One reader's rave

"Thanks for the newspaper with your book review. I can’t tell you how impressed I am with this terrific piece of writing. It is beautiful, complex, scholarly. Only sorry Mr. Freire cannot read it!" -- Ailene

Help the Honey Badgers in their fight for freedom of speech and thought!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Stop Education Censorship

The Philadelphia Public Record last week ran a sensationalist story about an effort to have a sex education book for people ages ten and older banned from the state's schools and libraries. I immediately borrowed a copy so I could respond in an informed fashion. Here's the letter I just sent the Record:

The fractured logic of those campaigning against the book It's Perfectly Normal was evident right from the Public Record's front-page photo, which showed a sign saying the book is "not even allowed in prisons." "Not even"? Since when are prisons known for their liberal library policies?

One woman religious was quoted as saying the book is "laced with pornographic cartoons." Webster's defines pornography as "matter depicting erotic activity and intended to cause sexual excitement." Having just read the book (tenth anniversary edition, 2004), I can attest that out of eighty-nine pages, it contains exactly four cartoons depicting erotic activity (not in any detail) and exactly zero intended to cause sexual excitement. If they excited Sister Paula Beierschmitt inadvertently, this is probably just an example of the adage, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder."

Let's compare what's said about the book with what the book itself says. Beierschmitt: It "demeans human values." It's Perfectly Normal: "It's important to respect other people's feelings about slang and dirty words or dirty jokes."

Maria Merlino: "Promotes sexual activity at an early age without emotional maturity." It's Perfectly Normal: "Waiting to have sex until one is old enough to take good care of a baby makes good sense. The surest way not to become pregnant is to abstain."

Merlino again: "An injustice to girls, demeaning them in every way." It's Perfectly Normal: "Sharing between two people who care about each other always means having respect for each other's feelings and wishes. This includes respecting each other's right to say 'No!' to any kind of sexual activity -- at any time and for any reason."

Why are the critics' descriptions so far from the reality? Perhaps because they don't know much about childhood education. Here's what some of those who do say:

"Notable Children's Book" -- American Library Association
"Blue Ribbon Winner" -- Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"Reading Magic Award Winner" -- Parenting
"Best Book of the Year" -- School Library Journal
"A family-friendly guide" -- Child

Case closed!

If you live in Pennsylvania, you can counter this obscurantist campaign by writing your state legislators at You can write the Record at

Eric Hamell

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