Parents Shouldn’t Let Schools Force Kids To Read Smut

Parents Shouldn’t Let Schools Force Kids To Read Smut

Public schools are slipping kids text porn and treating parents like crazy people when they try to protect their kids.
Jenni White
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Editor’s Note: This article contains graphic, fictional descriptions of sex, incest, sexual assault, and rape.

Four years ago, Laura Murphy, a mother of four from Fairfax, Virginia, was handed the Toni Morrison book “Beloved” by her son, then a senior at a local public high school. She flipped through the book, reading: “All in their twenties, minus women, fucking cows, dreaming of rape, thrashing on pallets, rubbing their thighs and waiting for the new girl.”

“I was just blown away,” she said. As Murphy continued to read, she discovered other graphic scenes depicting gang rape and bestiality.

“Both my boys [including her then-sophomore, who had been assigned “Obasan”] had complained for a long time about the books they had been told to read in school. Finally, I sat down to look at them. It was clear why neither one wanted to read their assigned books any more.”

After becoming familiar with the high school reading list that not only included “Beloved” and “Obasan” (a book about Japanese internment that contains descriptions of a little girl being repeatedly molested by a much older neighbor), but “The Bluest Eye,” another Morrison book, Murphy decided to make her concerns known to the school’s administration.

If Parents Know, They Won’t Like It

During a meeting with the principal and assistant principal, teachers, librarians, and the English Department chair, an English teacher told Murphy it was important to assign literary material written by best-selling, award-winning authors and if teachers publicly identified books containing sexually explicit material, parents won’t want their kids to read them.

When she attempted to email direct quotes from ‘Beloved’ to members, the agency firewall prevented her communications from being delivered.

“The principal said he didn’t feel he needed to make a change, and that I needed to go to the county level where my only recourse was to challenge a single book,” Murphy said. Murphy chose to challenge “Beloved,” losing each of three appeals.

Dissatisfied with the outcome, Murphy took her case to the Virginia Board of Education. When she attempted to email direct quotes from “Beloved” to members, the agency firewall prevented her communications from being delivered.

“At that point, some eyebrows were raised,” said Murphy. “They [the Board] have been extremely supportive, but there was just delay after delay.”

Finally, Murphy sought help from the Virginia legislature, where she was able to advance legislation requiring public schools to notify parents of sexually explicit material, allow them to review that content, and grant them an opt-out. In February, the bill passed unanimously out of the House of Delegates (98-0) and the Senate Education and Health Subcommittee (3-2).

Parents Feel Bullied To Comply

Kim Heinecke, also a mother of four with two teenaged sons, is an Edmond, Oklahoma, mother who can relate to Murphy’s battle. After her son, a public school sophomore, was assigned the books “The Kite Runner” and “The Glass Castle” as required reading for English II and Pre-AP English II, Heinecke went to the principal and asked for a conference.

“He talked to the teachers [prior to the meeting] and the English teacher’s response to him was that it was an award-winning book and kids hear this kind of thing all the time. I felt as though I didn’t have a right to tell them I didn’t want my kid to read it. They made me feel stupid,” Heinecke said.

She then wrote a letter to the Superintendent of Edmond Public Schools and to the Edmond School Board, detailing her concerns about the books, along with excerpts such as these;

I went into Grandpa’s bedroom and saw Erma [grandmother] kneeling on the floor in front of Brian [9-year-old grandson], grabbing at the crotch of his pants, squeezing and kneading while mumbling to herself and telling Brian to hold still, goddammit. Brian, his cheeks wet with tears, was holding his hands protectively between his legs. ‘Erma, you leave him alone!’ I shouted. Erma, still on her knees, twisted around and glared at me, ‘Why, you little bitch!’ she said. (page 146, “The Glass Castle”)

My mind flashed to that winter day six years ago. Me, peering around the corner in the alley. Kamal and Wali holding Hassan down. Assef’s buttock muscles clenching and unclenching, his hips thrusting back and forth. (page 116, “The Kite Runner”)

She also made as many parents aware of the situation as she could, even creating a form letter they could send to the superintendent and board on their behalf, but found few parents would use it.

“They didn’t want to make waves because they didn’t want their kids to be singled out,” Heinecke said. “Parents didn’t know what was in the book, but once they knew, they assumed if a teacher was putting their signature on it, the teacher knew best, instead of saying it’s my kid, it’s my choice. Making waves with teachers is intimidating.”

Standing Up For Kids Makes You a Cuss Word

In 2012, Lebanon, Oregon, mother of two Macey France began studying the nationwide implementation of Common Core. While looking through a document titled “Common Core Appendix B” that contained reading exemplars, Macey found the book, “The Bluest Eye” listed as an example of appropriate assigned literature for eleventh- and twelfth-grade students.*

France, a contributor to the website PolitiChicks, took to her keyboard and typed up a scathing condemnation of the book as not high-school appropriate, including quotes directly from the book, such as:

Pages 162-163: A bolt of desire ran down his genitals…and softening the lips of his anus…He wanted to fuck her—tenderly. But the tenderness would not hold. The tightness of her vagina was more than he could bear. His soul seemed to slip down his guts and fly out into her, and the gigantic thrust he made into her then provoked the only sound she made. Removing himself from her was so painful to him he cut it short and snatched his genitals out of the dry harbor of her vagina. She appeared to have fainted.

As a result, her article “Common Core-Approved Child Pornography” was viewed and shared hundreds of thousands of times and Macey was nominated for a CPAC blogger award for Best Sunlight Post of 2013.

“This is when I first became a ‘target’ for the progressives who support public education and minimize parental rights,” said France, who had a hard time understanding how her well-researched, truthful article could make her the target of the kind of emotional, hateful rhetoric she experienced. It frustrated her to be personally attacked for wanting to protect her kids. It also frustrated her to find many parents who weren’t concerned about their teens reading “The Bluest Eye” because they believed school officials knew more about what was best for their children than they did.

“I was called names, accused of being backwards, racist [Toni Morrison is a black woman], ignorant, a flat-earther, and even received private messages on Facebook telling me how hateful I was,” France said. “I was first introduced to the phrase ‘white privilege.’ At one point, I was called Hitler. I was misunderstood and accused of wanting to ban and burn books [even though] I went out of my way to convey that I am not an advocate for banning literature. I am a huge parental rights advocate. I got the distinct impression I was not supposed to question the manner in which they [educators] related to my kids.”

Book Burning and Protecting Kids Are Not the Same Thing

Although the mothers interviewed for this story were accused of book banning and censorship to some degree, nothing could be further from the truth. Laura Murphy began by asking the principal of her son’s school to identify the books on the book list that contained sexually explicit material. When he wouldn’t do that, Murphy sought the help of the state school board, which finally added verbiage to the school code ordering schools to “adopt policies and criteria” for “sensitive” or “controversial” materials. Even the Virginia legislature directs schools to create policies that allow parents to be notified about the use of sexually explicit literature in public schools, not ban their use.

Schools cannot assign every book; that does not mean they’re ‘banning’ or ‘censoring’ all those they do not assign.

Although nothing was ever said about banning books at any level, more 1,200 people commented in an online public forum about the proposed change to the Virginia school code, many responding with charges of censorship and book banning. (The government host of the public town-hall website removed direct quotations from the assigned books that had been added to some comments because it determined the quotes to be obscene and possibly harmful to children.) 

But declining to assign a book to all students is not the same as burning all copies of it. Schools cannot assign every book; that does not mean they’re “banning” or “censoring” all those they do not assign.

In her letter to the Edmond School Board, Kim Heinecke asks administrators to reconsider the assigned books for the high school book list or to inform parents about the sexually explicit nature of books on the list. She also argues that applying the section of the Student Handbook on “Inappropriate Language” to the books in question would mean they couldn’t be read aloud in a classroom. She never argued they should be banned from public use.

Applying the section of the Student Handbook on ‘Inappropriate Language’ to the books in question would mean they couldn’t be read aloud in a classroom.

France simply exposed the use of “The Bluest Eye” in high school classrooms as suggested by the Common Core State Standards. Her article never articulated a desire to ban the book, just educate parents about the fact that it was approved for use at the high school level.

Critics of identifying books with sexually explicit and graphic content often like to argue over the definition of “obscenity,” contending that, because everyone has a different definition, police power is impossible. They stand on the idea that what’s okay for one reader should be okay for all other readers, classifying conscientious objectors as prudes.

The point Heinecke makes in her letter, however, seems to make sense as a simple test for obscenity for teens. If passages from an assigned book can’t be read aloud in the classroom without violating a school’s “appropriate language” or behavior code, it seems more than reasonable to warn parents of the book’s content. For example, if a student could be referred to the office for using the word “fuck,” reading list books shouldn’t contain the same language.

Adding labels to books containing sexually explicit or graphic material is no different than the protocol already observed for video games, audio recordings, and movies.

Video games and movies have ratings to guide parents, and audio recordings have parental advisory labels, yet when searched on book sites such as Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, SparkNotes.com, and CliffNotes.com,** none of the book synopses or reviews even intimate the graphic level of sex and language found inside their covers. How could a parent possibly make a decision about the appropriateness of a book for his or her teen without buying or checking out from the library every book on the list to review?

Adding labels to books containing sexually explicit or graphic material is no different than the protocol already observed for video games, audio recordings, and movies. Labeling books wouldn’t cause them to burst into flames or force librarians to remove them from library shelves; it would simply educate parents in making appropriate choices for their teens.

Sexually Explicit Texts Negatively Affect Teen Minds

“Our society provides our children with enough sexually charged, profane messages. They don’t need it as required reading [at school],” says Heinecke, echoing the frustration many parents feel when attempting to guard the souls of their kids from what they see as an ever-growing minefield of inappropriate media messages public-school classrooms are now enabling.

Numerous studies on the use of graphic material by students indicate negative psychological effects.

In fact, parents have cause for concern. Numerous studies on the use of graphic material by students indicate negative psychological effects. One study from 2011, “Associations Between Young Adults’ Use of Sexually Explicit Materials and Their Sexual Preferences, Behaviors and Satisfaction,” found that participants who reported frequent contact with sexually explicit material (SEM) had more casual sex partners and began having sex at younger ages. SEM viewing frequency in women correlated with a lower age of first intercourse and a decrease in both sexual and relationship satisfaction among men.

Another study performed over the course of six years (from 2006-2012), detailed sexual attitudes and behaviors of 12- to 14-year-olds in relation to the types of movies they watched. Teens exposed to more sexual content in movies also reported having sexual intercourse at younger ages, an outcome about which researchers commented, “Between the ages of ten and fifteen, the tendency to seek more novel and intense stimulation of all kinds peaks. The wild hormonal surge of adolescence makes judicious thinking a bit more difficult.”

In conclusion, the authors admonished parents, “This study, and its confluence with other work, strongly suggests that parents need to restrict their children from seeing sexual content in movies at young ages.” Why, then, are we so often told teens are able to confront graphic and explicit material with little thought?

According to Victor B. Cline, a psychotherapist specializing in family counseling and sexual addictions, rejecting the notion that pornography doesn’t have an effect on people contradicts the fact that people are educated by what they read and see:

In some cases, they are pretending not to know because of their concern over what they falsely believe is censorship or loss of First Amendment rights. Some fear the tyranny of a moralist minority who might take away their rights to view and use pornography, then later take away free speech and expression. Some are themselves sex addicts with a hidden agenda behind their public posturing. Thus, for some of them, the issue is political. It also has to do with their personal values and much less with any contrary evidence might suggest.

When combined with the depressingly high statistics on sexual risk behaviors from the Centers for Disease Control, why open Pandora’s Box and assign teens material that could create needless conflict about sexual behavior, especially without parents’ express consent and knowledge?

Classic Literature Deals With Difficult Topics Better

Parents are often told that books such as “The Bluest Eye” and “Beloved” are assigned to help students understand the complexities of difficult topics such as slavery, rape, and war. However, most classic works of literature deal with precisely such themes yet without delving into salacious descriptions that distract from such deeper themes. That is part of classic literature’s well-known literary and thematic complexity, which studies show develops students’ communication and interpersonal skills.

In “The Story-Killers; A Common–Sense Case Against The Common Core,” public-school K-12 principal Dr. Terrence Moore says,

I do not read (post)-modern literature that often, so depressing is it.  But from what I can tell, it falls into two major categories, which sometimes overlap.  Either the author has an ax to grind, or the author offers a bleak view of the world and human nature such that one wonders whether there is any point in living.  This is manifestly different from pre-twentieth-century literature.

Not everything in older literature is rosy.  Dostoyevsky, for example, is often dark.  Yet man is presented as salvageable and human life has meaning.  The conversation between Raskolnikov and Sonia, where the former uses (modern) logic to assert that the end justify the means, is cut to pieces by Sonia’s (a prostitute’s) simple rebuttal; you have forgotten God. There is nothing redemptive or hopeful or heroic about the supposedly sophisticated fiction written today.

Do you want examples of good, selfless living, or self-focused misery? How do you feel after you read a book, after you exit a world?

In a recent op-ed for Salem News (Boston), Jamie Gass, director of the Center for School Reform at the Pioneer Institute, celebrates the 190th anniversary of James Fenimore Cooper’s classic, “The Last of the Mohicans,” by pointing out that when Massachusetts used classic literature in their English classes, its eighth graders were first in the country on the reading portion of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Once classic literature was dropped in favor of newer prose and informational texts, Massachusetts eighth graders dropped from the number one spot for the first time in a decade.

Like Moore, Gass points to the enduring social relevance of classic Cooper:

Students who read classics like ‘The Mohicans’ learn American history through gripping narratives. While the treacherous Magua pursues, Hawk-eye, Chingachgook and Uncas guide the Munro sisters to their father at Fort William Henry, which is under siege by the French. Modeled after frontiersman Daniel Boone, Hawk-eye’s trailblazing character inspired the individualistic persona prominent in western folklore.

In contrast to Andrew Jackson’s Indian-murdering rampages, Cooper was the first novelist to portray the disappearing Native Americans with enlightenment and complexity.

Cora, who is herself biracial, asks, ‘Should we distrust (a) man because his manners are not our manners, and that his skin is dark?’

Dr. Sandra Stotsky, professor emerita in the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, attacks the precipitous slide of 2015 eighth grade NAEP reading test scores as a result of students reading less challenging books than before.

Stotsky says the reading level of assigned high school texts in a 1907 study was 9.0, and 9.1 in a study from 1923. In a 2016 report, the average reading complexity level of the top 25 texts read by high school students had fallen to 5.6 for eleventh graders and 6.5 for twelfth graders. Stotsky says:

Dickens novels were once read by most high school students and are now hardly read at all in high schools…In fact, the only literary texts now in the top 50 titles for grades 9 to 12 with a rating of 9.0 or higher are rarely assigned or read, according to their frequency ratings, and were written before WWII (e.g., Austen, Conrad, Dickens, Hawthorne, and Shakespeare). The only European writers with high school-level ratings left are Kafka and Verne.

Clearly, not only is contemporary fiction heavy on explicit content, it’s very light on complexity, creating a generation of students better versed in the mechanics of rape than of sentence structure, vocabulary, or literary value.

Parents Must Stand For Their Children’s Innocence

While there are many good teachers fighting to provide students with excellent literature, many see contemporary authors as superior or more relevant to today’s student, than authors such as Dickens, Austen, or Cooper. As both Heinecke and Murphy found, school officials didn’t have an interest in standing for children’s innocence. In fact, the only reason their children were able to choose other books from the reading list was their significant pushback against the administration.

Although it’s unpleasant, unpopular, and decidedly “unfun,” parents must cautiously review all reading materials coming home from school and be prepared to fight for something better on their behalf if necessary.

As Heinecke said in her letter to school district administrators, “Do not mistake my concern for naivety about what goes on in the lives of students at this age. They hear, see and experience plenty – much of which occurs without the approving eye of parents. It is not a matter of ‘sheltering’ kids. It is a matter of guiding them toward what is best. We are the adults. It is our job to protect them – no matter how unpopular that may seem. To do anything less is cheating them in the long run.”

* After much public protest, the official Common Core website has removed its original list of reading exemplars, although state and federal regulations retain that portion of Common Core. The original text of Appendix B can be found on the Canyons School District website, Sandy, Utah.

** Here’s what CliffNotes.com says about rape in the “The Bluest Eye”: “When Cholly rapes Pecola, it is a physical manifestation of the social, psychological, and personal violence that has raped Cholly for years.” Compare and contrast that with the actual text provided from pages 162-163 above.

Jenni White is cofounder of Restore Oklahoma Public Education and a former public school science teacher.

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