Archive for Monday, December 5, 2005

Ban on obscenity in schools sought

Teacher defends controversial literature

December 5, 2005


The topic in Susan Tate's literature class on Friday was a poem: "Leaves of Grass," by Walt Whitman.

"Leaves" is an old piece of art, and respected. When it was composed in the 1850s, Tate said, Whitman's work was regarded as scandalous - the author even faced indecency charges.

"Critic after critic said it was unclean," said Tate, who teaches at Lawrence High School. "One critic for the New York Tribune said that Walt Whitman had taken his trousers off in the marketplace."

Good literature, Tate said, often carries at least a whiff of controversy.

But an ongoing dispute over books taught in Johnson County's Blue Valley school district could lead to a statewide ban on obscenity in K-12 schools, changing the way that classes like Tate's are taught. Republican activists are pushing for such a plank in the state party's platform, to be approved at next month's "Kansas Days" gathering of GOP faithful.

"Surely our K-12 schools can be required to adhere to our obscenity laws," said Charlotte O'Hara, the GOP's vice-chairwoman in the northeast Kansas 3rd congressional district, which includes Johnson County and the eastern half of Lawrence. "I think there's great interest in this."

'Promulgating porn'

The Blue Valley district has been embroiled in controversy for months, after some parents asked that 14 books containing obscenities, vulgar language or sexually explicit material be removed from high school reading lists.

Susan Tate leads a Lawrence High School American Literature class in a discussion on writer Walt Whitman. Tate says good literature often carries a whiff of controversy but it's important to teach because it encompasses the history of all people.

Susan Tate leads a Lawrence High School American Literature class in a discussion on writer Walt Whitman. Tate says good literature often carries a whiff of controversy but it's important to teach because it encompasses the history of all people.

The list includes "Beloved," by Toni Morrison, "Black Boy," by Richard Wright and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," by Ken Kesey.

The dispute drew statewide attention last month when State Board of Education Chairman Steve Abrams wrote in an op-ed column that districts like Blue Valley "promulgate pornography as 'literature,' even though many parents have petitioned the local boards to remove the porn."

Those concerns boiled over at an Oct. 29 meeting of the Johnson County Republican Party, which was convened to take suggestions for the state party platform.

"I think it's on people's minds. They feel that there are limits that have been exceeded," said Charlene Bredemeier, the county party's vice-chairwoman. "I think people would like the party to stand for values."

The problem, O'Hara said, is that while state law prohibits "knowingly or recklessly" possessing obscene materials, it also allows teachers and schools to use such materials for educational purposes.

"It's not a bit of a loophole," O'Hara said. "They are exempt."

She noted that the law used "community standards" to define obscenity. Teachers shouldn't get a free pass from those standards, she said.

"I was shocked when I went out and found (educational use) was an affirmative defense" against obscenity charges, O'Hara said. She added, "It's not like it's a witch-hunt."

'Devil in details'

The proposal, however, is causing concerns among educators.

"I have never talked to, nor do I have any evidence that anybody I know in education would willfully distribute obscenity, what they consider obscenity," said Randy Weseman, superintendent of Lawrence public schools. "The rub of it is that there are people who would disagree."

He added: "We don't do obscenity. There's a lot of literature that has colorful language - I guess the devil is in the details."

Jim Hays, a research specialist with the Kansas Association of School Boards, said the state should leave the issue alone.

"This is not the first time this sort of discussion has happened in Kansas or elsewhere," he said of the Blue Valley controversy. "It's the perfect example of why local school boards are the best place to have these discussions."

Students recently read and discussed Mark Twain&squot;s "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" in a Lawrence High School American Literature class. Twain&squot;s novel has been the frequent target of challenges, but it is not one of the 14 books being disputed in the Blue Valley school district.

Students recently read and discussed Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" in a Lawrence High School American Literature class. Twain's novel has been the frequent target of challenges, but it is not one of the 14 books being disputed in the Blue Valley school district.

Blue Valley officials declined comment for this article. The organizers of ClassKC, the group protesting books there, did not respond to an e-mail requesting an interview.

Uncertain future

Derrick Sontag, executive director of the Kansas Republican Party, said he hadn't seen a draft of the state platform yet and didn't know whether the obscenity ban would be included when the GOP gathers next month.

And at least one influential Republican, state Sen. Jean Schodorf - a Wichitan who chairs the Senate Education Committee - said she'd be skeptical of ever scheduling a hearing for such a proposal.

"There's no pornography in the schools, so why have a law?" she said. "We have enough other concerns in education, so why create a law that affects things that aren't happening?"

LHS teacher Tate, meanwhile, worries about what a ban would mean in her efforts to teach literature to high school students. Her last protest against a book came 10 years ago, she said, when a parent asked that their child not be required to read "The Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck.

"I think it's important for students to read literature and to understand the history of literature," she said.

"When we read literature, we're reading about ourselves," Tate added. "Some of it is violent, and some of it is sexual. It's the history of who we are. It's a way to gain understanding about all people."


Ragingbear 12 years, 4 months ago

Give it a rest. Today we ban Tom Sawyer, or Huck Finn, and tomorrow we are banning Dr.Suess. Is green eggs and ham another way of promoting the radical liberal homosexual agenda? They are saying that although they are the same, they are different. And that if you try something new, you will like it. That must be it. And Sam isn't wearing clothes in those books. So it's porn. And why is an adult cat home with two little children? Egads! This isn't porn, its pedophilia. Ban everything, and force our kids into churches of the middle ages. That way they can walk out into the real world knowing for a fact that the world is flat and that the sun revolves around the Earth.

DuQuesne 12 years, 4 months ago

Tell you what: If I can locate them at a reasonable cost, I'll personally send two dozen copies of any book banned from high school by the blue noses to anyone who'll take delivery and promise to distribute them to deserving students. Or, I can send them to the local public library I'm open to suggestion. (In the matter of "Leaves of Grass," maybe only one dozen copies it's a series of books, after all.)

After all, kids go home after school so their parents can convey their own values in their own home, after they learn to deal just a little bit with the real world during the day at school. That way their parents don't have to push their values on the rest of us. Of course, sometimes the real butt-wipes who do all the banning and objecting don't even have kids in school. Is that the case here? -Schuyler DuQuesne

Hong_Kong_Phooey 12 years, 4 months ago

I wonder if these parents that want these books banned also allow their children to listen to '50 Cent', 'Ying-Yang Twins', and play the latest shoot-em up game on XBOX. Of course, those aren't as bad of an influence as "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"...

By the way, that bridge I own is still for sale!

The_Voice_of_Reason 12 years, 4 months ago

Dear everylasting God!! This state is so flipping STUPID! There Books! Not playboy! There are no pictures or drawings in the text. There for if some high school kids read the "explict" parts and get ideas they problely already had the ideas to begin with. There in high school... and I bet atleast 99% of high school students know what sex is and how to do it. Heaven forbid this screwed up state of Kansass should do something worth while like fix the budget or solve other important issues.

squishypoet 12 years, 4 months ago

I like how everyone assumes that kids actually READ the books they're assigned for English class. Sparknotes, anyone?

Richard Heckler 12 years, 4 months ago

The state republican party is trying to be controlled by the Christian Coalition. All of us must know republicans from all spectrums who would not support this book banning nonsense. Why don't they speak out? My inlaws are quite conservative who would not support this type of irresponsible behavior of banning literature such that has been mentioned.

Why the republican party has asked the CC to move on and form their own political party is beyond me. At least I do not consider the Christian Coalition as republicans.

Kookamooka 12 years, 4 months ago

Next thing you know, the School Board will ban sexy teachers from teaching in public schools. Only dowdy matrons and men with alot of nose hair will be allowed to teach in the schools. Sorry Ms. Tate, you'll have to find a job "pedaling the porn" that is Huck Finn in a free thinking blue state. God Bless.

sweatpeagj 12 years, 4 months ago

I wonder how many more things that Kansans can get into the newspapers for? Look at all of the goings on for the last few months. It seems the only way Kansas survives is by going against what every other state is doing. It makes me wonder what is next? Banning foods from being served because of the "racial" names ? We wouldn't want to offend anyone. Saying that our children can only wear plain blck or gray clothes. other colors may offend somone's sensative nature and heaven forbid it has a picture of anything or writing of any kind, that would surely piss off a huge majority of these oh so concerned parents. I do agree though with Schuyler they are probably ones that don't even have kids in school.

bretherite 12 years, 4 months ago

It is a shame that I have to send my children to private school to read those books and learn about evolution.

Richard Heckler 12 years, 4 months ago

Is it time for the Lawrence school district to secede from the the state?

SuzyQ 12 years, 4 months ago

You have to know that the kids who would read these for English class (as opposed to the ones who wouldn't) will hit the public library fast and hard once the books are actually banned. Go censorship!

neopolss 12 years, 4 months ago

said Charlene Bredemeier, the county party's vice-chairwoman. "I think people would like the party to stand for values."


Apparantly those values suggest standing around a large bonfire tossing in dozens of controversial literature. Let's reflect on that.

Knowledge is power. This is nothing more than an attempt to keep the subjects submissive.

craigers 12 years, 4 months ago

I think they should ban the "chickenwich" since the last part of the word has an evil ring to it. :)

trinity 12 years, 4 months ago

i just cannot believe this. what is happening in our state?!


Sigmund 12 years, 4 months ago

In a representative democracy how do we both respect both the will of the majority and at the same time the sincere desires of the minority? It's unfortunate that in case after case partisans on the left and on the right desire to impose their values on the rest. If they happen to be in the majority they shout about the 'will of the people', when in the minority the very same people will shout equally loud about the 'rights of the minority'. What is this 'diversity' and 'respecting other peoples values' I keep hearing about?

cavtrooper 12 years, 4 months ago

Ahhh..... The book-burners are back!! (really they never left) I could understand if there were copies of Hustler or Penthouse being distibuted in classrooms but this is getting a little extreme. The hard core bible thumping rightwing wackos are bound and determined to have us as hide-bound and narrowminded as they can get - lets head on down to the New Middle Ages in Kansas. Sheesh!

concerned_citizen 12 years, 4 months ago

Who cares? No kid is going to wade through Whitman when they could be watching TRL. I took a college class on Whitman and most of the college kids didn't read it, and that was an elective!

How many times has Whitman been banned since Leaves of Grass was published? Trivia Q for the day? Maybe by banning it, it's a reverse psychology ploy to get kids to read 19th cent American poets. That works on teenagers I hear.

mdaniels 12 years, 4 months ago

I'm don't think that, as "Sigmund" suggests above, this is an issue that involves the Madisonian dilemma.

Rather, the issue is about properly educating young students - a legitimate governmental interest. We shouldn't discard the obscenity laws - they were inacted by a legislature that represents the will of the people. At the same, these books might occasionally offend the sensibilities of the "fainthearted" (normally this is parents, not students). Therefore, a balancing test between government (school) interests and those of community moral standards.

These books were included in the school's curriculum because a school and teacher exercised their judgment and experience as educators and found that these books satisfied the requirements of the Board of Education. Schools jobs are to teach skills that develop students' reading, writing, and analytical skills (and hopefully inculcate a love of learning too). These skills necessary for success in college, graduate/professional school, and eventually in the real world. It is, then, the government's job to educate students, not be responsible for the inculcation of anything more than a basic set of morals that correspond with school rules.

Activists that look to censorship as a tool to solve whatever problem they see in public schools are the true enemies of state, the schools, and our students as their efforts are a disservice to the educational process. In attempting to reinforce community moral standards (a noble, but misguided effort) they serve to harm the community by setting back our best resource - young students minds - back to the Dark Ages.

P.S. - On a political note, I love how everyone who seems to support censorship in this case to be a far-right wing Republican. No doubt these people supported the so-called "War on Terror" and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Despite supporting a war on (at least in the case of Afghanistan) tyrants who seek to set their country back to the 8th century A.D., these right wing Republicans share nearly the same ideals and tactics. Unbelievable.

-Michael Daniels

concerned_citizen 12 years, 4 months ago

"Despite supporting a war on (at least in the case of Afghanistan) tyrants who seek to set their country back to the 8th century A.D., these right wing Republicans share nearly the same ideals and tactics. Unbelievable."

Not even an accurate comparison. More like wishful thinking dude. Before your PS Michael, GREAT post. After - rant mode on.

Densmore 12 years, 4 months ago

Great. Let's raise our kids in a sterile vacuum and then turn them loose in a world full of germs. Brilliant.

christie 12 years, 4 months ago

To mdaniels: Exactly... the Taliban is at work right here.

On a side note, I request the LJ World remove the photo of that teacher, as she is too sexy for words. I fear my husband will leave me and try to return to school. I fear a ban on sexy teachers.

Kodiac 12 years, 4 months ago


I agree! Ms. Tate is hot!

newssleuth2814 12 years, 4 months ago

I bet if you asked these Republican activists which books should be banned, they couldn't tell you. THEY HAVEN'T READ THE BOOKS! THEY DON'T KNOW.

By banning books, it's going to make them more appealing, accomplishing the opposite of what these book-banning wackos want.

High school seniors are old enough and should be mature enough to handle reading something like John Steinbeck novels and other such literature. At least if they're going to be exposed to violence and sex, let it be through a well written book instead of through obscene music, video games and television.

Hopefully, common sense will win out over the wacko regime and state officials will know to leave teaching to people who actually know something about it.

glockenspiel 12 years, 4 months ago

This is comical. Kids don't learn cuss words from books. They learn them from adults, movies, and friends.

GreenEyedBlues 12 years, 4 months ago

A very wise civics teacher once told us that, throughout history, when books are banned/burned, to expect the worst.

If you're a parent who's that concerned about what your child reads, teach them at home yourself, that way you can have a stranglehold on what they read and think. God forbid they should be exposed to the smut that can be found in the local library.

I can't believe what I'm reading here. Are they trying to revert Blue Valley to a Cleaveresque mid-century "Utopia"?

GreenEyedBlues 12 years, 4 months ago

EXACTLY. I'm with Glockenspiel, News Sleuth, and HKP!

With less eyebrow-raising literature to read, the kids will have more time to watch Laguna Beach and learn the tricks of the trade.

yourworstnightmare 12 years, 4 months ago

Notice the recent proliferation of legislators using the phrase "But it's not a witch hunt".


badger 12 years, 4 months ago

I have a question:

When I was in middle and high school, if a parent wanted his or her child not to read a book the class was studying, there was a list of 'book alternates' that the parent could choose from for the child to study, and while the rest of the class was reading the 'controversial' book, the other kid went to the library or to a study hall, and read the 'alternate' book (I remember that there was a lot of Jane Austen, and some Charles Dickens, and a fairly wide variety; if you didn't want your kid reading Byron or Whitman, there was Wordsworth, for example). He or she was quizzed and tested over it just like the other students, didn't have to answer questions about it on the final (got substitute questions), wrote the same kind of paper about it. The teacher made time before or after school, or during lunch, to schedule meetings with the student to discuss the book.

Is this not an option for schools in Kansas? Are there enough parents who want their kids reading the 'alternate' literature to merit a section of English that teaches those alternates instead? Different classes read different books, and when we read "A Midsummer Night's Dream," the class next door was reading, "Julius Caesar." I know Kansans aren't as much about logic and reason and making sense (because just as music leads to dancing, reason might lead to thinking about science), but could they consider it in this case?

Richard Heckler 12 years, 4 months ago

How many book banners have read the material front to back?

Where is their information coming from?

Why don't they put their children in a private school?

avhjmlk 12 years, 4 months ago

badger, that's just it. Just like with sex ed, if a parent opposes a book for their own child, any self-respecting teacher gives the child another option. It's not like these kids are being strapped to their chairs, mouths pried open, and having "Beloved" poured down their throats.

I actually had Ms. Tate for English. I don't remember anyone quoting the f-bomb out loud from any books, so if you didn't actually read (ahem, ahem) you would have never known they were there.

(BTW, she was equally good looking at that time. Some women are just lucky.)

Bill Smith 12 years, 4 months ago

"They call Kansas the Sunflower State. Not because it is overrun with the noxious weed, but because as the Sunflower turns on its stem to catch the first beam of the morning sun, and with its broad disc and yellow rays follows the great orb of day, so Kansas turns to catch the first rays of every advancing thought or civilized agency, and with her broad prairies and golden fields welcomes and follows the light." Charles F. Scott

What happened to the Free State that once was so progressive in thought and action? Why is the State Board of Education focusing on bringing the students of Kansas' education system back in time to medieval thinking? Why are they not focused on raising the bar and educate our young people to succeed in the world? The Kansas Board of Education has spent so much time and money on a topic that has little relevance to succeeding academically, i.e. Intelligent Design and now banning works of literature. They should be focusing more of their energy on funding the education system, increasing skills in areas of math, reading, writing, foreign language, real science, history, and cultural competency. Leave religious studies at home and in institutions of religion (church, synagogue, mosque, temple, etc.). It's no wonder that U.S. students in general are so far behind the rest of the world and why the best jobs they can expect to get out of high school are to work at the local Walmart or Mc Donald's.

DuQuesne 12 years, 4 months ago

I was serious, by the way. -Schuyler DuQuesne

Sigmund 12 years, 4 months ago

I find it hard to believe that the adults involved can not find 15 books they can agree upon. As far as I can see this is just posturing on both sides. Oh, and for the Kansas bashers, please do not pretend that the issue of what kids may or may not read in school is limitted to the Sunflower State in the year 2005. Oh, and for those that lament what has happened to 'my state' (amoungst much nashing of teeth and renting of garments), it's not yours, it's all of ours.

Jamesaust 12 years, 4 months ago

"In a representative democracy how do we both respect both the will of the majority and at the same time the sincere desires of the minority?"

Answer: Precisely in the manner done at Blue Valley. The 'majority' (i.e., professional educators) select a reading list. The 'minority' (i.e., concerned parents) may 'exempt' their child from reading any of the material they wish. Bottom Line: NO (real) CONTROVERSY.

I've always found it ironic that some of the most conservative elements - usually along the lines of the National Review or Weekly Standard types - have so enthusiastically endorsed the "Great Books" approach to literature. Much of this canon was, at least in its own day, radical, revolutionary, or offensive. ("Leaves of Grass" is a perfect example; I do not doubt for a minute that if Charlotte O'Hara actually read it she would find it obscene.)

"Kidnapped" may seem to us a quaint adventure story set in Scotland but rebellion against a God-appointed King and English/Scot enmity were no laughing matter for many centuries. No doubt today some parent would object to the 'treasonous' nature of such a tale - after all, isn't W's Presidency the will of God just as was the reign of Queen Mary II?

Is the strategy here of the radical "Taliban" to create so many controversies that, even though they lose most, some still get past a tired and distracted majority? Why is there a 'controversy-of-the-day' foisted on the public by the 'gang-who-can't-shoot-straight'?

DuQuesne 12 years, 4 months ago

Song of Solomon, anyone? -Schuyler DuQuesne

Godot 12 years, 4 months ago

Funny. Tate relates that, 160 years ago, Whitman faced indecency charges for writing "Leaves of Grass." The reporter gives the impression that "Leaves of Grass," will be banned in Kansas, although he never actually quotes anyone that says that is one of the books that is considered obscene, and people on this forum jump to the conclusion that Lawrence should secede from the state so their children can read "Leaves of Grass."

This is a non-story, sensationalism at its best.

If you read carefully, you will glean that there are a handful of Republicans proposing that this issue be a plank in the Republican platform, that it is doubtful that they will be successful, and that some Republicans doubt that this will even get a hearing.

Call off the lynch mob.

Steve Jacob 12 years, 4 months ago

I had Ms. Tate as a teacher (back then Ms. Cleveland) way back in 1988. All I remember about that class was 1) she was cute/hot 2) she somehow passed me (already flunked American Lit I once already) and 3) the class was BORING.

midwesterner 12 years, 4 months ago

Man I'm startin to think that I should migrate out of this state with the direction education in Kansas is taking, I definately don't ever want any kids of mine to be taught here. Not exposing students to diversity in life...which includes controversial subject matter, is leaving them in the dark, which is cruel.

Sigmund 12 years, 4 months ago

I assume failing to expose kids to controversial subject matter includes not exposing them to 'Darwinism' and 'intelligent design'? This whole thing is laughable, its political flaimbait design to whip up rabid fanatics on both sides of the issue (not to mentioned exploited to sell newspapers). Judging by the posts of the usual suspects on this board, it's succeeding beyond expectations!

OldEnuf2BYurDad 12 years, 4 months ago

I read Black Boy when I was in my early teens. It was amazing. Should I have read that when I was in 3rd grade? No. Hopefully, level heads will prevail and books will not be removed, but simply relegated to appropriate grade levels. If a small child reads Hick Finn, they might walk away thinking that the "N" word is OK to use, but if a kid gets through 12 years of school without reading a diversity of high-quality literature, that kid has missed something. These difficult texts need to be managed in some way, but not "removed".

Porn is gratuitous content. If your kid is watching Greco-Roman wrestling at the olympics, that has value; it's sports. If you let your kid watch WFF "Trailer Park Beat-Down" on pay-per-view, that is crap, and a form of pornography. While I believe that porn is killing our families, I also think that the mindset that sex=porn is also dangerous. If sex=porn is true, then what does society do with the Bible?

I don't like the conservative-bashing on this site, but on this issue I'm going to have to jump over to the other side and say "this is not good". I'm almost at a point where I just hate all activists, both on the right and the left.

Sigmund 12 years, 4 months ago

Does anyone know if my BA in English and the two advanced degrees from the University of Kansas would prevent me from taking some remedial English from Ms. Tate?

spikey_mcmarbles 12 years, 4 months ago

Which book is worse: Leaves of Grass or Blackhawk Down? Both are available in the LHS and FSHS libraries. IMO graphic violence is more akin to pornography than any poem Whitman ever wrote.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 12 years, 4 months ago


Any issue involving censorship IS news. These precedents can/will shape entire generations and challenge our concepts of what the "American Way" is all about. No matter if it looks like it's a small, weak minority, these are important issues.

Mari Aubuchon 12 years, 4 months ago

Oldenuf: I guess "Black Boy" is being taught to juniors and seniors in BV.

Confrontation 12 years, 4 months ago

These are the same idiots who want their children excluded from sex ed. If they don't hear/read about sex, then it won't happen. That's what they think until their kids have sex (unprepared) and bring home std's/babies.

Mari Aubuchon 12 years, 4 months ago

Here are some more books of which this group disapproves:

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan A Separate Peace by John Fowles Lord of the Flies by William Golding Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad Native Son by Richard Wright Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Yes, I read each and every one of these books before the age of 16. My dad was a school librarian and a refugee from the Communist Bloc and reading was a daily activity in my family. I learned at an early age to love literature and to value freedom of expression. I believe that, above all, my view of the world has only been deepened and widened by my reading.

To find out more about books that have been challenged or banned, check out:

usaschools 12 years, 4 months ago

Doesn't the Bible contain passages dealing with: Adultery, homosexuality, intercourse, masturbation, and sex with animals? Are these crazed Republicans trying to ban the Bible from our school libraries! The nerve!

badger 12 years, 4 months ago

You know, banning Heart of Darkness might get students to pick it up.

But after three years of reading the first fifty or so pages of that book once or twice a year and then giving up, I have to say that it'd take a lot more than banning it to keep me on task with reading it.

In the last ten years, I've taken up a self-driven program of reading all the 'great books' or at least some by each of the 'great authors' (because reading all of Dickens' 'great books' is a job for a lifetime, really!), and I've come to the conclusion that a fair number of literary classics are really, frankly, awful books. I still have nightmares about "The Sun Also Rises," in which I am never able to finish the book because nothing ever happens except four men drinking their way around the country after the same women and talking inanity, and the book can't finish without some form of actual story progression or character development, so it just keeps going.

b_asinbeer 12 years, 4 months ago

Thanks Mari, recently your contributions have been outstanding in terms of quality with respect to all other users. Appreciate it.

Lulu 12 years, 4 months ago

As I have said before, the Christian Taliban is disgracing our state. Oprah Winfrey took "Beloved" from a wonderful book and made it into a classic movie. The movie was her baby, and that movie should have won an Academy Award for its brilliance. The Blue Valley school district parents complained because the book "Beloved" refers to beastiality and rape.

If a 15 year old wants to read about beastiality, rape and other adult situations, who are we to say it is wrong?

This is censorship and I am in total agreement with Ms. Tate. She is a wonderful teacher to defend against the oppression and un-openess of the neo-conservatives. It is great to live in Lawrence and have wonderful teachers like Ms. Tate, who stand up to these religious zealots who try to cloud the brains of young impressionable children. Most childrens read the internet, so they are not immune to pornography. Let them read whatever they like! At least they'd be reading!

Harry Tuttle 12 years, 4 months ago

What can it hurt to ban a book or two. They don't read them anyway, they just look at the pictures. Kids today don't read so what does it matter?

I think we should also ban Ulysses, The Great Gatsby, Brave New World, Catch 22, Sons and Lovers, The Grapes of Wrath, 1984, I, Claudius, Slaughterhouse Five, Invisible Man, As I Lay Dying, Go Tell It on the Mountain, Lord of the Flies, Deliverance, Point Counter Point, The Sun Also Rises, The Naked and the Dead, Portnoy's Complaint, From Here to Eternity, The Catcher in the Rye, A Clockwork Orange, A Farewell to Arms, The Handmaids Tale, The Call of the Wild, The Trial, and Darwin.

They are all works of the Devil!

I think we ought to ban trash like that book to appease me. It worked when you appeased the Nazi's.

Oh wait! We already have!

In that case I also want to see the Constitution banned like our great leader George Bush wants and throw those who don't think like we do into prison without trial.

Throw in a little torture and we are well on our way to the perfect world I want to live in.



OldEnuf2BYurDad 12 years, 4 months ago

Actually, usaschools, masturbation is not found in the bible, per se; but there is lots of incest. And, of course, that is in the context of "what not to do".


I think your reference to sex ed is a little out context. I, for one, think that sex ed is too important to trust to a public school system, so I'm not sure that I'm a proponent of a MANDITORY public school sex ed program (some kids, though, will either learn it in the school classroom, or on the school playground; so it needs to be an option for kids who have lazy parents). If I had a kid at "that age", I'd be excluding my kid from sex ed in school. NOT to keep them ignorant, but to be sure it's being handled in the correct context.

Maybe what these schools need is a published list of "problematic" texts, and giving the parents the option of deciding if their kids will use the standard curriculum or go with the "Sid & Marty Croft" list for their kids. Yes, that makes for all kinds of "issues" all on it's own, but at least two important goals are achieved: no actually banning of books, and 2) parental controls in place.

Saving our schools will require us to find ways of balancing the needs (desires?) of both liberals and conservatives. If our schools are hijacked by either polar opposite, we'll see a form of "social flight" from our public school systems. When that happens, public education will start to die in our country. We need policies in place that maintain a full educational curriculum (THEORY of evolution, sex ed, diverse literature, basket-weaving) while not alienating any major segments of society by forcing controversial subjects on families who don't want to have to address those issues.

schweppy 12 years, 4 months ago

For one, I can't understand why parents and people in the government are worried about kids getting ideas of sex and pornography from these books. When I was in high school just a couple of years ago, we never had to read any of the books mentioned above. Despite this, I still managed to generate ideas about sex and view porn. The fact is, young people are going to see this stuff and much worse even if the books are banned. The truth is that most of these BV parent's kids are probably out drinking underage while thier parents are at school arguing about the books.

People need to worry about real issues facing teens, the fact that most of them drink all through high school and far far too many of them get into cars and kill someone or themselves. This debate over the books is a waste of time and more irratating than I don't know what!!

OldEnuf2BYurDad 12 years, 4 months ago


I think two things need clarity here.

I THINK we CLEARLY established in a prior thread that Oprah's movie "Beloved" was utter DUNG. Let's keep it that way.

Also, your statement "If a 15 year old wants to read about beastiality, rape and other adult situations, who are we to say it is wrong?" needs some adjusting. If a 15 year old WANTS to read about rape, that is sick. If a 15 year old wants to read great literature, and an incident of rape is mentioned in the story line, that is different. This is exactly the foundation of the argument: what is the VALUE of reading this material? Reading about rape and incest because some teen has an "interest" in those things... no, not good. There must be some redeeming value(s), or it's porn.

I hope I'm not getting picky about semantics, but this is the kind of statement that gets conservatives upset because it suggests that there are people out there who think "put EVERYTHING on the shelves, then let the children choose for themselves". You'll have them thinking you want Madonna's "Sex Book" in a kindergarten classroom.

scottjp 12 years, 4 months ago

I'm wanting to know what's wrong with The Grapes of Wrath...anyone?

compmd 12 years, 4 months ago

Neocons trying to do once what nazis did? Thats unheard of! I wonder what John has to say about this?

I am glad I had the opportunity to read and discuss several of these "banned" books while I was in high school. Learning about culture and history increases your knowledge. Knowledge is power. However, ignorance is easier, and ignorance is bliss.

Imagine this scenario:
English Prof: "So, what books have you read?" Child of Neocon: "The only book that matters!" Prof: "Okay..."

I can't stand close-mindedness and ignorance, especially when there is so much to know. The fact that people advocate ignorance disgusts me. Pray your unread children never have to work with or for me, book-banners.

badger 12 years, 4 months ago


"Beloved" the movie is dung. "Beloved" the book was a brutal, beautiful, painful, emotional and brilliantly written story. Toni Morrison does amazing things with words, and it's not the fault of the author that the actors turned it into drivel.

And I do tend to agree with you that if a 15-year-old is seeking out opportunities to read about bestiality and rape, then there's something very wrong either with that child or with that child's parents, but if a 15-year-old is reading books that address those subjects because those books have other merits, then that's different.

And I would keep my kids in the public school sex ed so they learn another important lesson besides the ones contained in the class: pretty much everyone squirms around and jokes and gets uncomfortable when you're talking about certain subjects, and in that discomfort is a seed of the understanding that most of the serious issues surrounding sex and sexuality are really based in a feeling of embarrassment and discomfort with breaking the consensual silence. Pulling them away from their peers at that point would just reinforce the notion that somehow it wasn't something they should be talking about with those peers - despite the fact that those peers are the ones they'll actually be making sexual decisions affecting, so they really need to learn to talk to them openly about it.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 12 years, 4 months ago

Yes, I see your point about the value of having it discussed with peers. I see value in that, but not the same value that I see in making sure that the subject is handled correctly. I've known too many public school teachers who I'd NEVER want talking to my kids about sex. It's simply an area where I don't trust the system to do the right thing. Also, a person's earliest exposure to sex tends to define how they view sex for many years (if not for their lifetime). I feel that while it is not a topic to be repressed, it is also a topic to be handled very, very seriously. I want my kid to know the fundamental truths about healthy sexuality and be rooted in those things prior to having peer discussions on the subject.

Harry Tuttle 12 years, 4 months ago

Why Grapes of Wrath is banned is because he writes about a man being breast fed to keep him from starvation.

Can you imagine how that will influence the young children of today. Next thing you know they will be sucking on a tit in public!



BunE 12 years, 4 months ago

Big News everyone! Turns out most parents get squeemish when it comes to talking about sex and don't have the foggiest idea how what Whitman or Salinger are saying in their books.

The public schools are supposed to prepare the populace to be good citizens. Creating literate citizens with the ability to reason and understand complex ideas is one job that most parents are not able to do. Even the ones that are qualified may be limited by there own prejudices and blinded by the limitations of their children.

If a parent has raised their child well, than they can understand that these adult themes and situations are just part of the world we live in. If parents have failed their children, now is the perfect time for them to redeem themselves by engaging in a conversation regarding the literature. And if they are really interested in what is going on with their children, they can read the books with them.

Banning books and censoring art and literature is really just intellectual laziness. Sure we want to protect our kids, but the only way that they can be protected is for them to be given the tools to protect themselves.

Now I know that some of you want to complain about the schools or say that its the parents prerogitive what their child should learn. Well, its not.

Bring on Marx and Salinger and Jefferson and Tan. Dickensen and Byron, Shelly and Shakespeare, Twain and Abbey. Bring on The Federalist Papers and Mao's Red Book, The Constitution and the ideas of the Magna Carta. Ideas are not to be feared, they are to be shared and discussed.

Anything less is a disservice to our children our community and ourselves.

Kodiac 12 years, 4 months ago

Speaking of sex, does anyone know if Ms. Tate is single or not?

Ceallach 12 years, 4 months ago

We seem to be comparing apples and oranges with posts today. The article is about a ban on books required for K-12 grades, not college/university classes. Several of the books on "the list" were required reading for advanced literature classes available only to juniors and seniors at my high school. Others on the list I read after 12th grade. Whether or not I was adversely affected would probably depend on who you asked :)

btw, the Song of Solomon is also pretty steamy reading :)

BunE 12 years, 4 months ago

MMMMMMMMM Sharon Tate. Dying to meet her...

Did I say that?

Calliope877 12 years, 4 months ago


Excellent post! I was thinking along the same lines. I think the parents who go along with wanting to ban these books are too ignorant to realize that they're not serving the best interest of their children. The literature they see as pornographic and obscene are anything but. Many of these books depict a brutally honest portrayal of the human condition, and parents or the BOE shouldn't spout off such idiotic terms to describe these very important works of art.

Calliope877 12 years, 4 months ago

If this stupid ban passes, I highly recommend that K-12 English teachers encourage students to check out the banned books from a library or buy them.

PositiveEd 12 years, 4 months ago

Several rhetorical questions:

Have any of you really read any of these books?

Why are you against parents trying to influence the schools they own and fund yearly?

Do you suppose that the people who are typing these suggestive comments would object to any type of material introduced in schools?

avhjmlk 12 years, 4 months ago

Ms. Susan Tate is married to Brad Tate (last I checked), who used to be the principal at LHS and now works in the Park Hill (?) school district in Missouri...

newssleuth2814 12 years, 4 months ago


"Why are you against parents trying to influence the schools they own and fund yearly?"

Because just because a minority number of people have a problem with certain books, they shouldn't theoretically (because I'm sure not everyone who's discussing this issue have children in this district ) "influence" other student's opportunity to read and learn from these classic literature books.

If you look at most of the books that are required reading in high school english classes, you'll find they are mostly books that have been "challenged" or at one time people sought to ban them.

There's a reason those books have made it through hardships to eventually be taught to young inspired minds in schools. These few parents with sensibility issues should not come between that.

For more information on challenged and banned books, I suggest you go to the American Library Association Website at:

Commenting has been disabled for this item.