Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Banning books in Highland Park

Of course, the headline caught my eye:  Highland Park ISD suspends seven books after parents protest their content.

As I read on, the report really grabbed me. 

I mean, one of the  authors of one of the banned looks on the list spoke for CitySquare several years ago at a prayer breakfast!

Our guest speaker on that occasion, David Shipler, one of best ever, wrote the now classic and still bestselling, Working Poor: Invisible in America. 

Here's the quote from The Dallas Morning News regarding this particular book: 

"One of suspended books — The Working Poor: Invisible in America, written by Pulitzer Prize winner David K. Shipler — is about Americans in low-skilled jobs who struggle because of economic and personal obstacles. Some parents objected to the nonfiction book because it has a passage about a woman who was sexually abused as a child and later had an abortion."

While it is none of my business what these parents want for their children and while I'm not a taxpayer in the Highland Park ISD, I must say I find this action and concern, especially about Shipler's book, fairly surprising. 

Possibly, public demands like this one explain why we are making so little real progress on confronting, understanding and overcoming poverty in Dallas and across the nation. 

What do you think?


Rodney W. Pirtle said...

Having served as an administrator in the Highland Park Independent School District (HPISD) for almost 20 years, it comes as no surprise to me that this incident has arisen.

It is a district in which a great cohort of good people, while kind, friendly, and, as individuals, are generous with their time and resources, exist in a culture of belief in the primacy of individual responsibility. A stranger might be forgiven if he ( the generic "he") got the impression that most individuals in the community believed they were self-made and/or were entitled to, i.e., had earned, the status they enjoy.

Of course, this is a very general, broad-brush picture I have painted here, and there are important exceptions, as evidenced by the push-back against the book-banners. My only other disclaimer would be that my little statement applies only to the book about poverty and the poor.

(This is not to say, of course, that fundamentalist religious and Victorian era reasons could not be cited for their objections to sexual and other allusions in some of the books.)

Elisabeth Jordan said...

As a graduate of Highland Park High School, I was sad to see "The Working Poor: Invisible in America" banned from the reading list.

Although it is difficult to read about childhood sexual abuse and abortion, it is a true picture of the reality of the woman who was written about in the story.

I hope we are all able to face life's realities, no matter how difficult. This world would be a better place if we got curious, and started to look, especially at the lives of those who have been raised differently from us!

Kassidy Birdsong said...

I was shocked to see The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls on this list! I first read it as an 18 year old as part of a book club for social work majors during my freshman orientation at UT. The book had a tremendous impact on the way I view poverty and resiliency. I actually read it for a second time this past year.

The only objectionable content I could think of might be an account of molestation. But there is nothing gratuitous about how it's described. I remember in our discussions of the book the professor asked questions such as, "What could have been done to prevent this from happening?" "How should the family/community have responded to support this child?" "What was strengths helped the child cope and heal?" These are very essential questions to grapple with if we are going to address the sadly real problem of abuse.

If young readers are engaging with these books while guided by a proficient educator, in a supportive learning environment, and with involved parents then I think that any content that may be considered objectionable can be dealt with appropriately.

Rodney W. Pirtle said...

Having served as an administrator in the Highland Park Independent School District (HPISD) for just shy of 20 years, I'd like to make a couple of admittedly broad-brush observations limited to the two banned books dealing with poverty.

Just to state the obvious, the district is politically conservative, with traditional conservative social values. The individual is paramount and government is to be minimally tolerated. Most HPISD residents are financially upper middle class to upper class and, through hard work, are self-made. For those who have inherited wealth, there is a subtle (or not-so-subtle) sense of entitlement.

For the most part, they are evangelical or fundamentalist in their religious proclivities, and one of their favorite scripture verses would likely be, "The poor ye shall have with you always (KJV). They don't want to "enable" poor people through government programs at any level, and they don't want to hear about poverty, nor do they want their children to hear (or read) about poverty.

These same folks are always ready to help a friend in need and are very generous in supporting their churches and conservative causes.

Finally, I repeat, I have painted with a very broad brush, as evidenced by the pushback the "book banners" have received.

David McAnulty said...

Really sad. As you know all too well, poverty remains a theoretical issue that one can pontificate about until it has a face, until one gets involved in the real, and often complicated, lives of concrete, living, individuals. I'm always amazed how people forget how many stories of the Bible are rated R or NC17!