Comment on the Greenville News & Easley Progress Articles
about the school board's removal the book, "Fat Kid Rules The World"
March 10, 2007
Below is the article entitled, School Board Pulls Book From Library Shelves. It was published on Wednesday, March 7, in the Greenville News. It was written by Julie Howle. The article is in black print and my comments (Alex Saitta) are in red print.
A 300-pound teen with a bad self-image is being taken out of Pickens County schools.
(I liked this article, because it quoted the author of the book. The reporter went the extra mile to get that interview and that made the article unique.)
The teen is a character in the book “Fat Kid Rules the World,” which Pickens County school board members unanimously voted to remove from school libraries last week, citing profanity, sexual innuendoes and references to drug use, suicide and alcohol abuse.
(The way this was presented to the board was, the district office had reviewed the book and recommended it be removed from the middle schools. That wasn't the whole story, though. The parent first complained to Dacusville Middle School. Following the school board policy, the school called a committee of the principal, the librarian, some teachers and a parent to review the book. After reviewing the book, the committee voted 6 to 1 to keep the book on the shelf.
I was blown away that the committee at the school level voted to keep this book on the shelf. I correctly assumed the district office wouldn't mention that part to the school board, so I made it a point at the board meeting. The Easley Progress covered that part of the story.)
“Fat Kid,” by K. L. Going, came to the school district's Challenged Book Committee after two parents made a written request that it be removed, said Libba Floyd, assistant superintendent for instruction for the school district. She said there were copies of the book at Dacusville Middle, Edwards Middle, Easley High and Pickens High.
(When the committee at the school voted to keep the book on the shelf, the parent appealed the ruling to the district office. At the district level a different committee was formed and they voted to reverse the school level decision, and they recommended to the school board the book be removed from middle schools.
At the board meeting, I made a motion to remove the book from all our public schools, including the middle and high schools. It passed 9 to 0.)
K.L. Going, author of “Fat Kid Rules the World,” said the book is about a kid with a horrible self-image who weighs 300 pounds. He meets a punk rock guitar genius who recruits him to play drums. Going said “Fat Kid” has come up for discussion as a banned book elsewhere because of profanity. But she said the language isn't gratuitous in the book.
(Gratuitous, I had to look that one up. It means done for nothing. Here is one cleansed sentence from the book. The 4-letter words have no educational purpose. He's calling me a fat “a”, tub of lard, “s” brained “mf-er”, but I don't stop to argue.)
“It's a creation of the setting and of the world that the characters live in,” she said. “I don't think that you could really write about punk rock and this kind of culture without using that lan guage to develop the world.”
(That world exists, I know, and she can write a book about whatever she wants, but I don’t think it has a place in the Pickens County public school system, because it fails to meet our educational standard.)
School board member Shirley Jones said students couldn't use the language found in the book at school and said the book should be removed for consistency.
(Shirley and I are on the opposite ends of the political spectrum, but this is one thing we agree on.)
“One of our main purposes is to prepare our students for careers,” said board member Alex Saitta. “If one of them talked this way in an interview, he would not get the job. If he talked that way on the job to a client, he would be fired.”
(This book and its many harmful lessons do not belong in an educational setting. We are training students for careers, similar to how the army trains soldiers. Just because prostitutes try to solicit GI's and some GI's buy what they are selling, it doesn't mean the army should say, that's reality, so let's make that activity part of the basic training program.)
Board member Oscar Thorsland asked, “How did that get on the shelves in the first place?”
(That was a great question, and it really wasn't answered at the meeting. It leads to the following question, how many books like this remain on the library shelves? I gat ered, no one knows.
The library book review policy is reactive. Somehow a book like this gets on the shelf, a child reads it, and a parent finds out, doesn't like it, and complains to the school. Then a review process starts.
The proactive part of the process needs to be improved, and that starts with those working in library who select the books in the first place. My hope is they have a book selection process that selects books that live up to our educational standards.)
Floyd said that “Fat Kid Rules the World” received the 2004 Michael L. Printz Honor Book Award given by the American Library Association and that award-winning books are often purchased. She said the book was also on a recommended list for media specialists to buy. Most books are read before being placed on library shelves, Floyd said, but this one wasn't.
(If memory serves me correct, in the meeting, district office said most of the books are not read before they are put on the shelf. I can understand that. There are a lot of books. However, they should be reviewed in some way to insure they are up to standard, instead of saying, this book is award winning, OK, put it on the shelf. It is like the Hollywood rating system. A PG-13 movie may be OK for movie goers, but it may not reach our educational standard.)
The book can be found in 13 schools in the Greenville County School District, according to Susan Clarke, a spokeswoman for the district. She said the book is in four middle schools, eight high schools and one alternative program.
(Pickens isn't Greenville.)
Kathy Morgan, one of the parents who made the written request for the book to be removed in Pickens County, said she doesn't argue whether the book has a valuable lesson. But for Morgan, the book just isn't appropriate, especially in middle schools.
(A book on mass murder might have a valuable lesson inside, somewhere, but it doesn’t mean it is educational overall and appropriate for our students.)
“If you take out the profanity, if you take out the sexual references, also the references to sui cide, alcohol and drugs, you have a pamphlet,” she said. “You don't even have a book.”
To Going, citing drug or alcohol references in the book as reasons for it to be removed is interesting. She said that if you were to read the book, the context gives a message that these aren't great things.
(Again, if someone writes a book on the ins and outs of mass murder and the message is mass murder is a bad thing, it doesn't mean it lives up to our educational standard and I don't think it should be in a public school library.)
“I think that teens today are smart enough and I think that they are exposed to all of these things enough in their daily world that they can interpret it and that they can understand things in context,” Going said.
(Children lack experience, so they haven’t developed the judgement to deal with adult issues, like sex, drugs, alcohol, 4-letter words, violence, etc. When they are exposed to them, often times they just repeat them and it hurts them and others who are trying to learn in our schools. Parents -- board members, principals, teachers, librarians -- need to exercise adult responsibility. From the author’s comments, I wonder who she thinks the adult is; is it the adults or the children?)
But she said there is a different standard for literature.
“We use sex to sell toothpaste, and yet that's sort of understood as just commonplace,” Going said. “We accept that our youth see that all the time.”
(Two wrongs do not make a right.)