Banned Books Week Sept. 21-28

Books won’t stay banned. They won’t burn, ideas won’t go to jail. In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost. The only sure weapon against bad ideas is better ideas. The source of better ideas is wisdom.
— Alfred Griswold Whitney

The week of Sept. 21-28 has been designated Banned Books Week by the Office of Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association. During this time, libraries and schools around the country hold programs and readings to celebrate the “right to read.”

Think censorship and banning books are ancient history, or at least not problems we face here on Long Island? Unfortunately, that’s not the case. In fact, there are many myths and misconceptions about censorship that should be challenged. Here are four:

Myth: Censorship occurs primarily in states that would be associated with right-wing conservative views often identified as the Bible Belt.

Reality: Many years ago, the organization People for the American Way, in tracking cases of censorship, listed the 10 states reporting the most incidents of challenges. Only two of the states would be identified with the Bible Belt, in the South. Reported incidents of censorship sent to the Office of Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association (ALA) continue to have no geographic pattern. The organizati

on considers censorship to be a national problem.

Myth: Censorship is usually identified with conservative political or religious groups.

Reality: Examples include the Harry Potter series—the principal reason, wizardry—as well as and Tango Makes Three—the reason, supposed homosexuality of penguins. However, groups not usually identified as conservative also censor. A few years ago, the NAACP unsuccessfully sought to have the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary redefine the “N” word and limit it to its offensive connotation. (The publisher refused to limit the definition since over time it has had many different meanings). Concern has also been expressed regarding the depiction of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice. Some Jewish organizations have challenged its inclusion in the Language Arts curriculum in high schools.

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and Tango Makes Three: Yes, this is a candidate for banning.

Myth: Censorship in public schools is focused on school libraries and books used in the classrooms.

Reality: In addition to censorship of books, school administrators in many states (not New York) have “for pedagogical reasons,” the final say regarding the contents of official student newspapers. The

Student Press Law Center, which represents students in challenges to their First Amendment rights, reports that more and more students are using the Internet and social media to publish their views without being subject to school officials.

School plays and performances are routinely screened by school administrators. A few years ago, a drama class in Wilton, CT, was prohibited from presenting a dramatic  reading of a cross-section of views by soldiers in Iraq. The students were able to take advantage of several offers to present their reading in theaters outside of their school. They accepted the invitation to present their program at the Public Theater in New York City.
Myth: Current books for children and teenagers which focus on sex, violence and drugs are the principal objects of the censors. [Read more...]

Long Island Or Little Moscow?

Having just watched season one of the cable television series “The Americans.” in which Russian spies kill our own FBI agents in Washington D.C., I question the wisdom and the “fairness” of the Oyster Bay Town Board’s waiving of parking and beach permit fees for Russian diplomats; while charging American citizen Town of Oyster Bay residents, who live in Plainview, Old Bethpage, Oyster Bay, East Norwich, Hicksville, Syosset, Jericho, Massapequa, Glen Cove, Farmingdale, Woodbury, Locust Valley, Sea Cliff, Bayville, Brookville, Muttontown, Mill Neck, Bethpage, Lattingtown, and other fine, upstanding communities, $60 for annual automobile beach stickers.
I’d like to tell U.N. Russian Mission spokesman Alexey Zaytsev that his fellow Russians are not the only Long Islanders who “love Oyster Bay’s beaches and the open water waters and high-wave beach at Tobay,” and I’d also like to tell Town of Oyster Bay spokeswoman Marta Kane that if “it’s one of those things we’ve done for decades as a sign of goodwill” to Russians, our Town should show the same goodwill to its own hard-working, tax-paying employees and residents. Town Supervisor John Venditto should either “Make Putin Pay” or else have to deal with seeing all of us defect to Russia where I’m sure the local Moscow government will be happy to let us swim for free inside its Luzhniki Stadium complex, which hosted the U.S.-boycotted 1980 Olympics.

Richard Siegelman

Saving Bees & Ourselves

We are glad Gary Feldman wrote the article “Saving The Bees-And Ourselves- Begins At Home” May 21-May 27, telling us how invaluable our bees are. But he didn’t go far enough. Yes, we can have bee attracting plants in organic, pesticide free backyards and “grow colonies.” However, without signing online petitions (NRDC and Credo, etc.) to the Environmental Protection Agency and to our representatives, the neonicotoids and other chemicals, will kill them off. Even now, Dow and Sygenta want to use more powerful pesticides which will put the nail in the coffin. A grassroots groundswell is needed to push laws like those in Europe. It is long past due.

— Elaine Peters

The Past Informs The Future

In response to Billionaires vs. Our Kids (May 21-27), or more to the point, an extension on what has been stated. Since 1974 when President Richard Nixon created the U.S. Department of Education, the country has steadily lost it prominence in the field of education and educating our kids. Why? It is because of all the politicians, special interest groups and bureaucrats that have made education policies based on their own interests and not the interest of the children or the learning process.
At least 85 percent of all educators, teachers, in nursery to 12th grade do a fabulous job in the class rooms around the country. The problem is education administrators don’t hold children, parents, teachers’ unions and federal and state bureaucrats accountable to their responsibility to educating our kids.
Curriculums are created by former educators, out of a classroom setting for 30-plus years, bureaucrats and teachers’ unions in the halls of our legislative bodies around the country and not in the local school district. Local school districts, like years ago (30-plus years), that is, school boards and PTA’s, determined what was good for the local student and their best interests. Schools focused on the three R’s: Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic. We also taught them civics, geography and history. We gave slow learners an opportunity to earn a good living with trade schooling in high schools, not everyone is or will be college material. What did that produce in the USA? Men on the moon, new inventions including today’s new technologies. We did not produce carbon copies where everyone thinks and speaks the same as the rest of the world. We excelled over worldwide production and inventions.
I hope we wake up the silent and uninformed majority that proper and great education does not produce success for everyone. Hard work, perseverance and opportunities in education or a skilled trade leads to a good earning wages in a field that one can excel and then can produce other opportunities for themselves and others.

— Henry Teja

Keep Sixth Graders In Place

I firmly believe that pulling sixth graders out of elementary school in favor of putting them into middle school is a rather huge mistake. Aside from monetary cost associated with such a move, and the heavy tax burden that will fall on the heads of residents, there is a real threat to disrupting the delicate balance we have achieved here in Massapequa.
School officials site the fact that Massapequa is one of the only districts that have sixth graders in elementary school. To that I say, so what? Massapequa does should not bow and bend to the will of other school districts — instead, we should stick to everything that keeps us unique. [Read more...]

American Flag Etiquette

As Memorial Day approaches, it is important that organizations and individuals, including many of our elected officials, be reminded that there is a Federal Flag Code (Public Law 94-344) that was passed by the 94th Congress (1975 – 1977) as a guide for handling and displaying the United States Flag.
All too often, I see the American Flag positioned incorrectly in a parade or behind someone during an interview on television or pictured in the newspaper. As per Public Law 94-344, Rule no. 10 states “When carried in a parade front with other flags, the U.S. Flag should be always to the marching right of the other flags, or to the front and center of the flag line.” Rule no. 35 states that when displayed from a staff in a church or public auditorium, the U.S. Flag should be to the clergyman’s or speaker’s right as he/she faces the audience. Any other flag should be placed on the left of the clergyman or speaker or to the right of the audience. [Read more...]

Billionaires vs. Our Kids

I don’t mind reasonable incremental changes to our children’s education. What I see, however, when you follow the money with Common Core, is an opportunity for billionaires like Bill Gates to apply monetary influence over politicians in order to gain political favor. I see a public school system focused more on testing and memorization of useless trivia, than students truly learning and grasping concepts.
With Common Core, I see corporations eventually profiting from access to our children’s confidential information, and a further invasion into our privacy. Will any of us be surprised if somehow Bill Gates’ Microsoft eventually benefits from computerized testing and educational software in our public schools? [Read more...]

Teachers Deserve Honor

Anton’s “Collaborative Excellence” editorial rightly and generously offers “hearty congratulations to all (42) of the teachers throughout Long Island” who have been designated by New York State as “Master Teachers.” You explained that these 42 teachers “show excellence…in subject matter and teaching…by cultivating thorough understanding of the students…(and) involve family and community”. But you also noted that “because it is so new, many people may not be aware of this program.” [Read more...]

The Agony of Defeat

I regret to advise that I did not win the nomination for governor of the Libertarian Party of New York. Congratulations to this year’s slate: Huntington’s Michael McDermott for Governor; Rochester’s Christopher Edes for Lt. Governor; Queens resident John Clifton for Comptroller and Manhattan’s Carl Person for Attorney-General.
Richard Cooper
Westbury resident Richard Cooper and his quest to be the Libertarian Party’s candidate for Governor was the subject of John Owens’ column, “The Local Man Who Would Be Governor” (The Weekend, March 26-April 1).