Letters to the Editor for Nov. 8, 2013

Harmful outcomes

To the Editor:

I have read various letters and statements by some expressing dismay at the parents who objected to their 15-year-old daughter being presented with the book “Eleanor and Park” to read as part of the Anoka-Hennepin School District summer reading program. This program targets children ages 14-17.

A report on what was so offensive about this book appears on www.parentsactionleague.org. In summary, the book contains about 227 profane words (including 62 variations of the “f” word) and inappropriate sexual content.

The choice of the book for the summer reading series is a question left for administrators at this point but now the school district is considering whether such a book should be left on school library shelves.

The subject has attracted national attention. Locally, teachers union president Julie Blaha, perhaps forgetting her role of protecting teachers rights, has denounced any criticism of the book as if she had signed on as the author’s personal agent.

In an 18-paragraph letter to the school board, only one single sentence is devoted to defending the media specialists involved.

The balance of her letter was in defense of the book itself.

But that single sentence reads like this, “Our library media specialists were shocked to see their work disparaged.” Really?

Shocked? And what work was that? For being a rubber stamp for verbal filth for kids?

Are parents not to be equally shocked at the content of this book which was mandated reading for the summer reading program?

Or, does being shocked only work one way? I have read all the concerns about censorship and that kids will encounter such profanity and adult-themed material in the “real world” so why shield them.

Expose them now to massive doses so they are “prepared.” If this becomes the ruling criteria for deciding what our kids read then might I suggest that the recently closed XXX bookstore in Ramsey simply donate all of its books to the school district libraries. After, all, we don’t want to censor what our kids read, right?

What has been left out of the discussion is why we protect kids from such profanity to begin with. We certainly protect them in movies and video games with PG-13, R and “mature” ratings. Yet the profanity contained in “Eleanor and Park” is so vile that school officials will not allow it to be read during televised school board meetings.

Hello? This should speak volumes. And we are supposed to believe that media specialists are “shocked” by parents’ outcry? If that is the case, then I would suggest hiring new staff for those positions because they are not protecting our kids. And, Ms. Blaha, as a teachers union official, is not protecting them either.

If “Eleanor and Park” was turned into a movie, its depictions and vulgar expressions would easily earn it an “R” rating. We are to be concerned about “R” ratings for movies and video games but not for reading material? Get real.

It may interest you to know that the subject of why we protect kids from profanity in movies has been assessed. A study in 2011 titled “Profanity in Media Associated with Attitudes and Behavior Regarding Profanity Use and Aggression” concluded that “exposure to profanity in media is associated with harmful outcomes for adolescents.”

One of the harmful outcomes noted by the study is that “the use of profanity is related to physical and relational aggression.” The source for this study, you ask? “Pediatrics” – the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

To paraphrase the conclusion of the study, the use of profanity and its digestion by students can lead to bullying by those members. Yet, here we have a teachers union president and others suggesting that “Eleanor and Park” is intended to deter bullying by its message.

The old adage comes to mind, “Your actions speak so loudly I cannot hear what you say.” Would the premise of Rowell’s book have been so different had she negated the vulgar and sexually explicit content? We can only hope that she will make a course correction with future publications as “Eleanor and Park” is only her second book.

I would remind the proponents of “vulgar” books being made available to 14-year-olds that the existing school district’s anti-bullying policy provides that both teachers and administrators are not to “condone” bullying. Making available vulgar and profane books, such as “Eleanor and Park” goes beyond condoning bullying — it creates “bullying farm factories” for the next generation.

George Washington has said, “The foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing is a vice so mean and low that every person of sense and character detests and despises it.”

I would hope that members of the school board would be those persons of “sense and character” to protect our children from becoming the next generation of bullies.

Joe Field

Don’t send money

To the Editor:

On Sept. 11 I answered the phone and my grandson was on the other end of the line. I said, “It’s been a long time since you called.” He said he was OK. He was in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. His friend was getting married; he had been to a stag party the night before.

After a short discussion he said he did have a problem. He wanted my help. He was coughing. He said on the plane he sat next to a man with a bad cold and now he had it. The hotel employee had given him some cough medicine.

He said he only had a couple of drinks the night before but between that and the cough medicine he felt really sick and wanted to go home. His friends told him to take the rental car to the airport and fly home.

He said he had an accident on the way to the airport. The police said he was drunk and accused him of reckless driving. He was going to court in 15 minutes. Could I call the lawyer (appointed to him by the court) and tell him he was a good kid? I asked did he have any accidents on his record? No, he said.

I said yes I would call the lawyer even though I was suspicious about all this. He had begun crying more like sobbing. He didn’t want to spend another night in jail he said.

I asked him if he had called his parents and he said no, he would rather tell them when he got home. He is 26 years old and does not live at home anymore.

He gave me the attorney’s phone number 1-483-877-0071 and name, Steven Lambert in Canada. I asked if he still worked and he said yes.

So I called the lawyer and we arrived at money very quickly. He usually charged $2,000 for this kind of defense but he thought this time he could charge $800 to $1,100. I said I didn’t have that kind of money. He said he’d have my grandson call some of his friends to raise some money and call me back. We hung up.

I called a friend, a sociologist. Don’t send money, she said. I called my son and he looked up my grandson on Facebook. He had been at the Minnesota State Fair on Monday. This happened on a Thursday.

Meanwhile, my girlfriend arrived for lunch. I explained the situation and asked her if she would like to listen in when the lawyer called.

And sure enough the phone rang right away and I handed her a phone and answered the other one. “Have you been to court?” I asked. “Yes,” he said. “Oh just minute,” I said, realizing I hadn’t turned on my girlfriend’s phone.

When I picked up my phone again he said he would call back in 30 seconds. Did he hear a click and think he was being recorded? Whoever gets in and out of court in 15 minutes? It shook me up. I never could recognize my grandson’s voice, but then he had a cold and he was crying.

My 98-year-old friend said on her call like that she said, “I am so sorry. I wish I could help. I am so sorry, I wish I could help.” He hung up on her.

Jean O’Donoghue

Official newspaper

To to Editor:

I object to the city of Oak Grove’s adoption of the Anoka County Record as its official newspaper where all legal notices are published.

This newspaper has a very low circulation, looks like little more than a newsletter and its content appears to be totally political.
I would hope the city would go back to using the Anoka Union as its official newspaper.

Dolores Voorhees
Oak Grove

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