Since my last blogging, I’ve exchanged some emails with a few people (including the Media Center Coordinator at RV) about the book ban. Further update coming, but in the meantime, I sent this to the local BOE today:
Dear Board Members,
I was raised in a traditional home by parents with strong beliefs and a distinct value system. My parents emphasized honesty, integrity, independence, and compassion on a daily basis, and they provided me with ample role models outside of our home who showed me how to embrace those values and live them out in every day life. At the same time, my mother and father both worked hard to conceal their personal biases and political ideals from me in order to allow me to develop my own ideas without interference. My parents encouraged me to explore any idea that interested me, even when those ideas conflicted with their own.
Now, as a parent, I am encouraging my son Jacob to explore similarly. He is only 7, but already we have encountered situations where I have been uncomfortable with Jacob’s interests. I feel that as a parent, I have a responsibility to help Jacob develop into a young man who can think independently, critically assess a variety of situations, and make decisions on the basis of his own judgment. I have to trust that the fundamental values I endeavor to instill in him (compassion, acceptance, kindness and charity) are enough to guide him toward the right destination, even if I disagree with his journey.
Unfortunately, your decision this week to ban Revolutionary Voices makes my job more difficult. You have chosen to take on the responsibility that belongs to me, as a parent. You have taken one step further toward eliminating my ability to teach Jacob how to make his own decisions. You have contributed to the larger cultural conversation which instructs our children that they cannot be responsible for their own actions, but rather must follow the directives set forth for them by others. Your decision this week—despite protests from parents and teachers, from long-term veterans of the School District, from students themselves—sent a strong message that you believe our children are not intelligent and responsible enough to choose what is right for them, and by extension, that we have failed as parents.
In addition, your decision this week communicates the message that it is not ok to talk about the subjects covered in the book. For a regional high school with a student population like Rancocas Valley, conversations around diversity should be a priority. The Revolutionary Voices anthology provides a look at an incredibly diverse cross-section of American youth, and you have elected to remove what should be a very important contribution to those conversations.
Although Jacob is still several years away from attending Rancocas Valley, I believe this instance of censorship will have far-reaching effects, within our community and beyond. I am more than disappointed, and I urge you to reconsider the decision and reinstate the anthology to the media center.
So far I’ve received one response to the letter:
I want to thank you for your response.
Not particularly encouraging.
More updates to come.