Friday, December 04, 2009

New smear launched against Kevin Jennings using old tactics of omission

Dept.of Education official Kevin Jennings is being attacked again.

From Mediamatters.org:

Conservative blogs have claimed that Department of Education official Kevin Jennings is unfit as "Safe Schools Czar" because he supposedly promoted "child porn" by allowing an education organization he founded to recommend for students in grades 7-12 books that included sexually explicit content.

. . . In a December 4 post on his Gateway Pundit blog - headlined, "Breaking: Obama's 'Safe Schools Czar' Is Promoting Child Porn in the Classroom" - Jim Hoft wrote that "Scott Baker from Breitbart-TV.com and Co-Host of 'The B-Cast' submitted this shocking report today on Obama's deviant Safe Schools Czar Kevin Jennings." In the post, Baker wrote that the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), which Jennings founded and previously served as executive director, published a reading list for students in grades 7-12 that contained books which included "X-Rated" and sexually explicit content.

But like all the other attacks against Jennings, this one is full of holes.


The implication seems to be that GLSEN and Jennings are encouraging children to read explicit or x-rated material. But such, according to Media Matters, is not the case:

GLSEN states in red type: "All BookLink items are reviewed by GLSEN staff for quality and appropriateness of content. However, some titles for adolescent readers contain mature themes. We recommend that adults selecting books for youth review content for suitability. The editorial and customer reviews listed at Amazon.com often provide information on mature content." From the section:


So the implication that Jennings and GLSEN are attempting to expose children to sexually explicit material is not only wrong but highly irresponsible. The organization is suggesting a list of books for students to read. However the organization is also clearly suggesting that adults review the list and make the choice as to which books are appropriate for students.

This latest smear on Jennings reminds me of how members of the religious right declared war on Deerfield High School in Illinois in March of 2008.

Students in a Seniors Honors English class were assigned to read the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Angels in America, which told of the early days of the AIDS epidemic.

Members of the religious right, including Peter LaBarbera and Matt Barber, made sure to post the most explicit parts of the play and also made it seem that Angels in America was required reading.

They also omitted a few facts:

Students had to have permission from their parents to read Angels in America.

If they did not want to read Angels in America, they were then allowed to read another book, The Plague by Albert Camus.

As the Deerfield so-called controversy and the newest smear against Kevin Jennings proves, it's so simple how the omission of a few basic facts can unfairly paint someone as a monster out to harm children.

The two incidents also show that more scrutiny needs to be aimed at those making such accusations rather than the acceptance of their words at face value.

UPDATE - I have just received an email from someone who did not dispute my post but chose to appeal to hyperbole by posting some of the most explicit passages of one of the books. 

Nice try but your attempt to shock is still refuted by the fact that GLSEN was advising adults to make the choice as to what books were or were not appropriate. That makes your implication irrelevant.

Your attempt is ironic in the fact that when I posted about the Deerfield/Angels in America controversy last year, someone tried to do the same thing, i.e. post explicit passages that appeal to shock rather than the truth of the matter.

Is that the best you can do? If so, then you are pitiful.


Related posts:

Anti-gay right advances new smear that DOE official Jennings promoting "Child Porn in the Classroom"

Superintendent of Schools gives truth behind Angels of America situation . . . and is attacked on a personal level

Update on the Deerfield High School situation - The things the anti-gay industry omitted in their hyperbole


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10 comments :

Shawna said...

I don't know about you, but grade 7 onward, I was reading fairly explicit material thanks to the lovely genre called "Romance". What's the big deal?

BlackTsunami said...

Amen. And who DIDN'T hear about or read the "parts" of the Judy Blume young adult novel "Forever."

Shawna said...

Er... actually, me. *adds "Forever" to her 'to-read' list*

BlackTsunami said...

I'm surprised. Almost every girl I knew in middle school had the "good parts" of that novel highlighted. LOL

Shawna said...

*shrugs* Eh, even then I had a "to-read" list a mile long.

Bob said...

Who are you kidding? A school must get the permission of the parent, if the parents do not approve, the child is not permitted. But, the child still hears about it from his or her peers. The idea is to keep the garbage as far away from the kids as possible.

BlackTsunami said...

That's the point, Bob.

Some are implying that GLSEN is trying to expose children to explicit material via that list BUT GLSEN is clearly inviting parents and other adults to make the choice on what is or isn't appropriate for their children to read.

The authority of the parent has not been usurped.

Jason said...

Don't you think that Jennings ruins his credibility by recommending books that contain explicit material that even you are afraid to reprint here? I see that someone else sent you excerpts from these fine selections as 'shock value' and you defend it by saying 'you don't have to read it'?

So I, as a parent, have to read this crap to determine which books are appropriate? Why not add Hustler or Mein Kampf while you're at it?

My point is, if the previous poster's 'shocking' examples are appropriate reading for teenagers as Jennings represents, then why not post it? Lets see it. What are you afraid of? Let's see what Jennings recommends.

BlackTsunami said...

That's like saying a teacher ruins his or her credibility by assigning a class The Color Purple to read (the first page includes a graphic scene of the rape of an underaged girl) even if the teacher gives out permission slips asking parents' permission for their child to read the book.

We are talking about the same thing here with GLSEN.

I didn't include clips from those boks because they were an irrelevant evasion. You can find those examples of any rightwing site exploiting this issue. But how many of those sites include the fact that GLSEN is encouraging parents to screen the reading choices?

Also, I would think that a good parent wouldn't mind being made a part of this process.

Shawna said...

@Jason --

"Don't you think that Jennings ruins his credibility by recommending books that contain explicit material that even you are afraid to reprint here? I see that someone else sent you excerpts from these fine selections as 'shock value' and you defend it by saying 'you don't have to read it'?"

Well, he doesn't. It's not assigned reading, after all.

"So I, as a parent, have to read this crap to determine which books are appropriate?"

That's the idea, yeah, to engage parents in the learning process. And really, dude, whether you think it's appropriate or not doesn't reflect either way on the educational value of the material.

"Why not add Hustler or Mein Kampf while you're at it?"

Hustler is not only hilarious, but educational. Mein Kampf has historical value. What's the problem with tho-- oh, wait, that's right, we can't have young adults exposed to titties and ass, now, can we? Gotta shelter them and keep 'em totally unprepared for the real world. *eyeroll* Prudes.

"My point is, if the previous poster's 'shocking' examples are appropriate reading for teenagers as Jennings represents, then why not post it? Lets see it. What are you afraid of? Let's see what Jennings recommends."

Shielding older children and young adults from educational material, -especially- explicit or "shocking" materials, leaves them completely unprepared for life. If they can't deal with a potentially offensive book, how will they deal with potentially offensive people?

The answer is that, as parents, you DO NOT shield them, you expose them, and teach them how to deal with things they find offensive.