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Pro-Obscenity Activists' Lousy Arguments

Updated: May 17, 2023

Our titular president, Joe Biden, made headlines for saying the quiet part out loud two years in a row. At the 2022 National and State Teachers of the Year Celebration, he said,

We always talk about “these children.” They’re not someone else’s children. They’re our children. … You’ve heard me say it many times about “our children,” but it’s true: They’re all our children. … They’re not somebody else’s children; they’re like yours when they’re in the classroom.

He repeated this false claim again at this year’s Teachers of the Year Celebration.

In reality, students do not belong to their teachers, not even when they’re in class. Biden’s presumptuous claim is pervasive among leftists—especially propagandists who self-identify as “educators.”

And so, we find “educators” who claim to “honor all voices,” disrespecting parental objections to obscene novels and plays being purchased with taxpayer money and recommended or assigned to students. These “educators” and their leftist allies rename objections to obscene material in schools “book banning,” as Biden did in his disingenuous words at the 2022 teacher celebration:

[D]id you ever think … that you’d be worried about book burnings and banning books, all because it doesn’t fit somebody’s political agenda?

This demagogic claim glosses over the political agenda of teachers who select books based on their political agenda and raises the question, are there any books that should not appear in elementary, middle, or high school libraries or curricula?

If all restrictions on school library purchases and curricular selections constitute book-banning, then what do leftist “educators” mean when they refer to “age-appropriateness”?

If, on the other hand, some restrictions on content for minors are justifiable, how do leftists decide when justifiable restrictions morph into “book banning”?

At a recent Community High School Unit 205 Board of Education meeting in Elmhurst, Illinois, resident Chris Lameka read the following excerpt from American Street in which a teen girl describes her sexual relationship with her boyfriend, which began when she was 12 and he was 17:

How am I a ho when I’ve only been with one dude my whole life? Dray took my virginity, and he’s still the same nigga I fuck with. For five years. How many hos can say that? You know, that’s the shit I don’t like about bitches.” … “You got busted while you were with a motherfuckin’ white girl?” … “Fuck you! Get the fuck outta my house!” … “Is she moving weight for you, or you just have her around to suck your dick every once in a while?

Another speaker, Tom Chavez, shared that the book has “339 swear words,” “55 sexual incidents,” and is written, “at a third-grade level.” The novel also includes a female character named Princess (Pri,) who is a 16-year-old, chest-binding lesbian.

Lameka also asked the school board if they would be comfortable reading passages like this from The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian—another required reading for freshmen—to 14-year-old girls:

Now doesn’t that give you a boner?” “I am rock hard,” I said. Gordy blushed. “Well, I don’t mean boner in the sexual sense,” Gordy said. “I don’t think you should run through life with a real erect penis. But you should approach each book … with the real possibility that you might get a metaphorical boner at any point. …“ I love that tree,” I said. “That’s because you’re a tree fag,” Rowdy said. “I’m not a tree fag,” I said. “Then how come you like to stick your dick inside knotholes?” “I stick my dick in the girl trees,” I said.

Are community members who hurl the epithet “book-banner” so narrowminded that they are incapable of empathizing with parents who don’t want schools to expose their children to such language?

Elmhurst community member Rocca Maria Balice Kresnicka heartily supports the inclusion of American Street in the freshman English curriculum because it is “award-winning,” and it will purportedly “increase the rigor” of freshman English.

Since Kresnicka referred to American Street as “award-winning,” a closer look at award-awarding is in order, but first, a clarification.

While American Street was one of five finalists for the National Book Foundation’s Young Adult Literature award in 2017, it did not win the award.

American Street’s only other “award” was being included in a list of about 50 books named by a small committee—at a small education college in New York City (Bank Street College where domestic terrorist Bill Ayers earned his master’s in education degree) as “Best Books of the Year”—in 2018—in the 14-16 category. Of those 50, it was one of 34 books to receive an “Outstanding Merit” designation.

It’s worth noting that American Street also received a “Mature Content” designation from the leftist Children’s Book Committee of the Bank Street College of Education.

It’s unfortunate that Kresnicka didn’t offer more insight on awards and prizes. For example, what are the ideological/political leanings of the organizations that award awards? How many people serve on the committees within these organizations that award prizes? How are committee members selected? What criteria are used to determine prize winners? What criteria are omitted from the selection process? Who develops those criteria?

So many questions never asked. Kresnicka asserted that American Street would “increase the rigor” of the freshman English curricula but provided no evidence of the ways in which it would do that. Are there no other novels that could “increase the rigor” of the freshman English curricula without obscene language and sexually graphic imagery?

Kresnicka compared American Street to other coming-of-age stories like To Kill a Mockingbird, Catcher in the Rye, and The Kite Runner, suggesting that coming-of-age novels “make people uncomfortable.” Is she claiming that all novels that make people “uncomfortable” are created equal? Perhaps there are diverse reasons for parental discomfort, some of which justify exclusion of a novel from curricula.

Kresnicka dismissed all parental objections to “sexual references,” “sex scenes,” “vulgar language,” and “bad words.” She believes teaching such material is justified if student reading is followed by “discussion with an expert on the symbolism and the theme.”

Ah, yes, the infinitely elastic justification employed by English teachers who relish teaching sexually offensive material to other people’s underage children rears its malleable head again. English teachers are masters at finding criteria to justify teaching whatever it is they want to teach.

Teachers haul out the claim that such-and-such a novel connects thematically to the unit, or it is a veritable cornucopia of figurative language, symbols, and setting that make it irreplaceable. Others would prefer teachers find material with less degrading, puerile metaphors than “boner.”

Kresnicka also compared American Street to Botticelli’s masterpiece “Birth of Venus.” I kid you not. She said reading “selections from books” that parents “find problematic, focusing on the bad words and sex scenes … that's a little like me showing you a picture of Botticelli's ‘Birth of Venus’ and just focusing on her breasts.”

Novels are more like movies than paintings, so reading decontextualized obscene passages from books is more akin to showing decontextualized obscene images from a movie like American Beauty, which, one hopes, would never be shown to high school students of any age.

Oh, and American Street isn’t a literary masterpiece by anyone’s standards.

Kresnicka then made an absurd claim: “If we want our children to be citizens of the world and be critical thinkers, we need to expose them with guidance from teachers and educators to different voices and stories through literature like American Street.” Perhaps Kresnicka could explain how American Street is the only or best novel—or even in the top 20—for helping freshmen become “citizens of the world” and “critical thinkers.”

The next speaker, Lisa Sullivan, also supports the inclusion of American Street in the freshman curriculum. She argued that book-banning “is defined as any action taken against a book based on its content as a result of parent or community challenges that leads to a previously accessible book being either completely removed from availability to students.” Sullivan didn’t complain about the common practice of leftist teachers who refuse to select novels to teach based on what they deem objectionable content. Nor did Sullivan complain about the pervasive problem within the publishing industry of refusing to publish books whose content it views as offensive—that is conservative content. Do those common practices constitute “book-banning”?

Sullivan denounced parental book challenges, claiming that successful challenges “were enacted without following best practice guidelines for book challenges which are created by the American Library Association and the National Coalition Against Censorship.”

She omitted, however, that both the American Library Association and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) are far-left organizations. Take a gander at the 59 organizations that comprise NCAC.

Sullivan stated a best practice “guideline is to not take individual passages out of their context but evaluating the book as a whole best practices.” This dogmatic “guideline” ignores the existence of books with passages so obscene that no context could justify the inclusion of the book in curricula for minor students.

Yet another community member, Katie Larson, defended American Street based on her belief that American Street “builds empathy” and develops “a curiosity to explore the world around us.” Later in the evening, Elizabeth Collins claimed in equally preposterous and grandiose jargon that “this book will help students think critically and analytically, affirm diverse perspectives, foster global citizenship, and demonstrate empathy, and practice self-reflection."

There are many books that could achieve those goals without offending the beliefs, values, and authentic feelings of fellow community members. In the service of compassion, respect, and inclusion, English Departments should find them.

Larson bafflingly proclaimed, “I speak on behalf of the First Amendment rights of our students.”

Assuming she is speaking on behalf of the speech rights of students, the Supreme Court has decided repeatedly that students do not enjoy the full complement of speech protections in school.

Moreover, First Amendment speech rights are wholly irrelevant to the issue of replacing obscene books with non-obscene books in curricula for minors.

Larson complimented the district “for providing a wide range of materials curated to deliver a well-rounded learning plan” for students. Students in D205 are exposed to material that espouses and affirms “progressive” views on homosexuality and “gender theory.” In D205’s well-rounded learning plan, are students reading any books that critique those “progressive” views?

It seems pro-obscenity activists can conceive of no possible deleterious effects from teaching obscene material to impressionable teens. While Kresnicka, Larson, and Collins wax magniloquent about the virtues of teaching two mediocre obscene novels, other parents believe these books desensitize adolescents to the use of uncivil, intemperate, inconsiderate, and obscene language, thereby making our already vulgar public square more vulgar.

Many parents believe, too, that books like these make it more difficult for decent teachers to enforce school policies that prohibit student use of such language.

At the 2022 teacher appreciation ceremony, Biden said, “We got to stop making [teachers] the target of the culture wars. … they are the kite strings that literally lift our national ambitions aloft in a literal sense.”

Teachers are not the targets of culture wars. They are chief among the instigators. They instigate by viewing other people’s children as their own and imposing their worldviews on those children who are not theirs.

Maybe activist teachers could stop instigating culture wars and instead teach Biden what “literal” means.


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