March 23, 2006

You don't say

"Book ban hasty: Clifford OK, so is Disney" read the headline at the LA Daily News earlier this week, on the subject of the Antelope Valley school board's decision earlier this month to remove 23 books from a list of books to consider purchasing for the school library. Among the books caught in the dragnet were, as I wrote then, "some of the usual suspects like Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and a couple of Artemis Fowl titles, but also some more unusual and you'd think innocuous ones like Clifford the Big Red Dog, Disney's Christmas Storybook, and Princess School: Beauty Is a Beast".

Now comes news, and I hope you haven't been holding your breath this whole time, that some of the axed books were selected by mistake because -- this can't possibly be -- the trustees hadn't bothered to read them. Of course, we already knew that some of the selections "were books with which they were unfamiliar"; I snarked several weeks ago about
two enormous, wrong lessons the Antelope Valley students are learning from the board's decisions. First, that it's correct to judge a book by its cover, disapproving of a title with which one isn't even familiar; is it too much to expect these trustees, even the ones who aren't former teachers, to read the books bothering them? It's not as if these are doorstop tomes such as War and Peace that might be expected to tax bears of little brain and their ilk. We're talking Princess School, people, which isn't much longer or more taxing than the average shopping list.
Here's the official, it's-alright-we-just-ran-out-of-time explanation from this week's paper:
Trustees indicated that these books, such as three bilingual Clifford the Big Red Dog books and Disney's Christmas Storybook were not objectionable, but were nevertheless lumped in with the rejected books.

Board member Marlene Olivares explained at Thursday's meeting that there was a three-day weekend before the Feb. 16 meeting, and there was not enough time to check out all the books.

"When it came time to say which were acceptable and which ones weren't, they picked a bloc of books that had Clifford and Disney, that they really had no problem with, but they were in the same group that they did have concerns about," trustee Maurice Kunkel said. ...

[School Superintendent] McNabb said once the guidelines [with which McNabb is charged with developing] are approved, the Clifford and Disney books will be brought back for approval.

McNabb said Olivares said the board should have first set aside the entire 68-book list, resolved their concerns, and then brought the matter up for board consideration.

Olivares declined Friday to comment.
Just two more words from me on the matter, and I'm done. I still think that the school library can come up with something better than the Disney Christmas Treasury, which is just twaddle amd a waste of precious school funds, not to mention gray cells. Second, trustee "Kunkel said the board wants books that 'build character by looking at the bright side and are anti-witchcraft and anti-criminality'." Be afraid, be very afraid. And if you're in Antelope Valley, voting might not be a bad idea.

Thanks to Camille at Book Moot for following up on this.

UPDATE: Melissa at Here in the Bonny Glen has more on this as well.

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