July 08, 2006

Truth, justice, and the American way, or, discouraging words and antelopes (in the Valley)

Thanks to J.L. Bell at Oz and Ends for an update on the library shenanigans at Vista San Gabriel Elementary School in California's Antelope Valley, which I wrote about back in March (here, here, and here), when the school board approved the removal of 23 books from a list of books to consider purchasing for the school library. Now, as reported by The Antelope Daily News, board members have in fact come up with the guidelines they promised the other month, and from now on the books selected "cannot depict drinking alcohol, smoking, drugs, sex, including 'negative sexuality,' implied or explicit nudity, cursing, violent crime or weapons, gambling, foul humor and 'dark content'."

Furthermore, according to the policy itself: "In selected instances, an occasional inappropriate word may be deleted with white-out rather than rejecting the entire book." Which makes me wonder whether board members also plan to go through various world history encyclopedias and art books to add discrete black magic marker bikinis and briefs (don't laugh, I've encountered enough home educating parents who do just this). Or maybe those books just get chucked wholesale, too.

Other highlights of the new policy, according to the newspaper account:
  • Revisions included adding the words "socially appropriate" to one criteria [sic]. It now states books should have a 'Fair balanced socially appropriate portrayal of people with regard to race, creed, color, national origin, sex and disability.' [Which doubtless has filtered down from the California textbook approval process], and,
  • all books must comply with a section of state education law, titled the "Hate Violence Prevention Act", which states, "Each teacher shall endeavor to impress upon the minds of the pupils the principles of morality, truth, justice, patriotism, and a true comprehension of the rights, duties, and dignity of American citizenship, and the meaning of equality and human dignity, including the promotion of harmonious relations, kindness toward domestic pets and the humane treatment of living creatures, to teach them to avoid idleness, profanity, and falsehood, and to instruct them in manners and morals and the principles of a free government."
So much for Tom, Huck, and human dignity. Rather takes all the joy out of books, reading, and school, doesn't it? Which is just as well, I suppose, since the school board has effectively taken all the good books out of the library.

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