Saturday, March 18, 2023

Living in a Tornado


Maybe you've been able to tell that I haven't been "all here" this week. It's been a crazy time, and I think I can now reveal why. I became aware of a parent complaint about some of the books in our school library, which culminated today in this article.

As much as I want to, I can't respond on my blog to the assertions made in that story. That is all up to the school.

I'm dying to say more. DYING to. But I think I'd better leave it there for now.

Meanwhile, I'm going to try to have a normal weekend. I think I'll walk another section of the Thames Path, but I might wait until tomorrow because today looks a bit damp. Today I might just stick to the ol' neighborhood.

(Photo: A fallen primrose in Fortune Green.)

40 comments:

sparklingmerlot said...

You have seemed preoccupied but I put it down to renos and Russians and stuff.

The article seemed as offended by your school fees as the content in your library!

I can't begin to imagine how sore your tongue must be for having to bite it all the time. I would like to think that this will raise genuine discussion about gender and sexuality and how they should be addressed in an educational setting but I fear those with the loud voices and expensive lawyers will shut it all down.

Enjoy your weekend at least.

Andrew said...

I can see through what the article said. What responsible librarian would allow a ten year old to borrow explicit books. I am confident that your library lending and perusing is managed in an age appropriate manner. I wish I had some of those books to read when I was a mid teen. Do some people/parents live in the real world? Do they not imagine what their children can and will see on the net?

Moving with Mitchell said...

I'm glad you're not on the line as a result but your eloquence would serve the school well. What a nightmare.

Rachel Phillips said...

My school library in the 1960s had classics of literature that were deemed the books we should read and were age appropriate and as we got older so the literature became the serious classics and those we would study for the national examinations. Sex education was left to our parent. I don't see a lot wrong with that today but I am sure it is considered old fashioned and out of date.

Yorkshire Pudding said...

Stressful. Trust "The Daily Mail" to pick up on this. I am not of the opinion that absolutely anything goes in school libraries. There have to be some lines and it sounds like "Gender Queer" probably crosses one of those lines. Perhaps it would have been better for the head of the school to say to the complaining father, "Thank you for flagging this matter up. I have discussed it with our library staff and we are going to withdraw it." When a private school charges £38,000 a year you have to keep the boat steady and not risk losing children because of controversy.

Ed said...

I have always thought I was pretty lax when it came to what is acceptable reading material found in school libraries but if those descriptions are accurate, I would probably be wanting them banned too, especially since they apparently are graphically depicted and not just verbally described.

But I also know that there is probably another side to this story that wasn't reported and you can't talk about so I won't make a judgement either way based off one article. Unfortunately, most people would judge everything off that single article and that is a shame.

Pixie said...

Wow. It seems that the writer is only offended by gay and trans gender sex. I don't know if your library has books with straight sex scenes, but I'm guessing yes. Bigotry lives on sadly.

Marcia LaRue said...

You come across as a very intelligent and compassionate guy and, as a librarian and a competent one, you know your audience! I can only imagine you know who should see such reading material and who should wait a while longer!
Wow! That's quite the pricey place you work at/for ...
Hey! Trump is getting arrested on Tuesday! ๐ŸŽ‰๐Ÿ‘

Ms. Moon said...

Oh my. I cannot wait for you to be able to give us the true story.

Debby said...

I will say first and foremost, I do believe those books are totally inappropriate for a 10 year old. No child needs a how-to manual for sex. Not at 10. Not at 16. But let's be real. The kids themselves are viewing this stuff on line. They are watching movies with graphic sex and graphic talk.

What I'm also going to guess is that your library has strict rules about these books. I am going to guess that they are set out like regular books. I am going to guess that they cannot be checked out of the library without written permission of the parent. There is, of course, always the danger of the book being shared among students who DON'T have permission to read it. Perhaps the book cannot be removed from the library?

I guess my take on it is that I'd want to know if my child was reading material like that. If a child is struggling with sexual identity, it is important for their parent to be able to help them.

But then, of course, that leads us square to the point that some parents won't.

I have very mixed feelings I guess. I'm going to be much interested to hear on how your school handles this.

I leave you with this: "If you are a parent and you don't want your kid to read a book, you are within your rights to not allow him to read it. However, you don't have a right to burn the library down."

Debby said...

*NOT set out like regular books.

NewRobin13 said...

I hope the normal weekend and a walk at the Thames Path with Olga helps to keep your mind off of all of this. I'm looking forward to the follow-up, Steve. Take care there.

Ellen D. said...

It sounds complicated and stressful. It will be good when you can tell us more. I trust your judgement, Steve.

Boud said...

The Daily Fail, hitting out at anything American, affluent, etc, as well as information about sex. They're really obsessed with your school.

I hadn't realized it was so posh. I guess it was only a matter of time before the book wars hit your work. Hold on! Yes, A long walk is a good idea.

ellen abbott said...

As Pixie said they only seem concerned about gay sex and the other gendered. Have they not ever read any Nora Roberts with her very detailed sex scenes? Detractors seem to think that these 'how to' books will turn otherwise 'normal' children gay. Which is bullshit. Children know who and what they are, even very young children. the only people who think kids are or can be confused about their sexuality are bigots who refuse to accept the wide range of sexuality in humans. Biology, the shape of your sex organs is not the end all and be all of sexual identity. If confusion arises, it comes from lack of knowledge and lack of acceptance, parents who think no sex education is best. I imagine the 10 year old who gave birth recently was more confused by being raped by her brother than any of those books she might have come across. Do I think a 10 year old should have unfettered access to books like that? Maybe not unfettered but with an understanding adult to talk to them about it. Are any of those books worse than a 10 year old boy with copies of Hustler or Penthouse?

Debby said...

Pixie does make a very good point. I missed it.

I came back to comment. This has been on my mind all morning and this thought came to me as I was washing dishes: What on earth does the tuition at your school have to do with the library situation? Apropos to absolutely nothing I suppose, but it just struck me as funny. I remember that when I was going to school here, in the very same poor county that I live in now, we had, for a time, an exchange program where a handful of kids from Westport CT (which was at the time the richest town in the country) to stay with host families. A handful of our kids would go to host families in Westport, and attend each others' schools. It did not work out for long and the main situation was that the West Port kids were far more advanced than our area. Sex. Drugs. Rock and Roll. They brought it to us.

It just struck me as strange that the tuition should be stressed. Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm going to guess that those kids are exposed to more than their not-so-financially blessed counter parts no matter what's on the school library shelves.

Margaret said...

I was hoping (?) that the book issues were unique to our crazy country. Evidently not. Sorry for the stress an having to bite your tongue. It would be very difficult for me!

Sharon said...

Oh my, the puritans have crossed the pond. I don't envy you having to deal with this mess. I've been feeling bad for American teachers who have been faced with this for at least two years now. Hang in there! I'll look forward to hearing how this plays out.

Marcia LaRue said...

Just an update on the Thing 45 possible arrest ... it's not happening because Thing 45 put that out himself and urging his MAGATS to protest ... another January 6th in the works!

Debby said...

In reading about your school I was shocked to read that in 2021, they lost points for teaching critical race theory. Horrifying.

Elle Clancy said...

This article infuriates me. (And I agree with the others that I'm sure all books with straight sex scenes are perfectly fine for whomever has been making the complaints.) I think librarians are pretty well versed in handling appropriate books for different age groups.

And what is the emphasis on your school's tuition all about?

I'm sure this whole thing has been upsetting to you. My daughter works in an urban school, which has all its own issues. And sometimes the parents are the worst part of her job...

Kelly said...

Wow! Your school is on the hot seat!! I can understand why you've been distracted!

There's a difference between banning books (never a good idea, IMO) and limiting/monitoring what's available for certain ages. And just throwing this out there.... maybe some parents should make more of an effort to read the same books and discuss them with their kids rather than trying to make a fuss.

I'll be interested to hear your opinion, if and when you can share it!

John Going Gently said...

Oh do say more , you have my email

Catalyst said...

Courage, Steve.

Debby said...

This is fascinating. The more I read about things, the more interesting this becomes. Reading about the book that so offended the sensibilities of the Daily Mail, it seems as if they may highlighting the perceived offensiveness in the book while ignoring the book as a whole, which has received quite a bit of praise.

I am curious to hear how your school has handled this.

Allison said...

Oy. This sounds terrible. Hope you do not experience any backlash.

Boud said...

An afterthought: Prince Harry is suing the Daily mail for various crimes against his safety and privacy. He's planning to appear in court to testify in person, early May. It's entirely possible that the Mail is frantically trying to create diversions, and I notice the xenophobia in their writing here, too.

Entirely possible that your school, and the books cited, are collateral damage in a bigger legal issue. Just a thought.

Linda Sue said...

Daily Rag tries so hard to create turmoil where there is none, It sells. And when i was a child i would not even be interested in those books- give me a good horse story, please. I did read about
'Christine Jurgenson (sp?) when I was a child, and just thought it was a sad story more about bigotry than about x-rated genitalia. That is a really terrible article, they should be shut down forever, NOT the library!

Red said...

I hope you have the back up of a very firm administrator. I've been there. It's not funny. Somehow or other I was the one to implement the new health curriculum in our school. It wasn't funny at the parent meetings. I hope you know who is making the complaint. All the best in this fight!

Chris and Mike said...

Ugh. Welcome to Idaho, Steve. I do think that some materials are inappropriate for kids, but I also trust libraries and librarians to use good judgment in deciding how to provide access to difficult material. It would be very enlightening to hear other sides of the story. You are wise to keep silent for now, but I hope you'll be able to share your library's perspective and your own perspective at some point.

Chris from Boise

Claudia said...

The Christian right has been flooding our media in the US with scathing remarks about these very books for some time. It doesn’t take too much research to realize that the Daily Mail has misrepresented the content. If you don’t want to take the time to read all of them, a quick look at the Amazon reviews paints a different picture. All of the negative reviews are from commenters who have not read the book as indicated by no “verified purchase”. I actually have been wanting to read Lawn Boy and hope that I can get it at the library since I am trying hard not to buy any more books.
I just very recently retired from an Independent school here in the States and our tuition for boarders is sixty eight thousand per year and a little less for the few day students that we have.Some students do have scholarships.That is pretty standard to an Independent school. This must be very stressful for you. I hope that the administration is supportive. I am curious about the HeadMistress abandoning ship.

Jim Davis said...

Well, I see the culture wars have reached your shores as well. Like others who have commented here I think that there is some material that is inappropriate for young children, but that is the responsibility of the school librarians and administrators to review and make an informed call. That article was terrible and the intent seemed to be to stoke fake outrage more than anything else. You are wise to keep your own counsel for now. Hang in there.

River said...

I'm old-fashioned and don't believe those books should be in school libraries and available to young children. Perhaps a "closed door" section and only for older children who need these books?

Bob said...

I found two of the commenters spot on: the one by Pixie that said article seems highly offended by The Gay and The Trans, but not The Straight. That's bigotry.
And the one from Debby, who said remove the book, don't burn the library down.

Those books do sound inappropriate for children of a certain and should maybe be placed where only older students have access, with parental approval. I am always bothered by the ONE parent who thinks the school should be run THEIR way, and yet refuses to listen to anyone else's opinion.

Vicki-Texas said...

“ But you can’t make people listen. They have to come around in their own time, wondering what happened and why the world blew up around them. It can’t last.” Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451. Hang in there.

Steve Reed said...

Thanks for all the thoughtful comments, everyone. I especially appreciate those of you who commented a few times -- I can see the issue stayed with you and left you thinking, which is great. I wish I could respond individually but I'm trying to say as little as possible about this publicly for now. Still, I appreciated all of your insight!

Jeanie said...

Wow. We're seeing a lot of this over on this side of the pond and for some (probably naive) reason, I thought the Brits were wiser than we are. (Of course, since it's an American school, so much for that theory. I do hope that your school administration calls you and any other library staff in for a discussion on how to respond here. I can see where you are in a bit of a bad spot and why you can't share here or in public but I hope at some point you'll be able to tell us the rest of the story. I've read all the comments here and I can say you have a wise, thoughtful following (I hope you count me as one of them). I feel for the kids who will really need some of those books -- I suspect they aren't getting a lot of support or information at home (or feel comfortable with asking.)

Lindsey said...

This makes me so mad. If you don't think a book is appropriate for your family, make your expectations clear with your children about the media they consume. You don't get to make those decisions for other people. This isn't curriculum, no one is being forced to read it.

Beth Reed said...

Steve Hang Tough, it looks like you're in for a hell of a ride.

If the books do depict what they say they do, then no a 10-year-old does not need access to it at the moment. What a 10-year-old needs is a parent child conversation!
I suspect that as here, the journalist is blowing this stuff up and that there is a total other side to the story. It has been going crazy here, but this article is full of more offensive stuff than I have read from news here in America. Now that is not to say that some books should be limited to age related kids.

One of my daughters in first or second grade started having night terrors as did my son in 4th grade. I couldn't figure it out, the screaming and crying and shaking. I was worried sick.
My best friend came down from Dallas and talked with my kids and they opened up to her.
They were being forced to check out and read R.L.Stein books. Not the Goosebumps, but another.
I was able to read one of the books and no wonder my kids were having night terrors. It was awful, showing what one girl went to through just to survive while staying alive from a jealous mean girl back in the 17th century. It was horrible and I get chills even now.
The school did not take my concerns seriously. I didn't ask them to remove the book, just to make sure that they were not available to my kids. The final straw came when my daughter's teacher gave her a failing grade. I threw a fit and demanded that they correct it and they did. But this is an entirely different type of situation.

I suspect that the Daily Mail embellished this article, and I cannot wait until you can tell us more about the true story. I am upset that the language and description in the article is far more detailed than what I have read here about the books. Just the GenderQueer book. I have not heard anything about the rest of them.

I really hope that your administrator stays on top of this and defends you and the library. I cannot imagine that you would let a 10-year-old check out a book that should be meant for an older student. I am so sorry that you're having to deal with all of this. xx

Tasker Dunham said...

The 15-year-old me thought Peyton Place was pretty steamy. It would have meant deep trouble to be caught reading it at school. But we could drink as much 2% Top Deck Shandy as we wanted, even at school.