"Book banning was about morality, not politics"
June 12, 2008 · Updated 10:03 AM
"Yet again, one of the daily newspapers that presumes to speak for South Kitsap has seen fit to portray it as a haven for small-minded bigots. The excuse this time was the decision by the SK School District to drop Snow Falling on Cedars from a list of novels recommended for classroom use at South Kitsap High School.Last winter, you'll no doubt recall, the same publication unleashed a barrage of sanctimonious editorials chastising the entire community when a handful of students at an especially contentious South Kitsap High School basketball game took up a racially insensitive chant directed toward the opposing team. The editorial page manager at the newspaper in question, not satisfied simply to lecture, then took it upon himself to alter the content of a letter to the editor written by a student who attended the game in order to make the wording of the chant even more offensive. But when you've staked out the moral high ground, why let a little detail like the truth stand in your way?As for the Snow Falling on Cedars flap, our editorial conscience has weighed in with its opinion that the board was misguided in dropping the book for its explicit sexuality, adult language and graphic violence.Whether those elements actually existed in the book to an extent that justifies its exclusion from the approved reading list is a question fair-minded people can debate. And, for the record, that sort of healthy exchange is precisely what happened at last week's school board meeting.The lingering suspicion, however, is that for the truly enlightened there is no level of indecency inappropriate for the consumption of someone else's children. Of course they can't come right out and say it like that, so they cloak their arguments in tonier-sounding ideals like political correctness. Let's be clear on this important question: Snow Falling on Cedars, which tells the story of Japanese-Americans confined by the United States government to detention camps during World War II, wasn't banned for its political content, or because its critics disagreed with the author's interpretation of historical events. Consequently, to portray the school board's action as some sort of coup d'etat is to miss the point entirely.The issue here isn't politics, it's morality - and whose responsibility it is to set the standards by which the community's young people will be raised. The parents - and students - who spoke out last week against Snow Falling on Cedars did so with the understanding that morality is the rightful province of home, family and church, and that ideals carefully nurtured by parents must not be undermined in the classroom.It would also be instructive, by the way, to evaluate the actions of the Port Orchard law firm Crawford, McGilliard, Peterson, Yelish & Dixon in that context. The attorneys, responding to the school board's decision, last week donated 33 copies of Snow Falling on Cedars to the high school's library, saying ...it speaks to a number of issues, from diversity in our society to a time in American history that needs to be known and not forgotten.Baloney. If Crawford, McGilliard et al really wanted to enlighten South Kitsap students on the historical and political implications of the detention issue, there are scores of books they might have donated that tell the story much less, shall we say, passionately. Clearly, the partners were more interested in sending a message to the school board that they object to the education establishment abdicating to parents the role of setting the moral agenda for South Kitsap students.Despite the best efforts of the anointed to shape the argument through disinformation, however, this case simply cannot be characterized as a handful of extremists trying to force their morality onto everyone else. One might make that argument had the parents attempted to sneak the Bible, for example, onto the reading list - in which case you can be sure the howls of indignation from condescending journalists and litigation-minded lawyers would have been deafening.No, when you strip away all the posturing and rhetoric, what this really comes down to is a group of concerned parents, students and community members who shouldered the responsibility for assuring that, at least in this one case, someone else's moral ambiguity wouldn't be shoved down their throats."