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Gay Penguins? Oh Puuuleeease!

Scott on November 17, 2006 at 12:59 pm

Though I am VERY PROUD to be a teacher, sometimes it is embarassing to be connected with the educational system. This is the latest example that illustrates how “bass ackwards” (as my grandfather would say) the administrative side of education can be.

Short version of this story: At the New York City Zoo, two male penguines “adopted” a fertilized egg. The egg hatched and these two guys raised it as its parents. Someone wrote a children’s book about it, and at about midway through the book, the zookeeper makes the statement that the two male penguins must be in love. This made many parents uncomfortable whose children attend an elementary school that makes this book available to kids ages 4-8 who might want to read it. The parents did not ask that the book be removed. They simply asked that it be moved to a section of the library that contains books of a more “sensative” and/or more mature nature. So far, the school district has refused.

I haven’t read the book, though I am vaguely familiar with the true-life penguin story that inspired the book. Based on what I have read online, it appears that the intent of the authors (who are in a committed gay relationship) was to tell a “cute” story while also paralleling it with the idea of gay parenting in general.

Though I have great difficulty with the idea of homosexuality, my problem at this particular time is with how this book has been handled by the school and school district in the small town of Shiloh, Ill. Once again, the educational system is trying to push an agenda that THEY have determined to be beneficial and important for the children and parents in their community. Forget that the majority of parents disagree. Forget that the whole idea of homosexuality is the source of great debate and disagreement in the country and culture at large. Since THEY have decided that it is important, then they will do whatever they want to push their decision upon everyone else…like it or not.

According to news accounts, parents at the school made a simple request: “Move the book to the library’s regular shelves and restrict it to a section for mature issues, perhaps even requiring parental permission before a child can check it out.” A panel was conveined at the request of the district superintendent Jennifer Filyaw. This panel came back with a recommendation that mirrored the parents’ request: move the book and allow for parental permission for it to be checked out. However, the Superintendent decided to ignore the panel’s recommendations. An attorney for the district said that moving the book might be viewed as censorship!

Censorship?!?! Excuse me?!? That is one of the stupidest things I have heard come out of the mouth of educational administration in a long time. To be clear, among other things censorship deals with the idea of deleting parts of written work believed to be objectionable on moral, political, military, or other grounds. Censorship would involve someone interfering with the publication of the book, or making sure that nobody has access to the book if it is published.

The parents aren’t asking for censorship. They are asking for responsible oversight. If THAT is censorship, then so is not allowing my 5 year old look at pornography and not letting my 12 year old to see slasher films. It is a parent’s JOB to censor what is available for their children’s consumption. The school superintendent and the district’s attorney can let their own children read whatever they want them to, but they don’t have the right to determine how other parents structure what their own children read and/or watch.

Unfortunately, though, this story doesn’t surprise me. There is a rule of thumb in education that for every 1 good administrator there are 9 complete morons, and the complete morons usually end up running the show.


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Category: Books, Politics, Science & Tech |

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