Pulling book was a mistake
To the Editor:
I, too, deplore young people’s use of “foul language,” but hearing or reading it would not have affected me when I was 14 because my Southern Baptist Sunday School teacher and my parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and friends were a much stronger influence.
Tragically, young people have long experienced violence and obscenity. My teen years were spent living in Selma, Alabama, and I was there when Bloody Sunday and, after, the march to Montgomery. (Even seeing police and “deputized” white citizens beating peaceful demonstrators on their heads, kicking and knocking them down did not make me hate all my fellow white people. It made me hate the violence that the minority of white people were perpetrating.)
I realize that today’s generation is different from ours because of public role models on digital media. Perhaps the father who asked for “Dear Martin” to be pulled from the shelves at Tuscola High School could first have discussed the objectionable segments with his child and also investigated the media the child accesses. Electronic media is pervasive. Unfortunately, books aren’t.
I am a retired English teacher but haven’t read the novel that the one parent objected to. The novel is clearly a lesson in how not to behave and think, a lesson in choosing nonviolent, positive dialogue.
I suspect that reading the whole book, the father would have found that the main character, in emulating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a theologian and nonviolent leader, would have stopped using the language that the one parent objected to.
When a superintendent fails to respect the judgment of those who by professional training know much more about an academic discipline than he does, we’re in totalitarian-land. A year or two ago, when Superintendent Bill Nolte was discovered to be frequenting a website that promotes hate and racism, I went to that website. On the same page with the post he shared on Facebook was a much-doctored photograph of a Democratic senator with a caption saying that she would be happy for American women to be raped for some idiotic reason I don’t recall because it’s too irrational, vile and insane to recall.
This is the man who unilaterally decided what professionals can and cannot assign to students. Clearly, he needed significant training in detecting faked photographs and hate-spreading social media.
As the article notes, all the parent had to do was follow the school system guidelines by telling the teacher he wanted his child assigned another novel without obscene.
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Mary, your comments are powerful and true. The only problem with your suggestion to the father is that it would require work on his part....first reading the entire book and then actually sitting down and having a discussion with his child. As for the superintendent.....we know his motives. I remember when he wouldn’t allow the children in this district to stand with the victims of the Parkland mass shootings.
Apology for the sentence structure errors--hasty editing. Corrections in CAPS:
Second paragraph: and I was there when Bloody Sunday and, after, the march to Montgomery, HAPPENED.
Last paragraph: As the article notes, all the parent had to do was follow the school system guidelines by telling the teacher he wanted his child assigned another novel without "obscene" LANGUAGE.
I would add that what is considered "obscene" or "objectionable" seems to vary widely today, and not only generationally. To me no words are more obscene than the actions of people who perpetrate violence against others, especially when motivated by racism. The novel "Dear Martin" teaches people not to hate, to use polite language and non-violent behavior, to hate the action and not the person. As the interview in this weeks Smoky Mountain News with Nic Stone, the novelist who wrote "Dear Martin" shows, that is exactly her intent; her respect and concern for the parent who got her novel pulled shows that she practices what she preaches.
Well said. I am always a bit flabbergasted by white people who claim to know what MLK would have wanted 50+ years after his death.