There are a broad number of unfortunate facts in the world. There are a wide range of unpleasant things which we would prefer to just not think about. But as a society, we are always better served to deal with the truth instead of hiding our heads in the sand. As a civilization, it is our duty to prepare our children for the world by arming them with facts, even as we provide values and beliefs within which to understand those facts.
We all do our best to shield our children from the unpleasant and the unhappy, but our kids are exposed to it anyhow. On a trip to Richmond, or Washington New York, they are exposed to homelessness, even if they live in a wealthy subdvision. In their own neighborhoods they are exposed to violence, even if parents have done all they can to avoid it. Our kids are part of this world, no matter how we try to shelter them from it. In the long-run, too much shelter can harm them rather than helping them, as the reality of the world is a reality they will grow-up in, live in, work in, and ultimately raise their own families in.
That is why we must strive to explain rather than hide reality when our families are faced with it. And that is also why the censorship of a book in our elementary schools is a grave disservice to our children.
A children's book about penguins was pulled recently from general circulation at Loudoun County elementary Schools.
The award-winning book, "And Tango Makes Three" tells the true story of two male Chinstrap Penguins in New York's Central Park Zoo who raised an egg together. - The Loudoun Times-Mirror
There are many things wrong with this incident in censorship. Let us examine first how the decision to ban the book was made.
A parent at Sugarland Elementary in Sterling raised concerns about the book within the last few months, said Wayde Byard, public information officer for Loudoun County Public Schools.It is wrong for Superintendent Hatrick to substitute his individual judgment over that of the dozens of citizens involved in the decision to retain And Tango Makes Three over a single parent's complaint. No matter how experienced and wise Mr. Hatrick is, no matter that he has been a great leader for Loudoun County's Public Schools through his long tenure, one person should not have the authority to censor a book already vetted, considered and approved. The community had its input, the community reached its decision. The people who made the decision to retain the book were as representative, if not more representative, of the norms and values of Loudoun County as Mr. Hatrick himself.
The parent filed a complaint with the principal, who reviewed the book and deemed it to be appropriate for children. The parent then appealed that decision, and a district-level committee made up of a parent, a teacher, a school librarian and administrators reviewed the book. They ruled it was acceptable for general circulation.
Superintendent Edgar Hatrick III had final say, though, and decided to override that decision. - The Loudoun Times-Mirror
And if sufficient parents are still angry over the decision, the right place to voice that frustration is before the School Board. The right place to effect change of policy is at the ballot box.
Next, there is the question of the double standard.
David Weintraub, president of Equality Loudoun, a local gay and lesbian rights group, said the parent who made the complaint about the book has not been prevented from expressing his or her beliefs about family. Therefore, he said, why should this person prevent a book from being accessible to others who might have a different idea about family?The censorship of this book represents a chilling double standard. It says that the rights of certain kinds of parents trump the rights of other kinds of parents. It says that children from certain kinds of families will be denied the right to browse their school library and enjoy the delight of a book that seems to speak to them, simply because children from other kinds of families might also find the same book. Intentionally nor not, Superintendent Hatrick's decision places an explicit value judgment on different family lives in a school system dedicated to education of all, equally. It says, in effect, that some are more equal than others.
"Loudoun County Public Schools serve children from all kinds of families, including families with two moms or two dads," he said in a written statement. "The Administration and School Board need to remember that when confronted with this sort of book challenge. Dr. Hatrick needs to explain why he thought this book was inappropriate for circulation." - The Loudoun Times-Mirror
And finally there is the issue of truth. The book in question was not fiction, it was not a hypothetical example designed to make a point, it was the true story of animals who teamed up to raise a baby at a zoo. The story contains facts told in an entertaining, narrative form. The book stands as an amazing, factual resource for educating small children about the world, using real ideas and themes (family, zoos, animals) elementary students can easily understand, but which can be placed in a larger context by parents.
We cannot shield our children from the truth forever, that way lies disappointment and sadness. We must equip them to deal with it. Books like this are an amazing tool to help parents, and teachers, do so.
I leave you with a comment from the discussion of this issue on the post from Living In LoCo.
I'll share this with you: i was watching the today show while getting ready for work a few years ago, and my 5 yr old son walks in just as they showed 2 men kissing b/c they had just been married in Mass. my son asked "mommy- why are 2 boys kissing on the LIPS?!?!?" i said, some boys were born liking to kiss boys, and some boys are born liking to kiss girls. Now how about some coco puffs for breakfast?"The world is out there. Our kids are in it. And no book or lack thereof will shield our children from it.