Thursday, October 20, 2005

Cabin John Backs Down

We fight over a sex-ed curriculum. Sometimes we tell reporters it's just one little part of the big culture war. And it is: there are several other fronts in this war. One that we kind of keep an eye on is the fight over evolution. The other side in our sex-ed fight pretends that it's not a conflict of religion with science by carefully not quoting scripture in their public statements. Same in the evolution controversy. The religious extremists pretend that Intelligent Design is something different from creationism, by carefully not mentioning any Creator by name. Like oh yeah, it might be Paul Bunyon.

This morning's Post had something that sort of jumped out at me. Marc Fisher wrote about some teachers at Cabin John Middle School, over in Bethesda, who gave eighth-grade students a list of the 100 top books that have been banned, and asked them to read one of them.

Now, that is pretty nervy, though obviously there's a point they're trying to make. It's about censorship, and the fact that The Man has tried to shut down some great literature. But of course it turns out that there are people who actually favor censorship. Apparently a couple of them called the school -- the school won't say how many, except that it was "less than five." Naturally the school backed down and retracted this great, challenging assignment.

There were a couple on the list that maybe you really wouldn't want your kid to read, but most of the books are just fine -- see the American Library Association's list HERE. As October is Banned Book Month, it seemed like an appropriate assignment.

So what do you think it means, when a couple hundred parents think an assignment is ok, but "less than five" complain, and get their way? Is this sounding familiar? --It's exactly what we have with the health curriculum.

Anyway, one section of Fisher's column, in particular, jumped out at me. He wrote:
"The parents flunked the assignment," says parent Chris Rigaux. "I don't blame Montgomery County for trying to avoid another court battle, but this was a chance to use books like [Hinton's] 'The Outsiders' to teach about very different lifestyles than we have here in Bethesda, Maryland."

Rigaux's and Strang's sons went ahead and read banned novels and discussed them at home. But Strang is left with a question: "How can I build a resilient child in this world when this is how schools react to pressure?" Views of the Few Send a School Into Retreat

So there it is ... trying to avoid another court battle. In this whole school, this columnist was able to find two parents who didn't like some of the books on the list. But that's all it takes.

My first thought was that this lockdown over at Cabin John was a direct consequence of the lawsuit over the sex-education curriculum earlier this year. The CRC and PFOX took tens of thousands of the school district's money, wasted hundreds of hours of people's time, drew negative national attention to Montgomery County, and now the schools are afraid to try anything that might be controversial by anybody's standards.

At the same time, I could just hear CRC's lawyer John Garza whining at the school board, saying "Send us a curriculum that's not offensive." Right, a curriculum that's not offensive to anyone, sure thing. If two or three people can totally undermine a teacher's brilliant idea, then oh yeah, we're on our way to not offending anyone. And what kind of watered-down education could ever meet that standard? I shudder to think.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. That's quite a list. I would not read the books by Madonna and Howard Stern. I would actively incourage my kids to read many of the others, with more encouragement as they grow up. My husband and I have read many of these books to our kids. We talk about them, too.

This bring up lots of questions:

Who are these parents who could not find a single book they liked on this list?
What are they afraid of?
Why is the girls' edition of "What's Happening to My Body" 21% more objectionable than the boys' edition?
What are they afraid of?
What's not to love about Katherine Patterson? (Patterson trivia: her husband was the minister at the Takoma Park Presbyterian Church on Tulip Avenue. She set "The Great Gilly Hopkins" in Takoma Park. She never named the town but if you knew Takoma Park in the 70s, you'll recognize it.)
And finally, what ARE these people afraid of?

October 20, 2005 5:20 PM  
Blogger Kay2898 said...

It is certainly okay for one to parent their own children.....but not everyone else's children.

There were plenty of books to choose from. Do not tell me the minority parents could not find one for their children or suggest a substitute for them to read in alternative.

The school administration should not be catering to the minority.

October 20, 2005 5:39 PM  
Blogger andrea said...

Uh, oh, Harry Potter- we know where that leads- to more reading! Catcher in the Rye!- that book is so old-we had it as assigned reading in public school back in 1968. Reading is dangerous - it leads to more reading and ideas and uh, no- questions!

It is amazingly pathetic that a small number(1-4) of parents could have this whole assignment rescinded. Of course, there are small-minded parents- but shame on the principal for giving in to this. The principal is supposed to be the lead educator in a school- what message has she sent?

October 20, 2005 10:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The religious extremists pretend that Intelligent Design is something different from creationism, by carefully not mentioning any Creator by name."

The problem is, Jim, our soon-to-be-corrected Supreme Court declared teaching creationism to be an unconstitutional religious feature in public schools. That only makes sense if the creator is identified. As we have seen, intelligent design is subscribed to by people who have all sorts of ideas- and some with none at all- about who the creator may be. The evidence, which virtually all scientists agree exist, suggests that universe was set up to produce a certain result. Many scientists disagree with that interpretation of those facts but the nature of evidence and proof is the forte of philosophers, who increasingly agree that intelligent design ideas have merit.

Check out this week's cover story in Time magazine where several experts are asked to make predictions about "what's next?" There are interesting comments from one of the experts who predicts that intelligent design will soon become commonly accepted wisdom.

October 21, 2005 1:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry. The previous terrific post should have been signed by "Lightning".

October 21, 2005 1:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If the utter nonsense known as ID becomes routine in schools, you should begin making plans to visit your grandchildren in India and China, because the US will be a third-rate country economically by then."

You ought to read journalist David Aikman's book, "Jesus in Bejing", detailing the strength of the Christian underground movement in China. A former bureau chief in Bejing for Time magazine, he predicts that China will in the near future become the first nation since Rome to change the state religion to Christianity. He shows how China's leaders, who in the 80s thought capitalism was the secret of America's strength, have now concluded that it is Christianity. Guess that will leave India to reap the windfall from all those practical economic applications of evolution.

"One of the more ludicrous contentions of Dr. Behe is that a flagellum could not have evolved; it must have arisen de novo. There appear to be specific research groups working on the evolution of the flagellum as I write. What will the good Dr. say when he wakes up one day and has to eat his words? This childishness was promoted regarding the evolution of the eye several decades ago, until the research was done there as well."

Could you reference the research that you say has been concluded?

"The plan of the IDers is to find pockets of science where there are significant questions and gaps (never a hard thing to do)and then claim, "Eureka!""

So if they point out problems with evolution, they have a dastardly scheme but if you point out probems with ID, your intentions are only noble. This shows how evolutionary theory has become a religion. You think it is sacred and beyond criticism. ID theorists aren't attacking "pockets of science", they're trying to de-mythologize the role of evolution in the vast variety of speciation on our planet.

"Behe even testified to the effect that if the world of eminent scientists doesn't have an answer to a question, it implies there is a designer. Is that philosophy, or stupidity?"

If he said that he's wrong but could you provide the exact quote? The truth is there appears to be a designer because there appears to be a design.


October 22, 2005 6:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the tasks of the educator is to select material that is edifying. Teachers are accountable to parents for how well they have done the job. This criticism is often called censorship or book-banning by teachers but that's self-serving rhetoric. Adults in America are free to read anything they want. Parents are entrusted with protecting kids from particularly confusing or seductive works before they are ready to handle them. Middle school is an especially confusing time in a child's life, requiring parental attention to influences.

Of course, I hope everyone recognizes Jim' hypocrisy in this post. He thinks the parents in Cabin John are out of line but fully supports the parents in Pennsylvania who have sued to remove the mere mention of Dean Kenyon's book, "Of Pandas and People" which teaches about both evolution and ID. It appears he would like everything mentioned in school that he wants mentioned in school.


October 22, 2005 6:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I remember reading "The Outsiders" at Herbert Hoover Middle School in class.

I actually really liked that book. I thought it was very good.

I don't see what the big problem is."

Alex, the problem was with the whole list and the self-serving way the teacher was trying to redefine book-banning.

October 22, 2005 6:40 AM  
Blogger JimK said...


Do you think your twelve year old has never heard the word "gay?"

I appreciate the fact that you are expressing yourself here, and hope that at some point we can all arrive at some sort of understanding, and maybe even think of ways to overcome these chasms that divide us.

But ... It will not be possible for a parent to screen every perceptual stimulus that impinges on their child's senses. Your hope that the world will be cleansed of all mention of sex is simply going to be disappointed. Most people in this world enjoy sex, and hardly anybody waits till marriage to engage in it. So it seems you will want to interfere with everybody else's lives, while they are doing things that are not wrong by a reasonable standard, in order to filter what your child sees.

But you must know ... your kid is finding out stuff. In muy opinion, all you've done is to create a situation where he can't talk with you about these things that are probably very important to him at this age.


October 22, 2005 10:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said... answer would suit you it appears. Who would exactly have the answer for that? Each parent would believe a different thing as it relates to their own children. Each parent should parent their own children but not dictate to everyone else which is why folks have such a problem with CRC'rs.

My question is why are you not participating in the CRC message board more where like-minded would be there for you?

"Anon free"

October 22, 2005 12:02 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Theresa, this might seem strange to you, but I don't see an age-limit for a term like "anal sex." Tell you the truth, I think little kids think all sex is anal, like, the man puts his pee-pee in the lady's butt. As the kid gets older, they pick up stuff on the playground, in health class, and from their parents, and eventually get a picture close to what actually happens. By 10 or 12 they should know that there's another place on the woman's body where babies come out and where sperm goes in.

But don't they realize that there is a range of sexual behaviors? Like kissing, they understand that kissing has something to do with sex. Touching a girl's breasts is a major taboo, even those these wonderful things have suddenly appeared and are causing a stir in the boy community -- you can't touch them, and it's even rude to talk about them. And it has something to do with sex. And wet dreams and all that goes with it, embarrassing erections -- they're going to wonder about all this.

So all these things are happening in their world. Sex is everywhere, not just commercial sexualization but personal emotions and observations. And it will be like that for the rest of their lives. They will hear about oral sex, anal sex, gay sex, masturbation, sex toys and one-night stands, and they will need to learn about the varieties of ways that people exploit innocence sexually. So a 10-year-old, or an 8-year-old, hears the phrase "anal sex." What happens? Either they forget it, or maybe they try to find out more about it. And then what? They might learn that some people do that -- you don't think that really sounds appealing to a kid, do you? It's just a piece of knowledge they can store away as they try to understand this huge thing.

I know I've gone on too long (I'm avoiding a stack of bills), but to summarize: I don't think knowledge is harmful. I also think sex is natural and good, and that it is extremely powerful and can only be managed, at the personal level, by accurate knowledge.


October 22, 2005 12:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Theresa, this might seem strange to you, but I don't see an age-limit for a term like "anal sex.""

Thanks for conceding this, Jim. That will be very helpful.

October 22, 2005 3:47 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

I don't believe there was any "concession." I didn't really realize that Theresa wanted an answer to that question, but she asked again so I told her what I think. And remember, we're just talking about saying a word here.

Sadly, I halfway expect the CRC to publish something saying "Teach the Facts member advocates anal sex for 10-year-olds." I'm not playing that game; I'll say what I mean, you twist it how you want, we'll let the people sort it out.


October 22, 2005 5:37 PM  
Blogger andrea said...

I am pretty sure, as I said before, that any kid who wants to ask about anal sex in class(even if it is just to get oohs and giggles) is saying it in the school yard, on the bus and at lunch. So your kid is hearing it. Sadly, I wonder if your kids already know there are things they can't ask you. I didn't want there to be anything at any age my kids couldn't ask me so I could give them an answer. I know from my own ancient experience growing up that what parents won't answer- or knowing that parents won't talk about certain things- it makes kids go to other kids- where the answers are likely to be wrong and possibly dangerous. I think that is why we hear so many kids think oral and anal sex isn't sex- because you can't get pregnant and you are "still a virgin" seems to be the reason why-and they have heard it from their peers before their parents speak to them.

As to books- my son started to read at 3 1/2 and I have only removed one book from his hands- when he was 5. It was a book on AIDs with rather graphic sexual descriptions. He would wander around the library to pick out books and he was in his disease and disaster stage then.

MCPS uses the William and Mary program for honors English and banned books is one of the sections. What I find surprising is that you think your kid(an 8th grader) has not heard about gay sex or that the purpose of this was to suggest any student- after discussing it with a parent-should read Sex by Madonna or the Anarchist cookbook. As to "protecting" your kids from the world- I suggest you keep them out of Giant, 7-11 or anywhere else that sells magazines- and I don't mean Playboy. I am not sure even Family Circle is exempt from the current practice of cover stories on improving your sex life or cover models who need some cover. I do not approve of mostly naked cover models - who appear to be younger every year(fashion magazines often use young teens- the public wouldn't want anyone who looked "old")- but we discuss this. My kids know I think it is inappropriate as is the "requirement" to have a story on sexual activities in many magazines which formerly were about fashion or health or even household matters.


October 22, 2005 5:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"What are you so scared about?"

Nothing. I'd be happy to see the issue of evolution vs. ID discussed in the school. Your side is the one afraid of having kids hear about ID.

"You obviously know nothing about science or the scientific method."

What is it that you think I don't know?

"I'm all for discussing the impact of religion in American history, and world history, in the schools. I even think a course on comparative religion would be a valuable elective."

Me too. I think we've got a match.

"It's just not science."

It is based on observation of the physical world and drawing conclusions from those observations. Just like Darwin in the Galapagos except that it's right. Why isn't that science?

"he Chinese are not rolling up patents, LM, because they believe in Jesus."

The United States, which long believed in Jesus, has changed the world with its technological marvels. Now, as faith wanes, our science is beginning to fall behind.

" never said the research on the flagellum had been concluded. I said it is ongoing."

I was talking about the eye research that you said disproved ID "decades" ago.
"that's how science works. With sufficient funding, scientists get to tackle problems that are interesting. A man of limited imagination and curiosity, such as Dr. Behe, looks at the cell, sees God, and closes the book. End of science. How many examples do you need? Galileo builds his telescope, sees the planets, says, "Hallelujah!" and dismantles his telescope?""

ID research is ongoing. Review the activities of the Discovery Institute in Seattle. Behe's book is a major feat of ideation. He also has displayed courage in staring down the mainstream science establishment, much like Galileo. The telescopes are intact.

"his battle has been going on for as long as modern science has been in existence."

Yes, it has. That's why mainstream science has developed its bias.

"he only reason you push this is because you question your own faith, and become scared."

What do you base that on?

"Do you want to live in a world without science?"

One interesting point of the NOVA special on Einstein a couple of weeks ago is that many of the scientists who have made major discoveries were inspired to explore "God's creation." Acknowledging his existence won't end science, it will revitalize it.

"ou really believe research is done by seeing Mary in the structure of a mitochondrion?"

i'm not Roman catholic and I'm sceptical of visions of Mary.

"And you risk losing religious freedom by pushing to insinuate it into places it does not belong."

I never doubted it. I've read Revelation.Compartmentalizing belief in God into places it belongs is the definition of hypocrisy.

"f course there are holes in evolution. There are holes in cosmology, and particle physics as well. Medicine is full of holes. How do you propose we fill those holes? Faith in Jesus?"

We should fill them with the simplest explanation that seems reasonable. Evolution's not sacred. It's holes are actually uncomfortable facts that don't make sense.

"ou are free to find your morality wherever you choose. You are not free to dismantle the science programs of this country with know-nothingism."

Yes I am but that's not a correct characterization of my views.

October 22, 2005 5:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


You seem to have responded to my post before it appeared. I thought I had posted it before but it doesn't appear. This blog is getting spooky as Halloween approaches. Anyway, thanks for the article. It will take a while to digest.

October 22, 2005 6:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim K said...

Sadly, I halfway expect the CRC to publish something saying "Teach the Facts member advocates anal sex for 10-year-olds." I'm not playing that game; I'll say what I mean, you twist it how you want, we'll let the people sort it out.


Well Theresa is a CRC'r afterall who thought nothing of their use of school families' PTA private directory information. Would you expect anything less than a CRC'r misrepresenting anything?

Sex is a dirty word to them and homosexuals, etc., just scare them to death. They are afraid it may rub off on them as if it is something to be feared and dirty. Nevermind there are probably CRC'rs who have anal sex on occasion or are closeted homosexuals.

It is just matter of how fast she does it or how fast we see Michelle Turner ranting aboout TTF in her less than stellar BOE testimony rantings.

October 22, 2005 7:03 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Sometimes you might need to refresh your screen to see the latest post. This seems to happen especially when it was your own post that came last. I refresh on the main page, then select comments, and then refresh that, too. Sometimes I have to do it a couple of times to see stuff. Amazing what shows up sometimes.


October 22, 2005 7:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon said, "I'd be happy to see the issue of evolution vs. ID discussed in the school."

Yes, obviously, that's what you, the Discovery Institute, some slick Madison Avenue marketing types, and a couple of hundred scientists worldwide are all about; attempting to force an unscientific theory that supports your chosen religion into our public school curricula. Of course you'd be "happy to see" that happen! Thank you for your honesty!

I'd be appalled! And so would the rest of the world's tens of thousands of scientists along with the majority of folks in Montgomery County who know that ID is creationism in scientists' clothing and as such does not belong in the classroom.

You can keep repeating that ID is some scientific theory based on observation all you want. Repeating a false statement, no matter how many times you repeat it, will not make it true.

ID is repackaged creationism.
ID's textbook -- Of Pandas and People --is a rewrite of a book on creationism as noted here: (

You think we're afraid to have ID in our schools? We don't fear any one religion; instead we agree that all religious instruction belongs in houses of worship, not in our public schools. There are a couple of US Supreme Court precedents that support that view.

We are secure in our faiths. Yes, faiths -- plural. We understand reason and how important it is for scientific advancement. We say what we mean. We see no sense in wasting time discussing any being who cannot be known by any of the 5 senses but is *believed* to be responsible for many natural phenomena because "there's no other explanation for it!" ID doesn't pass the laugh test.

The public's been hearing lots of lies from the radical right lately and maybe in your social circles people believe them, but trust me, the progressive majority here in Montgomery County "ain't buyin' what they're sellin'," as my Daddy used to say.

And that reminds me. Your attempts to proselytize in the guise of discussing your faith as if it was a scientific theory isn't getting you too far with this crowd either.

Aunt Bea

October 23, 2005 9:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

>> As I've said, we can have this discussion in American History class (Scopes), or Comparative Religion, or Philosophy. And I wouldn't care if a science teacher used ID to teach what the scientific method is. As a matter of fact, I think that's a pretty good idea. But you won't find more than a handful of science teachers in the states outside the Confederacy who would equate it with science, or say it's valid science. It's just not going to happen, even if it's the law in some benighted district. <<

Well, you said I was scared. Sounds like you are. It's like a horror flick: Biology class mentions design features of living things! Help, I won't know what to say!

>> If you think ID is about the scientific method just because some believer looks at a cell (which counts as "observation" to you) and proclaims God's handiwork, then you don't understand the fundamental precepts of the scientific method. <<

The scientist observes specific correlations and notes they are unlikely to be random. It's a valid observation. It's not just glancing at a cell, it's making measurements and studying how it works.

>> What kind of nonsense is that? Sounds like self-righteous hubris to me. Just because "it's right?" Darwin took a tour, observed, recorded, went home and examined the evidence, eventually coming up with a theory. Had his theory been, "Wow, the world is a wonderfully diverse place and exemplifies God's handiwork, and left it at that, there's have been nothing about which we could argue. <<

The design argument is more sophisticated than your parody of it.

>>That's quite a leap. On many levels. By all data that I've seen, the U.S. is one of the most religious places on the planet. So your argument fails right there. And, again, when Americans believed in Jesus and left their faith outside the lab, progress was made. And, just to get the diction correct, the "United States" never believed in Jesus. Christian Americans may have, and certainly all didn't, including a few of the Founding Fathers. <<

You're the one the brought the topic up. Religious faith and recognizing God's role in creation has not and never will impede science.

>>Actually, that's not true. There is no ongoing research. There never has been research. There can't possibly be any research, by definition, since ID is not a falsifiable hypothesis. <<

You can test the specific data supporting design. As you said, your people are on the case right now.

>>That makes no sense to me. <<

That's because you're one of the biased individuals.

>> As I've pointed out, religion may very well be inspirational to people, including scientists. And that's as far as it goes, for Einstein and all the others. <<

Scripture only gives the faintest of details. Still, what it says is true. Recognizing that doesn't, as you say, mean the end of science- there is much to fill in. Here's one from the book of Proverbs: "It is the glory of God to conceal things, and the glory of kings to seek things out."

>>They make perfect sense, <<

No, they don't. Assuming things are as evolutionists say, the fossil record shows most of the big evolving took place over a relatively short period of time. Might be that there's a simpler solution.

>> I stand corrected.<<

Get used to it.

October 24, 2005 11:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Oh, nasty nasty. And I was going to praise you and others on your side at the BoE tonight."

You're going tonight? Me, too. Let's get together for a coupla brewskis after the theatrics.


October 24, 2005 4:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

darn, I blew it again. I thought you'd recognize my Harry Potter glasses and lightning scar on my forehead. oh well, next month.

October 25, 2005 7:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe Cabin John backed down but
it's good to see that MCPS
realizes that reading is good for
kids, even reading about things
they don't learn at home.

Check it out here:

The 1938 restored movie of banned
book Number 84 on the banned book
list will be shown at AFI and 1500
MCPS students will have the
opportunity to see it.



October 25, 2005 3:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All Jim's personalities are posting.


October 25, 2005 4:51 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

In this discussion, I have posted as JimK and only JimK. If you think any of these others are me, you're wrong.


October 25, 2005 10:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Cabin John list was not pulled for Harry Potter. It was pulled because it included such works as Final Exit which contains detailed instructions on how to commit suicide. It was pulled for The Anarchists Cookbook which does contain instructions on bombmaking and home brewed drugs. It was pulled for works portraying extreme violence as a means to sexual gratification. A responsible teacher would distance himself/herself from such works, not include them on a classroom reading list. Almost no guidance was given to these children. The assignment sheet did not include any instuctions to show the list to parents, much less any instructions to discuss the list with them. To have given this list out without prior parental consent, especially at the beginning of school when the teacher could not possibly have known about the mental or emotional status, or life situations of her pupils is rank irresponsibility and should by all rights have lead to the teacher's dismissal from her employment with the school system.

October 30, 2005 2:29 PM  

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