I support efforts of the school board to oversee the administration of our children's education. This state-mandated responsibility includes overseeing text material. While reviewing every book is impossible, a school board member is correct in investigating a questionable book. Our elected individuals serve as a check and balance for the educational professionals. While the board should encourage the administration, they primarily represent the parents and the community, not the educational professionals. The school board is the parental and community link to the education of our young people.
Critics of school board oversight call such responsible actions "book banning." These critics often show their hypocrisy when it comes to the matter of the Bible. The academic elite fought for banning the Bible. The courts obliged them. This ban is acceptable because of a fallacious application of "separation of church and state." Although that phrase is not used in the Constitution, it is popularly applied as the exclusion of God from the public school. Helping children to mature without God is a futile attempt. The declining morality of our country and the violence in our schools are some of the products of a failure to teach man's responsibility to God.
Critics defend The Poisonwood Bible and defend the Bible ban. I understand that The Poisonwood Bible portrays a Bible believing missionary trying to reach people with the Bible's message of Jesus Christ. The book characterizes him as an insensitive paranoid who is also sexually dysfunctional and a wife abuser. The book implies that one should not try to influence others with biblical truths. Unfortunately, this implication is politically acceptable.
Opponents of overseeing textbooks, like Ms. Sloan, say, "It is assumed that books with controversial subjects are discussed and illuminated in a classroom by a professional who can take sensitive issues and use them to teach powerful, positive messages of acceptance and tolerance." I, however, assume the likelihood of teaching a powerful negative message of intolerance for Bible believers. It can indoctrinate young impressionable minds to be prejudiced against the Bible and its messengers. Ms. Olds and Mr. Parker agree with Ms. Sloan when they say, "We need to have faith" and "trust" in our teachers. Those are religious words. These teachers are humans. They are as subject to prejudice as others.
Believing the Bible provides absolutes for life. Many think that it is intolerable to believe any absolutes and at best characterize such believers as misguided. Educational professionals rarely portray Bible believing missionaries positively. For years, professional anthropologists have criticized such missionaries for harming cultures, despite clear evidence of helping to increase the quality of their lives. Many Bible believing missionaries have given their lives and seen cruel cultures changed by acceptance of Bible absolutes. Educational professionals do not provide this message for the critical development of students. Jesus Christ has positively changed people for centuries. The schools ban this message to our students as well.
Ms. Sloan speaks of the Bible as portraying murder, adultery, violence, cruelty, drunkenness, and other sins. Indeed it does. But the Bible portrays such things as wrong. Good literature of the past has always portrayed the reality of sin, but in the light that it is wrong. This is true of Shakespeare's writings as well as some of those mentioned by Ms. Sloan. It is the modern day tolerance that accepts books, song lyrics and films that glorify sin. Past civilized cultures sought to make sure that their children did not read or listen to things encouraging murder, adultery, violence, cruelty, drunkenness and other sins. Today it is intolerant to attempt to keep such filth from impressionable minds. They tell parents, "Even though you intolerantly keep such from your own children, don't try to influence the rest of society with such outdated prudery."
Censorship is not a dirty word. It is the responsibility of responsible people. Mr. Parker of Long Island Coalition Against Censorship also says that we are to "trust the professional judgment of those who teach." We should trust our professionals, but that is not carte blanche. We should trust our elected school board members, but that is not carte blanche either. I propose that we elect people who are strong enough to stand against the onslaught of opposition. I think that the professionals and a critical community intimidate the greater part of the school board, but I applaud those willing to represent the people who voted for them. Let's help and encourage board members by turning out to vote and notice the effort they expend for us.
The Bible tells us to "approve the things which are excellent." As a community let us not, in the name of freedom, settle for books detrimental to our students. Let us seek the best.
Dr. John Michael Thomas
Pastor of The Bible Church of Port Washington