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Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2004 @ 10:15 am
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Censorship is alive and well in ND

Pamela Sund Herschlip and her husband, Mark Herschlip, asked that "Mick Harte Was Here" be plucked from the Centennial Elementary School library because of the "damaging nature of the material."

And they clearly don't give up

Pamela Sund Herschlip and her husband, Mark Herschlip, want the book, “Mick Harte Was Here,” removed from Centennial Elementary, where their daughter is in fourth grade. The parents say the language in the 88-page book, including words such as “damn” and “sucks” and a reference to birth control pills, is inappropriate for elementary-aged students.

To give you an idea of what they are objecting to here are some excerpts taken from the book written by Barbara Park, best known as the author of the Junie B. Jones books.

"He loved it, too. Being a surprise, I mean," Phoebe tells the reader. "He was always teasing my parents about it. Telling them that even before he existed, he could outsmart two chemistry majors with birth control pills."

"My stomach starts to churn. I don't like having the ambulance turn there. By now it should be speeding off to someone else's neighborhood … But even after another minute or two, the noise of the siren hasn't faded at all. And with my ears still covered, I walk to the sidelines and sit down in the grass. "Just turn the damn thing off !" I scream inside my head."

"The nights were unbelievably long. I never stayed asleep for more than an hour at a time. … I made it through, though. And looking back, I realize I probably even lost a pound or two.

That's the upside of depression, in case you didn't know it. The weight loss, I mean. Nature balances out your grief by letting you slim down. Then at the funeral, people can say you look good in your clothes and mean it. Nature's real thoughtful that way." (Apparently they think this glorifies eating disorders).

Mick was dead, and in just a few days we had all turned into people I didn't even know. … "Damn you, Mick. Damn you for doing this to us," I whispered, and then the tears started streaming down my face, too. I was still crying when I finally reached for the phone and called Zoe. "Oh Jesus, Zoe, what's happening to me? I swear to God, I just don't know what's happening."
First of all I would think somebody who is qualified to teach English and Creative writing would understand concept of sarcasm and irony, either that or they think 9 year olds are to young to grasp that concept, and trust me most of them have a fairly good grasp of both concepts even if they are not aware of it, especially sarcasm (just listen to my son for a day).

While I do agree not all books are appropriate for all ages, and there is some material that definately does not belong in an elementary school (generally Kindergarten thru grade 5 or 6 for those not familiar with US school systems) library (for example Bodice Rippers, books written well above an elementary level, magazines clearly intended for adult audiences, anything with nudity of a sexual nature, hate literature etc...)the quotes from this book seem perfectly appropriate to an audience of older elementary students. I would have no problem with my son reading this book, although it is a subject matter I would like to discuss with him if he was reading the book, as I am sure he would have questions (after all I am his mother that IS part of my job description).

This book has apparently been in the library for years from what I gather and no other parents have complained and both the library board and the school seem to feel it is fine for 3rd grade and up. On it is listed as appropriate for ages 9 and up, which is still older elementary.

As far as the use of damn or sucks virtually all but the most over protected kids have heard and most likely used both of those words in contexts similiar to the ones given, to think otherwise is to have one's head in the clouds, and to think that kids would view the passage quoted above as making grieving out to be a wonderful way to loose weight, is in my opinion greatly underestimating the intelligence of our kids.

As to the subject matter, I think this is the perfect age group to introduce the matter. Most kids are aware of death, but not fully comprehending of its permanence until sometime around this age. Kids this age, also tend to think of bad things as only happening to other people, and that they are immortal. But as I have often said to my son, to the rest of the world we are other people and bad things can happen to us just as easily to them. This book serves the purpose of showing kids just what happens to those left behind when we die, and how easily it can happen to anyone in just one moment of carelessness.

I must also say, however that it is nice to know there are people out there willing to monitor my son's reading material and decide if it is appropriate for my and everyone else's child, thus saving us the trouble of monitoring our child's reading material or deciding for outselves what we think is appropriate in the school we send our child to. How nice of them to volunteer to parent my son, I wonder if they wouild like to come to my house and help raise him too? Last time I checked parents did not have the right to determine what is and is not appropriate for somebody else's child. How naive of me to think of that as my job. (and if anyone is wondering, yes I am being sarcastic, I am sure most of you didn't need to be told that)

I do believe in paying attention to what children are reading and watching, and yes I do monitor what my son watches there are tv shows that he is not allowed to watch (for example South Park - fine for adults not for kids) and movies I haven't taken him to because I didn't think it was appropriate for his age (The Wall, for example I love it, but some of the themes are presented in manner a bit disturbing if you aren't ready for it).

I let him see and have access to more than many parents (I differentiate between fantasy/cartoon violence and realistic violence, I also have a level of sexual inuendo and display I draw the line at for my son at his age, and I also take overall messages and themes into consideration), but I also watch these shows and read these books with him. Afterwards we talk about it, many times my son has asked me questions about things, and this has been away to discuss subjects that would otherwise be hard to bring up.

Growing up, my folks paid very little attention to much of what I watched and read as I got older. I remember seeing Grease at the local theatre when I was 9, and I knew even then if my mom had actually seen the movie there was no way she would have let me see it. My folks were rather naive about alot of things, and had no idea about much of what I read.

I don't believe in parenting other people's children for them, nor do I believe in censorship. I do however believe in a little common sense, giving our children a little credit, and paying attention to what they are doing, and not forcing one's ideas and values on to other people who may not share them.


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In every neighborhood there is at least one house that all the neighbors gossip about. This is a diary from the woman who lives in that house. I am a single mother in her mid thirties. I live in North Dakota with my son, Warren.

I tend to be a bit of a slob, and am the opposite of a girly-girl. I am geek girl, who loves Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter, Buffy, Angel, action movies, science fiction, action adventure, Dr. Who, and so on and so on.

I love to write and while I don't post much fiction online anymore I would love to be a writer someday. I am also overweight, bipolar and suffer from allergy induced asthma.