Friday, March 02, 2007

FBI Agrees to Investigate Charge That Howell School Books Are Porn

by Blake

Up in Michigan The Livingston Organization for Values in Education (Guess what their acronym is!) are living by Blake's Golden Rules. The group wanted the books out of the school curriculum, The Board of Education disagreed, so they did what any sane person who knows what's best for everyone would do, they told state prosecutors teachers were, in effect, providing pornography for their students. Oddly enough, the U.S. Attorlney for the Eastern District of Michigan decided to get the FBI involved, who are now "reviewing it."

I'm not so sure this title is exactly accurate, since in the story they say the FBI has only "received the complaint" and is only reviewing it, not actually investigating. But hey, let's go with it, if they're not concerned with facts then I won't be either, this is, after all, for the children!


"We're talking about material that's not appropriate for minor children," Vicki Fyke said.

So Fyke and the Livingston Organization for Values in Education want some books like Toni Morrison's "The Bluest Eye" out of the classrooms at Howell High School.

The book about an 11-year-old girl's search for identity contains a scene in which she is raped by her father.

"It describes in great detail how he does it," Fyke said.

The group is also looking to keep Richard Wright's "Black Boy," Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse-Five" and "The Freedom Writers Diary" out of the curriculum. Fyke says the group has no problem keeping the books in the school library.

But after the Howell Board of Education sided against the group in its push to remove the books from the classroom, Fyke forwarded her complaints to prosecutors, alleging the teachers were, in effect, providing pornography for their students.

"If anybody else gave them this material, it's against the law," she said.

Now Fyke has received a letter from the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit saying he's forwarded the case to the FBI for investigation.

"I received it Tuesday," she said.

A spokeswoman for the FBI in Detroit told us the office has received the complaint.

"We are reviewing it," the spokeswoman said.

But the whole process surrounding the book is perplexing to at least one educational expert.

"I still can't believe this is happening," Fred Barton said.

Barton heads the Michigan Council of Teachers of English.

"For one thing, the book was written in 1970. It's been taught in schools for many, many years. So I would assume that, if it was a problem, we would have known it about it by now," he said.

Barton taught high school English for 10 years. He says the classroom is the appropriate place to discuss the difficult topics books like "The Bluest Eye" discuss. It can put them in context, he says.

And Barton says the book is appropriate for 10th graders. For example, he says, violence in the book isn't rewarded.

"One of the characters who is most often singled out in these types of situations is actually destroyed by the violence and the kind of things he does."

If parents don't like it, Barton says they can pull their students from the classroom during discussion of the book under the "opt out" program in Howell Public Schools.

Fyke says those kids risk being singled out -- so she want the books out entirely.

"I'm not about to give up. I'm not," Fyke said.

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