You’re probably against banning books in Park City Schools, but you should listen to this KPCW interview
You are probably against banning books in our schools. If you are like me, you like to think of yourself as as an enlightened person who believes our children should have even more enlightening experiences in school. Those experiences will push our students beyond areas where they are comfortable to become well-rounded adults.
Yet, this morning parents Kathy Pratchett and Diane Livingston were interviewed by KPCW’s Leslie Thatcher. Ms. Pratchett and Diane Livingston were interviewed about parents’ choice over what their children are required to read in Park City Schools. They appear to have an opposite view. They posit the question, “How can teachers ask students to read pornography in our schools?”. They made great arguments. Ms. Pratchett and Ms. Livingston argued:
- That some Park City School District teachers are choosing books that are pornographic in nature.
- That the term ‘pornographic’ is specifically defined by Utah law and PCSD is using pornographic material. The state of Utah has defined pornography as showing or writing about masturbation, sex, or touching.
- That PCSD’s own technology filters prevent accessing information about some of the books prescribed by teachers because the technology filters deem the books as pornographic.
- Students/Parents aren’t always presented with alternative books before their students can access the material.
It’s a tough question. Years ago, we argued over censoring books like J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. For 30 years, it was the most censored book in America due to its “foul language,” “filthiness,” and sexual content. Yet, twenty years later, is anyone really worried it uses the word “goddamn”? As I look at the top five books censored today, they are:
- Gender Queer
- Lawn Boy
- All Boys Aren’t Blue
- Out of Darkness
- The Hate you Give
I can see how some people would be concerned if their child brought home these books (based on the title). Just like I could see how some people would be concerned when their 1960 child brought home Catcher in the Rye. We are a product of our time and how we want to raise our children.
Just because the school district is fine with books about masturbation, that doesn’t mean a parent is. If you don’t quite get the nuance, I will encourage you to watch the movie “The People Versus Larry Flynt.” Could a teacher decide Hustler is art?
However, like most things in Utah, in reality, it comes down to the fact you live in Utah. Don’t want your Park City property taxes sent to other Utah schools? Don’t live here (or change the law). Want wine shipped to your house? Don’t live here (or change the law). Don’t like the definition of pornography? Don’t live here (or change the law).
Utah has laws, and they aren’t always the ones we want.
Back to reality. The Park City School District’s primary problem is that they haven’t provided a process in which parents can effectively and easily opt out for their children. If parents could understand the curriculum for the year, down to the book, and then have a “clean” alternative, that would meet the need of most parents.
I believe that most parents who are concerned about their children reading pornographic material in our schools would be OK if there was a proper process in place to let the parent opt-out for their family. If some other parent’s kid wanted their child to read about sex, masturbation, etc. they are OK with that for the other kid.
That said, there isn’t going to be some massive book-banning event on Main Street. That’s not what this is about.
What it should be about is providing a simple process for parents to opt out — even if you and I would probably never do that. That will enable us as a community to wade the fine line between porn, art, Utah law, and Park City.