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Sunday, April 20, 2008


How to Make the Front Page: Question School Authorities about a Book

I find it hilarious that a brave Menasha man, Guy Hegg, made the front page of the Post-Crescent this morning by daring to question Maplewood Middle School authorities about their choice of a book. I have to praise the Post-Crescent, though, for doing what is usually not done when parents raise such objections. Rather than just letting school officials talk about the book and dismiss the concerns, they have reproduced a couple of the objectionable passages from the book - giving parents a chance to see that maybe Guy has a legitimate point after all.

Whether you agree with his objection or not, why is this on the front page? Isn't there something about the Packers that could be there instead?

Guy is not asking that the book be burned or banned from the community. He is questioning whether it's sexual and lewd content is appropriate for the sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders in the school. Given that the school can only select a tiny percentage of the millions of available books to provide for kids in the school, this is not a matter of determining what books can be written and published, but which priorities will be used to select a few books for the kids. And Guy as a parent is perfectly justified in wondering if the book is a reasonable choice.

Interviewed school officials make it sound like this kind of objection is unheard of, and that Guy is taking things way out of context. But read the passages in the article and maybe you'll see a different side to the story.

The book is "Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging" by Louise Rennison.

Parents speaking out, worried about what the schools promote and expose their kids to? I think it's a healthy thing, as long as discourse is civil, reasoned, polite, and done with due respect to procedures and rules. Remember, these are our kids, and parents should be watchful. We can respect and trust authorities and teachers, but it's fair to ask questions occasionally and raise perspectives they might have missed.

Guy, I don't know enough to fully address the concerns you have raised, for I haven't read the book, but I applaud you for caring enough about the education and welfare of your children and other children to be willing to ask some tough questions. Sorry if this gets you marked for life as some kind of rebel, but thanks for your courage. More parents need to be involved and watchful.

Democracy. I think it has its merits.
Way to go, Guy! Some people just want parents to close their eyes and trust others with their kids, but it's our responsibility to monitor what they do and protect them from garbage. Thanks for being such a great example, Guy.
Guy would have had some legitimacy if he wasn't so much of a drama queen. He is not a nice person, and I would go so far as to call him a liar, because of the way he distorts things, when it comes to town issues. I would have put a lot more credence in the complaint, if the complaint had come from an honorable person. The book in question may not be in your taste, but is age appropriate, is not pornography (that's where the Guy is a drama queen, and a liar comments come from), and is not required reading, and thanks to drama queen Guy, now will be checked out often. No thank you, Guy Hegg is a bad citizen, and a poor example.
When I was a public school teacher, I checked this book out from the library and read it on recommendation from one of my students. I found it a satisfying read--not dirty. It dealt with issues teens and tweens want to read about. "Snogging," is making out, by the way. I feel that parents can monitor their own children's reading choices without limiting those of other people's kids. Usually much consideration goes into which books will be taught or required; if this book is not required, there should be no controversy. Reading is hardly a social evil. Let your kid read, or don't, but please leave lots of book choices in our libraries.
Nicely stated, Jeff.

It's normal to expect response from all sides of the issue. What bothers me most about this incident (and now the "..Bling Bling" incident), is that there don't seem to be many parents who share your views.

No one has taken away anyone's choice. If one wants their child to read this book -fine. Order it for them from Amazon. Make the book available at the public library (with a permission slip from parents for those of a certain age). I don't even know that I object to the book content. But school funds are short as it is. We don't need to be filling school libraries with this type of book. And now with the "Bling Bling" book, I read somewhere in the media that the book had been pulled so it could be reviewed and a determination could be made whether to leave it on the shelves? Um, hello? Shouldn't that have been done before the book was ordered?

In a world that seems to be lacking in many areas these days, it's always refreshing to see someone has retained their common sense.
Keep up the good work, Jeff.
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