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Revised Policies in Republic

A few weeks ago I wrote about the book challenge controversy where a resident of Republic, MO (who apparently has no children in the public schools there) complained about three books that were being assigned in a school class.

He protested that they taught material contrary to the Bible, which is something that should be forbidden in the public schools, America being a Christian theocracy and all. I hope that school library doesn’t have any Korans or Upanishads, or that guy will really be upset.

The challenge led to two of the three books being removed from the classroom AND the library, which was a bit on the extreme side, but at least the offended citizen could rest easy knowing that children who aren’t his own aren’t assigned to read books he dislikes.

After a bunch of protests, and no doubt quite a bit of mocking, the school board that made the original decision and crafted a policy to fit it have now changed their minds.

The revised policy is:

1) The Library will purchase books even if they are deemed age inappropriate by library policy.

2) Students may not check out those books.

Books that are deemed age inappropriate will now be kept in the library in a “secure” location, and be available for checkout only to…get this…parents or guardians.

The school board has gone from looking a little silly to looking a lot sillier, because this policy is obviously designed to accomplish exactly the same goal as the previous policy, while trying to trick people into believing otherwise.

I could almost see making the books available only if parents gave permission for their child to read books in the “secure” book section, but actually having to check the books out themselves?

The school superintendent claims that the problem is now solved.

“It’s not in our library. That’s the issue that seems to have surfaced…. [The revised policy] does keep the books there in the library, and if parents want their kids to read the book, by all means come and check it out.”

But a book not being in the library wasn’t really the issue. Outside of the “Banned Books” nonsense from the ALA, a library NOT purchasing a title isn’t a problem. Libraries don’t purchase most available books.

If anything, the issue was responding to a challenge by someone using inappropriate religious standards for judging novels. And the issue for a lot of people was removing the books, period. My issue was that the guy didn’t know the first thing about interpreting literature.

The revised policy solves a problem that didn’t really exist, except that it also doesn’t really solve the problem.

Instead the revised policy made the previous policy look almost rational by comparison.

Think of it this way. How likely is it that any parents are going to go into the school library to check out books? Heck, they don’t even have library cards for the school library.

If parents wanted to get the books for their children they would likely buy them, or just get them from the local public library, which probably has the books that had been removed.

What’s the point of buying books for a school library that no student can possibly check out? If the point is merely to say, “they’re in the library, so problem solved,” it seems like a waste of money.

Why spend good money for books that are almost certainly never going to be used? That’s what research libraries are for.

Reasonable people can disagree on whether books are age appropriate or not, and reasonable policies can be implemented to guide those decisions. This isn’t one of them.

Probably the school board thought this would be a great compromise.

“Hey, we’re still buying books we think aren’t appropriate for your children to read. Take that, conservatives! But we’re not going to let students check them out. Take that, liberals!”

Obviously, the policy is still biased toward the conservative parents. That may or not be a problem, but whatever this is isn’t a solution.

The amusing thing is watching the school board attempt to meet people’s objections without actually meeting them. I wonder if they’re slow enough to think they’ve really changed the policy to deal with the criticism they received, or if they think the critics are slow enough to think that.

I have a feeling it’s the latter.

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Comments

  1. Oh my, I’ll have to disagree with AL on this one. First, issue is the school book selection policy and how that policy was applied. The manner in which the initial challenge was brought is irrelevant. For example, if the decision was made to remove the book because is was not WWJD, that would violate Board of Education v. Pico. But that is not what happened in this case.

    Further, the main problem was the false and misleading demands placed on the school by the usual “national groups,” and Judith Platt of the ALA was along for that ride. They even said the school should dump the policy, but gave no reasons why. I take that to mean they are afraid that the policy is well constructed. I discuss that letter in detail and take it apart line by line on slides 14 to 24 of my recent presentation, now at http://tinyurl.com/SaferLibraries

    I do agree with the AL about “the ‘Banned Books’ nonsense from the ALA.”

    • Joneser says:

      The books were removed because one person, who has no children attending school in the district, complained that they “taught material contrary to the Bible”. How is that not a violation of Board of Education v. Pico?

  2. Joneser says:

    The books have effectively been removed, and the curriculum revised to fit one parent’s demands. The policy is a total cave-in.

  3. @Joneser, no, not really. Even Judith Krug who created Banned Books Week said,

    “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.”

    “Marking 25 Years of Banned Books Week,” by Judith Krug, Curriculum Review, 46:1, September 2006.

    That appears to be the case in Republic. Actually, Republic at least didn’t “get it out of there,” though even Judith Krug might have approved of that “on rare occasion.”

    • Full Disclosure says:

      The full Judith Krug quote since Dan refuses to use it.

      “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. But materials that adhere to the material selection statement that every school has, and that have been duly selected, we would fight alongside every librarian and every teacher to keep the books available.

      I’m sure Dan can show me where in their selection policy it says that books should conform with Biblical principles or else they should be removed. Scroggins is not making an age appropriate argument; he was stating that the books ran afoul of the Bible.

      Your non-mastery of the facts is rather amusing. For someone who accuses the ALA of being deceptive, you’ve certainly adopted the tactics you accuse them of.

    • teetop says:

      Yeah, no. I’m going to say, no, that’s not the case here, does not remotely appear to be. Slaughterhouse Five is a landmark book in post-WWII American letters and is on the reading list of public middle and schools nationwide. I don’t think Krug or anyone else with even a passing interest in freedom of information could go along with that.

    • @Full Disclosure (aka Office for Intellectual Freedom member who frequently uses anonymity on Wikipedia to astroturf for Free Press and net neutrality, so it’s funny you use the name “Full Disclosure.” By the way, there’s a saying that if your not getting flak, your not where the enemy is. So your continuing (LISNews, e.g.) to follow me and play your word games only tells me I have hit the mark, and it explains why you and the OIF have avoided taking me on directly for years, starting in 2006 when you backed out of the Fox News interview with me for, what a coincidence, Banned Books Week. It’s easier to hit and run than take me on directly in a fair forum. You’ll flip when you hear my interview on NPR radio on Thursday http://www.kunm.org/twoweekarchive.html select Sep 22, 8:00AM.)

      “But” makes the difference. I present in Judith Krug’s own words that removing books from schools is perfectly acceptable in the right circumstances. What she said after the “but” applies when circumstances are not correct. Besides, it is obvious.

      The real eye opener to the library community is that Krug said its okay to remove books in the right circumstances. And that, “Full Disclosure,” is exactly why your OIF, the free speech people, does not have it on your web ALA.org site, never advises communities of it, and makes ad hominem attacks against me. It let’s me know I’m winning, and so do the many librarians and library directors who contact me behind the scenes.

      You gotta love Judith Krug, and I’m serious about that, who said, “it is appropriate to remove materials. If it doesn’t fit your material selection policy, get it out of there.”

      She’s absolutely right. And bringing challenges is the proper means to start the process to make that very determination. Removing material that does not fit your selection policy is neither censorship nor banning.

      And there’s the lesson of the 30th anniversary of Banned Books Week. Just to make that clear, I have republished the entire interview so it can be seen in complete context and your word games will fall flat:

      “Marking 25 Years of Banned Books Week: An Interview with Judith Krug”
      http://safelibraries.blogspot.com/2011/09/marking-25-years-of-banned-books-week.html

    • Full Disclosure says:

      @Dan

      You take her words as being about content appropriate. It could easily apply to a book that was mistakenly purchased for an elementary school when it was a high school reading level. That is an instance when a book is removed that makes perfect sense. But in your Dan kaliedoscope, it’s always about the sex, sexual orientation, and (in your words) pornography. And it’s not.

      I’m very insulted that you would call me an OIF member. The OIF will never address you directly because you are not worth their time. They are a classy organization while I am just a Annoyed Librarian blog troll. This was just another chance for you to set up an attack against the OIF since there isn’t a remote chance that anyone else on the internet would think you were wrong. Oh wait.

      Excellent detective work there, Dan-o.

  4. Randal Powell, Champion of Effective School Libraries says:

    True, this school library could have used its $50 annual budget on a less controversial book. What I am offended by though, is the crappy education these kids are getting in these public schools. In terms of school media, these kids aren’t being properly taught how to use Boolean Logic, OPACs, Academic and Government Databases, Indexes, how Dewey and LC work, how to search Old Newspapers and Almanacs for information, or well, much of anything else of value. Why isn’t there more of a relationship between the school librarians and the public librarians (even the local academic librarians), so that students have an integrated experience? All of this is a lot more outrageous and offensive to me than one book in one school media center.