Monday, October 02, 2006

They Ban Books, Don't They?

Let’s start with the AP release on this topic.

A Texas art teacher was put on administrative leave after one of her fifth grade students saw a nude sculpture during a trip to the Dallas Museum of Art.

It’s interesting to note that the majority of sculptures are nudes. It’s kind of difficult to avoid when you go to an art museum.

Although sources say that school officials deny they were reacting to the field trip but say there have been problems with McGee’s work, from my own experiences I think they bent to the rants and raves of a parent instead of standing by their teacher. This is all too often the case.

Sydney McGee is a 28 year veteran educator. That’s all I know about her. She could be suddenly incompetent or she may have lost her edge. However, the only evidence I have doesn’t support either conclusion.

Which leads me to my point.

How would you feel if everyone else told you on a regular basis how to do your job?

Teachers, not unlike politicians and even football players, suffer from “back seat driver” syndrome. Their decisions are always questioned. Their actions fall under a microscope. Their power is undermined, and their credibility dismissed. Everyone else thinks they can do a better job; but very few ever step up to the plate. The democratic process is breaking down all over the place, but no where else is it as “accepted” as in the schools.

Last week was Banned Books Week. I wish I’d written about that, but I was a little preoccupied with the recent school shootings.

The ALA (American Library Association) began celebrating this week back in 1992. According to their press kit,

Banned Books Week (BBW) celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them. After all, intellectual freedom can exist only where these two essential conditions are met.

I’m going to quote exactly how the ALA answers the question of why you are promoting the right of libraries to make “challenged” works available.

“Often challenges are motivated by a desire to protect children from ‘inappropriate’ sexual content or ‘offensive’ language. Although this is a commendable motivation, Free Access to Libraries for Minors, an interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights (ALA's basic policy concerning access to information) states that, “Librarians and governing bodies should maintain that parents—and only parents—have the right and the responsibility to restrict the access of their children—and only their children—to library resources.” Censorship by librarians of constitutionally protected speech, whether for protection or for any other reason, violates the First Amendment.”

Yes, parents have the right and responsibility to restrict the access of their children. So parents can choose not to allow their children to go on the field trip to the art museum just in case there is a nude sculpture there they don’t want them to see.

I wonder how parents in Florence, Rome and Paris shield their children’s eyes!

Tying teachers hands tighter and tighter only disables them when what we need are incredibly ABLE educators. And although parents are their children’s first and best teachers, in my opinion, when you send your child to school, you are contracting out to that educator. Let them do their job!

© 2006 Vicki Caruana. All rights reserved.