This is what we are debating when we are talking about limiting some books in Park City schools
The debate is interesting when it comes to “book banning” in Park City Schools. As many people are aware, the Utah Legislature requires schools to adopt a content policy for library materials that are sensitive. This has led to discussions about what is appropriate in our school libraries.
Two local parents were on KPCW yesterday, talking about why they are concerned about the type of content in Park City schools’ libraries. They are being labeled as “book banners” by many. They are called “Karens” by others. However, in many ways, they opened my mind yesterday as I listened to some of their arguments.
With that in mind, I looked at some of the books they are concerned with. Let’s just say it was eye-opening. Before this issue was raised in Park City, I would have considered myself a person who would have argued against removing any books from PCSD school libraries. However, this debate has changed that view a bit.
With that in mind, here is the most interesting book I found. It is called Fun Home and is allegedly at the Treasure Mountain’s Library (so, that means 13-year-olds and above). It’s a graphic novel with a compelling story. It is about a young woman who is gay and her personal growth. It is about a father who is gay and kills himself. It’s by all accounts an interesting book. However, it is a graphic novel.
That is just one of many “graphic” pages in the book. Now, should that book be banned? Of course not. Is there anything wrong with what it depicts? No. It sounds like a modern coming-of-age story with complex concepts. Should it be in the Treasure Mountain Junior High library? Probably not.
I think if you believe this should be at TMJH, you also have to be OK with other things. If a student draws this scene in class, they shouldn’t get punished. If they submit this in an art exhibition at school, it should be on the walls of the school. If a student wants to wear this image on a t-shirt at school, they should be allowed. If there are similar graphic novels that depict oral sex or anal sex between young adults, those need to be allowed too.
Perhaps I am a prude. If I had grown up in Europe instead of Kansas, would I think differently? I’m not sure. Should this book be banned? No, it should be available at the Park City and Kimball Junction Libraries. I also get that removing books from school libraries is a slippery slope. Where does it stop?
Overall, I don’t have the answer. I think we as a community need to find a balance. As Larry Flynt once said, “In 1973, the Supreme Court ruled that individual communities should set obscenity standards. Whenever a case is tried, it will be based on a community standard for that particular place.” I believe we, as a community, need to figure this out. But it’s a tough job.
However, it’s also important for everyone to know we aren’t debating whether The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn should be in our school’s libraries. It’s far more complicated than that.
“I think if you believe this should be at TMJH, you also have to be OK with other things…”
Sorry, no, I don’t “have to be.” We could argue, but I think that’s a false equivalence.
I’m sure there is some nuance to it, but if one child can see it in the library, then it should be able to see it everywhere in school. That may be alright, but I think that’s what we are signing up for. A teacher should be able to wear a shirt with the above graphic on it, celebrating the artist. It would be an important piece of art that should be visible in our schools. We just have to be OK with that.
Thanks for the calm discourse. Indeed, nuanced. This isn’t a tough job to figure out unless we make it so.
Across the board, I choose to be critical of What-about-ism. Nor do I go to the worst (or best) vectors of outcomes.
A student individually visiting the library, reading, and viewing the exampled content is different from highlighting, parading, and publicly displaying it.
As a somewhat absurd illustration, there is likely a book in the library (and I don’t know this) that chronicles World War II. It may contain exhibits of a symbol. (I’m attempting to avoid the filters.) I’m OK with this illustration in a book in the library, but not on hallway posters or T-shirts.
Viewing the excerpted illustration or a symbol from pre-WWII isn’t a gateway, in my opinion.
9th graders, 14/15 y.o., aren’t so fragile and maybe shouldn’t be. “The more you know.”
*The More You Know is NBCUniversal’s acclaimed public service initiative focused on education, diversity, health, civic engagement, the environment and more.
I loved the More You Know segments at the end of Saved by the Bell. What a different time, I suppose. Maybe not a better time.
What I really love are conversations like this. When you wrote about the Swastika concept on t-shirts, I immediately thought, “Is that banned in Park City Schools? Does that violate first amendment rights?” I know that the symbolism is horrible, but I wondered about the law. I researched it and the Supreme Court has upheld that a student has first amendment rights but if the display of first amendment rights could cause a disruption, then a school can limit that.
So, if a student were to wear a t-shirt displaying oral sex, I can see how that could cause a disruption. So, I probably presented a bridge too far on that one. Yet, I wonder if a student drew the picture as part of an art project and all students’ art was displayed on the walls, could this one be removed if an equally graphic picture was available in the school’s library?
Anyhow, I don’t know the answer to that legally… but either way, I really appreciate the discourse.
My wife has done a lot of volunteer time in the school libraries in PC. Pretty sure if this was at Treasure, it would be behind the counter and a kid would have to have the guts to ask for it. The librarians do a great job curating the right books for the environment. Besides, all these kids have cell phones and have access to all kinds of crazy.
Bigger issue is the high school doesn’t even have a library last I checked.
Which class specifically is assigning “Fun Home” as required reading?
Oh? None of them? Literally no one is being required to read this book. I’m not even convinced it’s actually in the library somewhere, but so what if it is? Iirc the example you gave of what might happen, should a 14 or 15 yr old view this page, is… giggling?
The actual classroom materials under fire here appear to be novels by Sherman Alexie and Margaret Atwood. I’m sure there are others but those are what I’ve heard mentioned.
And can we talk about the library shelf pic you chose for a header? D-Day: horrible bloody violence, Nazis and dead boys up to your eyeballs. Battle of the Bulge: same. Gandhi: sexual abuser, no fan of white people (not sure which would bother the book police more.) Casanova: I mean, talk about sexually explicit content. Tolkien: RAMPANT AND PERVASIVE DRUG USE BY HOBBITS!! Oliver Twist: lotta woke lefty indoctrination about societal responsibility for not just allowing children to starve in the streets OR be worked to death, pfff! Shall we ban these too? What do you think will be left when the ascendant authoritarian right is content?
The requirement of the Utah Legislature is that every school district has a policy in place to account for “sensitive material.” This not only applies to assigned reading by teachers but to school libraries as well. I have not personally verified that “Fun Home” is available at TMJH, but I believe the card catalog states that it is.
As for the image you reference on the header of the article, I actually chose that on purpose. How do we decide what is OK (which actually takes the “side” of those against any limiting of books)? New readers may think that I am somehow a “book burner” because I wrote an article that says that two people on KPCW made me question my beliefs on books that should be in our school libraries. In reality, I am about as far from a “book burner” as you could find.
Yet I do look for inconsistencies in people’s logic (not yours but just in general). While most people are against limiting books in our schools, would they feel different with films? I look at the top films on IMDB that contain nudity (https://www.imdb.com/list/ls028858145/) and a few of those would seem to have overall value for minors. Would those be OK to show in school? I am sure that some parents would be OK with that. However, I am sure some wouldn’t. Therefore, having a process in place to review content for our schools doesn’t seem out of the question.
There is a big difference between required reading and a library book.
Plus, no worries when the kids get to high school—because our district got rid of the high school library some years ago.
The Park City High School does NOT HAVE A LIBRARY. Now that is indeed a disservice to our students.
Opt out if you have concerns.
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