However, banning books is a far cry from believing that some books are not worth reading. Or recommending specific books.
Larry, over at Photogr Thinks emailed me this week saying he was appalled and asking if he was becoming a prude in his old age with a link to an article about Kevin Jennings promoting explicit school reading lists. Somehow I'd missed out on this whole situation so I did some research to find out more.
What I found was that Kevin Jennings is the founder of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). Recently he was appointed by the Obama administration as Assistant Deputy Secretary for the Office of Safe & Drug Free Schools in the US Department of Education. GLSEN strives to influence the educational curriculum to include materials which the group believes will increase tolerance of gay students and decrease bullying. To that end, GLSEN maintains a recommended reading list of books that GLSEN’s directors think all kids should be reading: gay kids should read them to raise their self-esteem, and straight kids should read them in order to become more aware and tolerant and stop bullying gay kids. Through GLSEN’s online ordering system on their Web site, teachers can buy the books to use as required classroom assignments, or students can buy them to read on their own.
But critics say many of the books, particularly some that are targeted for children between Grades 7 to 12, are inappropriately explicit. Maxim Lott over at Fox News had this to say about some of the books on this recommended reading list:
"One recommended book is titled "Queer 13: Lesbian and Gay Writers Recall Seventh Grade." On pages 43 through 45, writer Justin Chin tells of how as a 13-year-old, he went along with "near-rapes" by older men, but "really did enjoy those sexual encounters." Chin also recounts each sexual action he performed with an "ugly f*** of a man" he met on a bus.In another book, "Passages of Pride," the author writes about a 15-year-old boy's relationship with a much older man."
I also found an informative article at First Things that actually has photocopied pages from books on this reading list, and then has written what is on the photocopied pages next to the photocopied pages for easy reading. These pages gave me a better feel for what all the concern about these recommended books was about.
As I say above, I'm not about banning books. I also do not want gay students, or any other students, to be bullied. I think learning to live with others who have different lifestyles and beliefs from your own is an important part of children learning to live successfully in their world.However, in response to Larry's query to me, No, I do not think he's a prude.
As I read through the pages over at First Things it hit me how poorly written the material was and how odd it was to be recommending this type of book in a school setting. Then, the more I read, the more I found the writing of what could be described as a porno type style; the type of thing one would buy in a paperback, low quality book. I also found the types of encounters described in these books to involve adults and children together in sexual activities - which should not be occurring be it homo or hetero sexual activity. So all together I found myself appalled that anyone would want to list these books on a reading list for young people in schools; much less someone who is serving as our Assistant Deputy Secretary for our Office of Safe & Drug Free Schools in the US Department of Education.
But, I'd be interested to hear what you think. What do you think of the Obama administration's appointment of Kevin Jennings to be Assistant Deputy Secretary for our Office of Safe & Druge Free Schools in the US Department of Education? What do you think of his recommended reading lists for school children?