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Friday, April 15, 2005

It starts with a simple question

(THE FIRST E-MAIL FROM ADAM)

ADAM: Can you beleive this?

(FOLLOWED BY A LINK TO A NEWS PAGE)

News in brief from eastern Pennsylvania

4/15/2005, 8:46 a.m. ET
The Associated Press
 
SHICKSHINNY, Pa. (AP) — A familiar presence is missing from a Luzerne County bed-and-breakfast, leaving the owner and his neighbors to searched the woods for a $400 department store mannequin nicknamed Belle that has decorated the porch for years.

The figure was always dressed for the season and attracted waves from people passing by the Blue Heron Bed and Breakfast on Bethel Hill Road, owner Jesse Turner said.

Belle was wearing a summer dress, hat, scarf and white gloves when she disappeared from the porch late Sunday or early Monday, Turner said.

So far Turner has found only the arms and some of the mannequin's clothing. "It amazes me that someone would do something like that," he said. "It's unbelievable. It's just some malicious thing."

TOWANDA, Pa. (AP) — A woman accused of stealing more than $500,000 from the Canton Borough Water and Sewer Authority pleaded innocent to charges of forgery, theft by unlawful taking and tampering with public records or information....(snip)

ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) — The city signed an agreement to lease Earl F. Hunsicker Bicentennial Park to a Gilbertsville company that organizes youth baseball tournaments for $72,000 for three years...(snip)

READING, Pa. (AP) — The Muhlenberg School Board voted unanimously to remove the novel "The Buffalo Tree," by Adam Rapp, from its curriculum, citing explicit sexual references and vulgar language.

The book had been part of the approved 11th-grade curriculum since 2000, but a few parents told the board that its graphic sexual content was inappropriate for high school students.

Muhlenberg junior Brittany L. Hunsicker, who had complained to the board, read excerpts at Wednesday's public meeting, but board members stopped her after a few paragraphs.

"If this type of book is in our school, then why not have Hustler and Penthouse in the school library?" board member Otto W. Voit III said.

Dr. Joseph S. Yarworth, Muhlenberg superintendent, said copies of the novel were removed from school library and classroom shelves Thursday morning.

The author, reached by telephone, said he was shocked that the novel, describing the life of a young man serving a sentence in a juvenile detention center, was banned. "This is a story about friendship, about survival and about kids trying to make it in the world," Rapp said.

Though it deals with difficult subjects, students can often hear about the same matters on television or the Internet, he said. "I am stunned to think it would be banned in 2005 at a school district in America."

(END E-MAIL)

RESPONSE TO ADAM:

You know, last night Traci and I were toasting you after we got word
of this, but this is horrific.

You were four stories down in a column that led with story about a
molested department store mannequin.

ADAM'S NEXT RESPONSE:

I just received this from a teacher from the school where this went down...

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Glen Martin
To: Adam Rapp
Date: Fri, 15 Apr 2005 05:32:29 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: The Buffalo Tree - book banning

Mr. Rapp,

My name is Glen Martin, and I am an English teacher at Governor Mifflin
Senior High School near Reading, PA.  We are a neighboring district of
Muhlenberg, whose board voted Wednesday night to ban your book The Buffalo
Tree from its curriculum.

Though I have not read your book (and, admittedly, was not familiar with it
until this furor arose), I am troubled by the events in this case.  The
school board of Muhlenberg School District listened to a couple of passages
out of context--the favored m.o. of evangelicals who challenge books--and
immediately voted to ban the book.  Though it had been approved several
years ago for inclusion in the 11th grade curriculum--and despite the fact
that a process exists whereby parents can challenge books--the board
professed to be outraged by its content and took this unfortunate action.
Many 11th grade classes were in the middle of reading this book; after the
board's decision, the books were taken from the students and placed in a
vault (I'm not kidding!) to protect the students from the books' purportedly
corrupting elements.

Our department had a similar situation several years ago.  Several
conservative Christian parents challenged Maya Angelou's I Know Why the
Caged Bird Sings for a variety of reasons, but mostly because of the scene
in which Maya is sexually assaulted at a young age.  They, too, read
passages from the book out of context and tried to play into the board
members' fears and sense of overprotectiveness.  But ultimately, and
fortunately, our board followed our procedure for challenging a book, the
English department had a chance to defend the work, and the book was allowed
to remain in the curriculum.

I'm writing for two reasons.  First, I want to reassure you that there are
passionate anti-censorship advocates at both Muhlenberg and Governor Mifflin
High Schools who are struggling to ensure that students are exposed to ideas
that may be uncomfortable, but are ultimately essential to developing
critical thinking skills and a broad worldview.  Second, I want to ask your
advice: Have you heard of your book being challenged or banned in the past?
What strategies can you recommend to combat this phenomenon--in which a
small, but determined and vocal, group of evangelicals challenges the
slightest "inappropriate" content in a book?  How can we continue to
introduce compelling literature dealing with the sometimes discomfiting
themes of sexuality, drug abuse, incarceration, etc., into our curricula?

Thank you for your time.

Glen Martin
Department of English
Governor Mifflin Senior High School


THE LAST WORD BELONGS TO JESSE TURNER:

"It's unbelievable. It's just some malicious thing."


 

2 comments:

anne said...

jesus jesus jesus

this is one of those times i stop to reflect on how lucky i was to have attended a good liberal hs where the things they carried and catcher in the rye were required reading, where the bell jar, lolita, and a stranger in a strange land were all on the reading lists. and how lucky i was to have parents willing to sign a permission slip so i could do a project on an alice walker book. lucky me.

damn.

book banning hurts my heart. kids are older than grown-ups like to remember.

please tell adam for me that the whole thing is obscene, and that i'm super glad he's writing the way he's writing.

BillBorn said...

I couldn't agree more with Anne's comments, especially the part about her being lucky to have the parent's she had, ha ha. Seriously, it's very distressing. Locally, WFPL is refusing to consider running Democracy Now because it is controversial and might offend some listeners. I'm reminded of the quote, I believe by john Stuart Mill who said "Anyone who has begun to think places some part of the world in jeopardy." My own faith is that creativity, quality and freedom will trump fear, ignorance and suppression in the long run. Hang tough everyone.