Reporter Editorial: In Defense of Ann Wentworth

My latest in the Fond du Lac Reporter:

I haven’t read the books Ann Wentworth objects to.

Maybe they’re inappropriate for middle school, maybe not (though author Julie Halpern’s comment that Wentworth is “full of hate” certainly reflects poorly on her book’s worth).

But Wentworth’s critics don’t seem to have read them, either—they just hate her for raising the subject at all.

Parents should absolutely judge whether schools should expose their children to certain content, and when they’re ready for it.

Schools making it easy for children to stumble upon controversial material in its care rob parents of that choice. Promoting independence and free inquiry is great, but that hardly means schools must or should provide every topic or author imaginable.

Parents troubled by certain material are condescendingly told to “take care of that within their own families” (translation: if we give your kids questionable stuff, it’s your problem), but why shouldn’t parents who want their kids introduced to more adult subject matter be the ones to take the initiative and go to the public library or Waldenbooks?

Yes, some kids mature quicker than others, but communities shouldn’t shy away from setting parameters for what’s generally appropriate for certain age groups. People will naturally disagree on the details, but that’s democracy — better to let each side argue the merits and let the chips fall where they may, than to stigmatize the open discussion of ideas, especially where our kids are concerned.

Indeed, demanding wholesale indifference to what schools should put on their shelves is much closer to thought control than anything Wentworth has done.

Wentworth has been smeared as not taking responsibility for her own child’s upbringing, but the opposite is true: This whole controversy arose because she’s more attentive than the rest of the town. Even so, no one parent can possibly know the content of every single book in the library; that’s supposed to be the responsibility of the people stocking the shelves. It seems to me normal people would be grateful that she’s alerted them to the possibility that maybe that job isn’t being done.

And don’t be too quick to assume that the job is being done right in Fond du Lac. In April 2007, I was part of a small group of local Republicans that was permitted to examine the district’s library database. We found that left-wing books outnumbered right-wing books four to one, including “The I Hate Republicans Reader,” by Clint Willis and books by fraudulent filmmaker Michael Moore and fringe philosopher Peter Singer, who says “killing a newborn baby is never equivalent to killing a person.”

The School Board was not interested in rectifying the bias at the time. If they have done so since, I am not aware of it.

It’s no surprise that the School Board doesn’t care about Wentworth’s concerns, but it is shocking that her petition calling for a new content rating system and a committee to examine book content has received a paltry 30 signatures.

Really? A city of more than 40,000 people only has 30 interested in closer scrutiny of controversial material in our schools?

Ask yourself why none of Wentworth’s critics have said, “These books actually are age-appropriate, and here’s why.”

The first answer is that you’re not supposed to question the Fond du Lac School District. Ever.

Second, lots of parents don’t like to be reminded that someone is paying closer attention to their kids’ education than they are, so they choose to instead tear her down as a bad parent. Fond du Lac should be so proud.

UPDATE: As usual, the comments are a treasure trove of unintentional hilarity – ultra-partisan hacks Pan “Cobweb1780” Zareta and DelScorcho ignore what I write and instead thoughtlessly snipe about partisanship and “censorship.” Ever notice how rarely liberals even make an effort to argue honestly?

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