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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Parents against bad books in schools and the Bible

Parents against bad books in schools and the Bible
Copyright 2009, Jim Penny
Word count: 1143

The other evening, I was searching for something with Google. I do not now recall what it was. Along the way, the website for an organization called Parents Against Bad Books In Schools (www.pabbis.com) appeared in my search results. Well, I'm against poor literature as much as the next reader, but I was pretty sure this group was not interested in providing well-written lit to students. They were more likely to be in the business of banning books from school classes and libraries because of content found to be objectionable, and after a brief look at the site, the latter proved true.

Probably every book ever written, at least of those worth reading, contains some material that someone will find objectionable. People object to Twain's portrayal of Jim. Catcher in the Rye routinely is cited as a problem. The Naked Ape, which was little more than an anthropological dissertation, was controversial because it discussed genitalia, right down to presenting the mean penis length, both flaccid and turgid, in the human population. The Sissy Duckling is 40 pages of wonderful reading for young children that finds itself a target of those who fear it promotes whatever the Homosexual Agenda is. Put And Tango Makes Three in the mix, and apoplexy will quickly become the norm response.

By the way, I have yet to receive my copy of the agenda. If you have a spare, please forward it to me.

The point is that as soon as a title made some hater group's banned list, I bought a copy. I wanted to know what the buzz was about, and I wanted to make my own decision. Interestingly, my parents never stopped me from reading such books, and I certainly never restricted what my own children could read. I can hear Lil's salty tongue now if I suggested she now read something she had chosen already.

PABBIS evaluates a book on several predictable dimensions, including (1) violence, (2) sex, (3) family life, (4) religious degradation, (5) foul language, (6) and a handful of other more minor points. Specific types of violence and sexual content are enumerated, and the evaluator is expected to quantify the degree of explicitness.

As I reflected on the formalization of such reviews designed explicitly to remove important writing from the lives of children, a rerun of a movie appeared on the science fiction channel. An important character in the movie was a young boy being home schooled by his working mother. In an early scene, the mother was telling the boy which chapters of the Bible to memorize that day.

This left me wondering how the Bible would fare in the PABBIS review.

It would fare poorly on violent and sexual content alone. Yet, I doubt anyone with PABBIS would ever suggest removing the Bible from the reach of children. I wouldn't either, no more than I'd remove the Torah, the Qur'an, or any other religious text, most of which, if not all, would very likely fail the PABBIS review.

It seems to me that rather than tell people, including children, what they may and may not read, study, and learn, we should consider a broader perspective, one in which children can learn to draw their own conclusions, and to do so on the basis of what they know, not what they have been told to believe.


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Here is the form PABBIS uses to evaluate a book before it is placed in a school's library. Use caution. This form is a bit licentious in places

SAMPLE BOOK REVIEW DOCUMENTATION FORM

Does the book contain any violent content? Y/N
If yes, check the type(s):
Fights
Beatings
War
Torture of people
Torture of animals
Hangings/executions
Other (describe)

For each type checked above indicate frequency of occurrences using following as a guide:
Few: 1 or 2 times
Some: 3 - 5 times
Many: more than 5 times

For each type checked above also indicate level of vividness/graphicness using the following as a general guide:
Basic (B): cut of his head
Graphic (G): cut off his head, blood gushed onto floor
Very graphic (VG): cut off his head, blood gushed onto floor, splattered on wall and head bounced on the floor
Extremely graphic (EG): cut off his head, blood gushed onto floor, splattered on wall and head bounced on the floor and his brains slowly oozed out onto the carpet in a purple gray mass

Does the book contain any sexual content? Y/N
If yes, check the type(s):
Kissing
Breast descriptions
Breast touching
Sex organ contact
Consensual
Non-consensual
Outside marriage
Within marriage
Sexual assault
Rape
Gang rape
Violence exciting someone sexually
Sadomasochist
Masturbation
Homosexual
Erections
Wet dreams
Bestiality
Pedophilia
Necrophilia
Oral sex
Anal sex
Other (describe)

For each type checked above indicate frequency of occurrences using following as a guide:
Few: 1 or 2 times
Some: 3 - 5 times
Many: more than 5 times

For each type checked above also indicate level of vividness/graphicness using the following as a general guide:
Basic (B): large breasts
Graphic (G): large, voluptuous bouncing breasts
Very graphic (VG):large, voluptuous bouncing breasts with hard nipples
Extremely graphic (EG): large, voluptuous bouncing breasts with hard nipples covered with glistening sweat and bite marks

Does the book contain any Family Life related content? Y/N
If yes describe any Family Life content not covered under sex or violence above (e.g. abortion, suicide, euthanasia, birth control, drugs, alcohol):

Does the book contain any religious degradation or slurs? Y/N
If yes provide brief description/summary:

Does the book contain any foul language? Y/N
If yes, provide summary of which words and frequency of use:

In addition to documenting the content, also document the regarding the book selection:
- What are the course/library objectives?
- Were any alternative books available and/or considered to achieve the course/library  objectives? If so, what were they?
-What sources were consulted in identifying potential alternative books to achieve the course/library objectives?
- If other books were available and/or considered why was this book selected and all other books rejected (censored)?
If less controversial books were considered and rejected (censored) explain why

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