If anyone doubts that the national debate over inappropriate school library books and a sexualized agenda for public education has come to Alamance County, may we suggest you get online and watch the most recent ABSS school board meeting.
Here are the two “sides,” first as expressed by the superintendent in removing one highly provocative book, Gender Queer, from the Western High School library:
In an interview with The Alamance News earlier this month, after deciding to remove the book, superintendent Dain Butler termed its sexually explicit images and themes “highly inappropriate,” “borderline pornographic,” and he added that the book “does not represent what we should be sharing with our students.”
But this week, school board members heard from the Western High School librarian, Tim Johnson, who acknowledged it was his decision to buy and stock the book, which he described as “material of the highest quality and part of a comprehensive collection appropriate for all users” of the high school library.
All the more amusing were the comments of the teacher of the year, Medora Burke-Scoll, who admonished Butler “next time place your trust in your staff.”
Trust the staff?
Apparently Johnson’s action was taken before Butler arrived (in July), but if that’s the kind of decision educators say should be “trusted” to staff, we’d have to suggest administrators need to review and examine many other decisions that ostensibly “professional” staff have been making about what’s appropriate “education” for ABSS students.
Two recent ABSS graduates – Finn Groom, a Western High grad and current Guilford College freshman, and Andrew Jordan, another Western High grad and a freshman at N.C. State – lauded access to the book.
Groom challenged the description as “pedophilic and pornographic” as “simply untrue.”
Groom suggested that removing such books from the schools is “sheltering” ABSS students and “putting them at a disadvantage.”
Jordan claimed that the Gender Queer book provided an “accurate representation of [his] experiences growing up; simply put, I feel seen and heard for the first time.”
Jordan and Groom tried to conflate the removal of the book with an overall attitude of discrimination against what Jordan called LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transsexual, queer or questioning, intersex, asexual, and more).
“Why do you view representation of the LGBTQIA+ community as disgusting, pornographic, distracting or suggestive?” he asked. “If only you cared as much about the disgusting, hurtful, and harassing words and actions that happen to our LGBTQIA+ students; if only action was being taken to help these students.”
We think most parents, and students, would prefer to remain blissfully ignorant about the details and images in these types of books.
We have no doubt but that the average parent (of any age child) would find the images, if nothing else, highly offensive and inappropriate – and, as the superintendent, rightly described, “borderline pornographic,” although our view is the adjective is not needed to describe the vileness of the material in this particular book.
One part of us wants to reprint some of the most salacious passages and illustrations; we’re quite confident 99.9 percent of readers would find them highly objectionable.
Parents need to be aware that the Culture War battle rages – at least among those who still want such graphic LGBTQ-etc. advocacy and promotion – not only at Western High School but across the county.
Most fundamentally, this is not where the focus of ABSS education should be.
So while the current Western High School librarian and some of his former students and a few other ABSS personnel may be consumed with this issue, most people – parents, teachers, and students alike – are not.
The superintendent was right to remove this particular book.
Parent, teachers, and students should continue to applaud his decision and – even more so – his commitment to getting the school system’s priorities in the right order.