problems, presenting children with challenges and perceived risks, and providing a framework for coming to terms with them.

The British have been more likely than Americans to send students on adventure trips — until recently, when "safety first" has made school a lot duller.


Morgan Smiley of Indianapolis, Ind., writes:

I agree with the basic premise that students trying to ban a campus paper is silly. But it is not unconstitutional, as Paul Mulshine, of the Newark Star-Ledger, claims. The First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press..." Notice that the amendment says nothing about educational institutions or non-governmental bodies, or private persons, abridging freedom of the press or speech.

The Douglass College ladies involved with the effort to ban The Medium apparently have their own feminist-driven agenda (not surprising on today’s college campus). Their effort appears to be hypocritical and one-sided, but it is not unconstitutional.

G. McDowell writes:

In response to Steven Lusk’s letter, I agree that education classes do not adequately prepare the students to teach. Education colleges across the country simultaneously fill aspiring teachers' heads with politically correct drivel of questionable usefulness in the classroom and put up barriers to keep non-education majors from teaching in schools.

Lusk's remedy for the problem — “requiring certification and education classes for post K-12" — will not help.

Certification, the process by which math majors are excluded from getting jobs teaching math in our schools, the process that ensures that only teachers who have been thoroughly indoctrinated with the PC agenda work in public schools, is not a solution to the problem. It is the problem. The education establishment has near total control over who gets certified to teach.

Lisa M. Boettcher writes:

I read Steven Lusk’s and Jodee Smith’s letters with interest. I am a non-PC faculty member teaching geology at a state university. Some of my students are future teachers.

There is a great deal of responsibility correctly laid at the feet of today’s elementary and secondary educators for the quality of our children’s education. However, a key component is the responsibility of parents to instill in their children a solid work ethic, a sense of personal responsibility for their actions and the duty to teach children to think critically for themselves.

I have a few fabulous students, but many have no desire to take responsibility for their own learning; they have not been taught to think critically, and they have little motivation when it comes to completing assignments or preparing for exams. If parents do not insist that children are held accountable for their learning during elementary and secondary school, by the time the students reach college, they are unprepared for the rigors of study. And if parents only supply children with what they should think, but do not teach them how to question or evaluate thoughts and problems critically, they are doing their children a grave disservice. Such children are not only unprepared for college, but for life.

Yes, some college instructors do need to learn to teach. Likewise, many students need to learn how to learn.

Joanne Jacobs writes about education and other issues at She's writing a book, Ride the Carrot Salad, about a start-up charter high school in San Jose.

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