Battle of the Books… Now a Moral Battle in Oregon
Next year during Oregon’s Battle of the Books, 3rd-5th graders will be encouraged to live, breath and study a book with references to “p0rn,” “going all the way,” and sex-change operations (see references below).
At the heart of the battle is this issue: many educational entities at the state and federal level are pushing a liberal moral agenda concerning when and how sexual topics are introduced to students, with waning regard for what is age appropriate. There is still a small window of time to make your voice heard at the local level about this issue (see below).
Oregon Battle of the Books is a voluntary state library-sponsored reading program and a beloved tradition for many students across Oregon and the nation. Students form teams, hoping to make it to regional, state, and national competitions. They not only read, but study in depth, all the books on the assigned Battle of the Books list for the year and compete against other teams. When our kids were assigned a Battle of the Books list two years ago, they were so excited, they read the books within a couple of months and practically memorized them. One parent described winning teams as a “point of pride” for schools.
The book list for next year’s Battle of the Books (2018-2019) in Oregon has brought a great deal of controversy due to one book on the list for 3rd-5th graders, George, by Alex Gino. The main character in George is a child who lives in a boy’s body, but feels he is a girl. Many parents have passionately expressed concern to us because the book has many references to various sexual topics that are in no way age appropriate to introduce to a 3rd grader in a school setting.
Regarding p0rnography, the book mentions the word “p0rn” and goes so far as to describe how to hide internet searches. We know from our experience as parents, if our kids see a word they do not understand but are curious about, they simply do a “Google” search. How will that internet search go for all the young students reading this book and googling “p0rn”? Although we have internet protections in place, many households do not, and protections do not always work as planned. Concerned parents have expressed that if parents would like to introduce those topics to their young students, they have the right to do so at home. However, that decision should not be forced upon all students and parents in Oregon public schools.
The difficult aspect of this controversy is that Oregon Battle of the Books (OBOB) will not budge on this book being included next year. Although it says on the “Book Nomination Criteria” tab of the OBOB page, that they consider “age-appropriate titles,” they adamantly argue that this book is age appropriate. The OBOB website also claims that it will not take a book off the list “because of actual or suspected parental objections” or “in an effort to avoid controversy with parents.”
Consequently, individual school districts in Oregon must choose how they will handle this situation. We applaud the Bend La Pine School Board for taking this issue seriously and listening to the concerns of parents. It is our understanding that they have had one meeting already that discussed this issue and will have one more closed meeting on April 19th. They will make a decision by April 20th.
However, the district is leaning towards keeping the book on the required reading list and having students get permission from their parent to read it, but many parents do not feel this goes far enough. They know that the inclusion of the book will still greatly affect their students. First, all parents know that if you tell your child they can’t do something, it will make them more curious about that activity. Second, those kids whose parents will not let them read the book will clearly be singled out and potentially ostracized for “bringing down their teams.” Third, playground conversation will no doubt increasingly deal with many of these topics, and likely the conversations will be without the supervising care and wisdom of a teacher or adult.
Ultimately, most parents we have encountered would like the Bend La Pine School Board to take a stand against the Battle of the Books committee in Portland and exclude this book from the Bend La Pine Battle of the Books list next year. It is not too late to make your voice heard. We always encourage people to communicate in a respectful way. We cover this type of issue and how to deal with it in our book, Navigating Public Schools.
Contact a Bend La Pine School Board member and call, email or write.
Although the Oregon Battle of the Books committee members have claimed they will not change their minds, it would be beneficial for them to hear how you feel about this issue. Contact the OBOB by clicking here.
Here’s just a sampling of some of the inappropriate content:
Alex Gina, George, Scholastic Inc., 2017
Pg. 8. “That’s it.” Scott grinned, oblivious to George’s panic. “That’s my little bro! Growing up and looking at dirty magazines.”
Pg. 47. So George knew it could be done. A boy could become a girl. She had since read on the Internet that you could take girl hormones that would change your body, and you could get a bunch of different surgeries if you wanted them and had the money. This was called transitioning. You could even start before you were eighteen with pills called androgen blockers that stopped the boy hormones already inside you from turning your body into a man’s.
Pg. 105. George had been reading websites about transitioning since Scott had taught her how to clear the web browser on Mom’s computer.
Pg. 141. Dude, I thought you had p0rn or something in there, so I took a peek. You know, just to find out what kind of stuff my little bro was into.
Pg. 141. “So, like, do you want to”- he made a gesture with two fingers like a pair of scissors- “go all the way.”