BALTIMORE – The great thinkers in the Carroll County public school system believe they’re doing their students a favor. The other day, they outlawed sex in their schools’ library and textbooks. They imagine their kids won’t find some other way to find out the facts of life.
After a months-long campaign waged by a conservative parent group called Moms for Liberty, the county school board voted to tighten the policy on books and toss out any deemed “sexually inappropriate.”
Well, good luck finding consensus on whatever “sexually inappropriate” means.
The new policy defines it as “unambiguously describing, depicting, showing or writing about sex or sex acts in a detailed or graphic manner.”
Does anyone have a problem with that?
As the Baltimore Banner reported, there are parents infuriated that one group – the Moms for Liberty folks – “shouldn’t decide what’s best for everyone. There was even an attempt to challenge the Bible to test the system.”
Of the 61 books Moms for Liberty challenged, all but the Bible have been removed from school library shelves, though Carroll County school officials haven’t actually reviewed these books yet since there are so many of them. And, according to The Banner, some school librarians are complaining they weren’t consulted before any decision was made.
Yeah, why would anyone want to consult librarians about books?
The fight over censorship is an old one, and so is the fight over sex. Some of us still remember a battle some years back in Anne Arundel County, where some parents wanted Maya Angelou’s great book, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” banned from schools.
The book is Angelou’s account of her childhood in the rural South. It won the National Book Award. It happens that the book contains certain vulgar words, and descriptions of rape and sexual anxiety and lesbianism, all of which some parents found too explicit for teenage children.
Parents are certainly entitled to their anxieties and their desire to maintain some control over their children’s lives – but they’re not entitled to control other folks’ children.
And they’re being naïve if they think they can keep teenage kids from searching out any kind of sexual material available as their sex glands are making their debut and their hunger increases.
All parents want to protect their children. But the kids live in a world that bombards them with information of all kinds. And teenage kids have their own agenda: they want the truth. They want to be let in on all the great secrets.
The job of parents – and educators! – is to share those secrets in the most sensitive way we know how: with works of art and literature, with the hope that they’ll sit in a protective atmosphere, guided by trained professionals, to find out the things they wonder about in a way that enlarges their understanding and their maturity.
And maybe even come home and share with their parents the great secrets they’ve learned – if Mom and Dad are mature enough to handle it.
Michael Olesker, columnist for the News American, Baltimore Sun, and Baltimore Examiner has spent a quarter of a century writing about the city he loves.He is the author of several books, including Michael Olesker’s Baltimore: If You Live Here, You’re Home, Journeys to the Heart of Baltimore, and The Colts’ Baltimore: A City and Its Love Affair in the 1950s, all published by Johns Hopkins Press.