Archive for Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Letters to the editor

October 22, 2003

To the editor:

I have friends and neighbors on both sides of the fence regarding the controversy surrounding "We All Fall Down." So before I made up my own mind I decided to read the book for myself.

I ended up reading it a second time, but not before I sat down with my son, now a sophomore at BHS, who took the course last year and was familiar with the book. I did recall having had a brief conversation with him a year ago when he was in the middle of the readings; nothing he said then raised a red flag. So now I asked him if he could still tell me what the main themes of the book are. He had to think for a minute, but then he rattled off the following: peer pressure, the effects of divorce on kids, alcoholism, mental illness, and making decisions about sexual activity at a young age. I told him I was impressed that he could recall all this a year later. I also asked him what he thought the moral of the story was. He replied, "That's easy, mom. There are consequences for everything you do." I asked him if he was offended by the language in the book. His reply: "It wasn't great, but you hear stuff like that just being out in the world every day." Bottom line: he thought the author "tells it like it is," and thus is able to get through to teenagers in a way that many authors can't.

I then had conversations with three of my son's friends, two of whom took the course two years ago, and the other last year. To a person they felt that Cormier's writing had enough real life situations, with twists and turns and yes, dire consequences, all of which caused teenagers to REALLY think.

So, having listened to these kids, the ones most presumably affected by the book, I am left to wonder: from what are we protecting our kids? Do we really believe they live in a vacuum and are unaffected by what happens all around them? Isn't it better to have them vicariously experience "real life" unpleasant situations within the safety of a classroom discussion? My opinion is that we do our children no favors by shielding them from the darker side of what this life may bring.

Let me be very clear about this: I do believe that every parent has the right to control what their children read, hear, and watch. So those parents who do not want their sons or daughters to read "We All Fall Down," that is their right. (And, as you know, there is already an 'opt out' policy in place for those instances). But I adamantly object when these same parents don't want other people's children, like my son, reading this book. Because then they have taken away MY right as a parent to decide what I want my child to read, hear, and watch. If I believe, as I do, that "We

All Fall Down" has important messages for my son, then I want that book kept in the curriculum. There are many other parents like me who want the same courtesy extended to them. But the decision was totally taken away from us the day the superintendent summarily pulled the book from the curriculum

with little fanfare and no discussion at all. That is simply not right!

In closing I would like to cite a quote from the Kansas Library

Association's intellectual freedom chairwoman, Melanie Miller. In a recent interview with the Lawrence Journal World, she said: "The board's decision to write new policy in the middle of the conflict about 'We All Fall Down' is unwise. The result would be that this book is measured against a standard not in play when Baldwin High School teacher Joyce Tallman selected the book for her class."

Here's the part that really scares me: "The board appears to be pressing for a policy revision that makes it easier to delete

the book as an instructional tool." I refuse to believe that this school board would let it come to that. Please don't let us down.

Terri Knoll-Johnson

Baldwin City

To the editor:

Regarding the book "We All Fall Down" and our school board. The board by clear majority did not ban the book from the library. They voted by majority not to teach using the book, so what is the issue?

Stacy Cohen, I sat on a few corporate boards in my career, lady. The discussion is held within the board. Once a vote is taken and you are in the minority, shut up and move on. You are disrupting progress.

I am semi-retired and have lived in Baldwin City for five years now. I don't know who Betty Bullock is or why she gets so much publicity. Frankly, she seems to know everything about everything. I don't know why the lady doesn't run for mayor, city manager, chief of police, city council and president of the school board. That way she can run everything her way.

Ed Lowther

Baldwin City

(Grandfather of a ninth-grade boy who doesn't need this book.)

To the editor:

I find it quite interesting that the Baldwin City residents most vocal in regard to the "book scandal" at our high school are primarily folks whose children are well below even junior high age. It's difficult to speak about something you have yet to experience, and I wonder what challenges may face these parents when their children are high school freshmen. I am among them. My oldest child is a third-grader.

Watching from the sidelines, I would like to point out that when people in this country express concern for freedom of speech rights, we often forget that this freedom includes not only the right to be exposed to all types of ideas, but also the right not to be exposed to ideas, programs and literature that we find offensive, morally reprehensible or inappropriate in some way. Such opinions are entirely subjective, from all sides.

What I believe many parents of Baldwin area ninth graders find objectionable is not the fact that this controversial book is available in the school library. While a few may be asking for a complete ban of this book, the major point most parents have expressed in conversations I have had is that they do not want their child to be required to read or to listen to excerpts from this or any other book containing similar language and/or situations. Educators make a large leap when they choose to include a book as required reading for a required course. They make an even larger leap when they choose to read aloud during class, to a captive audience, from a controversial book.

To protect the legitimate rights of everyone involved, the appropriate action would be to include such books in the library, available if a student may choose to read them. But these books should not be required reading and especially should never be read aloud to a class when parents may disapprove of the subject matter of the "literature."

Parents do have the right and the responsibility to monitor the messages to which their underage children are exposed. Parents and their children are, indeed, "consumers" in the school district. They do have the right to ask educators to exclude controversial material from the required coursework. Sometimes this may be something an individual parent or student needs to work out, but sometimes it may involve a large number of students. As exemplified by the exclusion of prayer in school, it is sometimes necessary to modify policy when a large number of parents and/or children are negatively affected by a particular activity at the school. I believe the use of "We All Fall Down" as required coursework is one such activity.

Nancy Crisp

Baldwin City

To the editor:

Recently I was watching CNN on television. A soldier in Iraq has set up a website to get the average American to donate school supplies to the children of Iraq. Much has been donated. Boxes of pencils, notebooks, crayons, glue, etc. were open and displayed. Then some of the brown cardboard boxes were shown. One was from Baldwin City, Kansas. How proud I was!

Hildred Cyr

Oak Harbor, Washington

(Formerly of Baldwin City)

To the editor:

Each year the Rainbow Experience preschool sponsors a variety of fundraisers throughout the year, to help raise money to subsidize the operating costs of the school and to purchase new equipment.

Recently, we had our annual chili feed and auction and also included a raffle drawing for a playhouse that was given away during Maple Leaf weekend. These two fundraising efforts proved to be very successful.

The Rainbow Board of Directors and staff want to thank the 50 plus businesses and private individuals who donated items and/or gift certificates for services and goods to our auction. The generosity was overwhelming and helped to make this event our most successful fundraiser to date.

We also would like to thank Mar Lan Construction for donating the playhouse for the raffle and the private individuals who helped to put it together and paint it.

Finally, we want to thank the citizens of Baldwin City and surrounding areas who come to each of our events to show their support for us. Without you, it would be difficult for Rainbow to continue its long tradition in this community.

The Rainbow Experience Board of Directors

To the editor:

On behalf of the Maple Leaf Festival Committee, I would like to thank the hundreds of volunteers who have made last weekend's Maple Leaf Festival a rousing success. Your hard work and continued dedication has once again proven to be the backbone of the festival. From the tram drivers to the city employees, and everyone who volunteered even a few hours of their time, the committee thanks you and appreciates all that you've done on behalf of the festival.

Thanks to the cooperation of Mother Nature, this year's festival boasted the largest attendance numbers in recent years. Although "official" figures have not yet been obtained, many estimate that this year's Maple Leaf had the largest single day attendance on Saturday, and the crowds were generous on Sunday as well.

A festival of this size and prominence takes an enormous amount of planning, and I would like to take a moment to recognize my fellow committee members for their year--round determination, vigilance and planning. It is the committee's desire to award as many scholarships and monetary requests as possible to the well--deserving youth and civic groups in our area, and this is made possible by hosting a successful and profitable Maple Leaf Festival.

Again, thank you to the people of Baldwin for your patience and hard work. You have once again proven what makes this town so special.

Star Novak

Publicity Chair

Maple Leaf Festival Committee

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