From-the-Editors-Desk

Coming Soon to a School Near You!
April 1, 2012

Or, hopefully, not. 

I have to wonder if terrorists (37) have gotten to the water supply in New York City. Because if not, then it is official: the city’s Department of Education is insane (5).

You probably have heard about their proposal to ban approximately fifty words and topics from periodic assessment tests. No doubt the members of the department are concerned that the students or their families will be offended if they learn that alcohol (2) or cigarettes (8) might invade the minds, never mind the bodies, of their test takers. Birthdays? (3) Forget them. No one has them—or will, at least on the tests. Neither will any exam question have to do with home swimming pools (18), too much television (37), or vermin (39). (Really? No mention of vermin in New York City?) And while students have to worry about weapons (42) or violence (40) in or around their schools, rest assured that they’ll not enter the exams.

Well, okay. The latter might be understandable, but no computers in the home (9) must be mentioned? Of course, there might not be computers if there is a loss of employment (22) or a crime (10) has occurred and the computer taken. But I wonder how they plan to quiz students on their knowledge of history when the word slavery (35) is banned? And war and bloodshed? I mean these are rather large parts of European and American history so if not on the exams how will teachers know that students know about, oh, the Revolutionary War, World War II, the Civil War (oops, two strikes against that one), the Holocaust, and more of the “unpleasant” aspects of human history? What are they going to call those? Bickering? Sadly, I suspect it will simply be worked around—hey, let’s look at those Founding Fathers!—as will science since evolution (13) is also banned.” Janey, if you work as hard for six days then by golly, you too might be able to build a world—never mind the video games (37)!” Plus, with a nice reformed science view, those nasty catastrophes also known as tsunamis, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, etc. will no longer exist. At least on tests. Good to know.

Holy shit (4)! Are they really saying that they can sell Twinkies in their campus vending machines but not mention junk food (20) on their exams? Gambling involving money (15) is banned. Gotcha. Can I assume that gambling that does not involve money is okay? If your parents are divorced, don’t mention it in an essay when taking their tests. Also in the not-to-be-mentioned categories are gifts (15) you’ve received, vacations (15) you took, or prizes (15) you may have won—unless they are cheap. Then it’s apparently okay. But don’t include poverty (29) in the same sentence as cheap.

Religion (31) and religious holidays (32) are out as is politics (27). No sense in learning about anything about the world around you. But lest you think only dull subjects are banned, well, think again. Sex (35) is out. Rock and roll (33) is out. Dancing is out but an exception was made for ballet? Have tutus gone to the heads of the committee members? Celebrities (7) are out.

Someone please tell me: who the heck is in on this committee? Has there been a lot of discussion and argument over the list of words? Did a liberal bent who wanted homelessness (18) to stay on have to agree to give it up to get a conservative to give up nuclear weapons (24)? This inquiring mind wants to know.

Also, can I encourage them to add the word “education” to the list of banned words? After all, if hearing certain words and topics can, as they say, make students “feel unpleasant,” why wouldn’t the word education be included? Because good education, with all its strengths and weaknesses, will make some students feel “unpleasant.” It’s demanding. It prepares students to live in and made accommodations to the real world where “unpleasantness” unfortunately abounds. Life is not a magic kingdom, scrubbed clean of anything that might remotely offend someone else. And education should not pretend that it is.

Here is the list from the link at the top of the article:

  1. Abuse (physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological)
  2. Alcohol (beer and liquor), tobacco, or drugs
  3. Birthday celebrations (and birthdays)
  4. Bodily functions
  5. Cancer (and other diseases)
  6. Catastrophes/disasters (tsunamis and hurricanes)
  7. Celebrities
  8. Children dealing with serious issues
  9. Cigarettes (and other smoking paraphernalia)
  10. Computers in the home (acceptable in a school or library setting)
  11. Crime
  12. Death and disease
  13. Divorce
  14. Evolution
  15. Expensive gifts, vacations, and prizes
  16. Gambling involving money
  17. Halloween
  18. Homelessness
  19. Homes with swimming pools
  20. Hunting
  21. Junk food
  22. In-depth discussions of sports that require prior knowledge
  23. Loss of employment
  24. Nuclear weapons
  25. Occult topics (i.e., fortune-telling)
  26. Parapsychology
  27. Politics
  28. Pornography
  29. Poverty
  30. Rap Music
  31. Religion
  32. Religious holidays and festivals (including but not limited to Christmas, Yom Kippur, and Ramadan)
  33. Rock-and-Roll music
  34. Running away
  35. Sex
  36. Slavery
  37. Terrorism
  38. Television and video games (excessive use)
  39. Traumatic material (including material that may be particularly upsetting such as animal shelters)
  40. Vermin (rats and roaches)
  41. Violence
  42. War and bloodshed
  43. Weapons (guns, knives, etc.)
  44. Witchcraft, sorcery, etc.

Upcoming Book Festivals and Fairs:
Two states—New Mexico and Ohio—are the only ones with book fairs this weekend and both are focused on antiquarian books and related ephemera.

Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico
Site: UNM Conference Center
Festival: Albuquerque Antiquarian Book Fair
Date: April 6-7
On Friday from 5:00-9:00 pm and Saturday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, this fair will host nearly thirty dealers in books, prints, photos, postcards, maps, and other printed collectibles in a wide range of categories. In addition, there will be a silent auction of library surplus on Friday. Admission for both days is $6, and for Saturday only the charge is $2. Check the website to obtain an admission discount coupon.

Location: Akron, Ohio
Site: John S. Knight Center
Festival: Akron Antiquarian Book Fair
Date: April 6-7
Fair dates are Friday from 3:00-8:30 pm and on Saturday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. More than two dozen dealers will be there with collectible books that cover children’s, first editions, Americana, illustrated editions, mysteries,, science fiction, cookbooks, Civil War, art, literature, and more as well as maps, prints, postcards and other printed ephemera. Two free sessions will be offered on Saturday—one about how much old books are worth, the other a roundtable discussion about collecting illustrated books, school books, and paper ephemera. General admission is $5 with students paying $3, and NOBS members admitted free.

The Pub House:
Dorothy: A Publishing Project is “dedicated to works of fiction or near fiction or about fiction, mostly by women. We want to publish books that, whether conventional or un-, are uniquely themselves, that do not lean against preconceived ideas of what is wonderful, but brilliantly and purposefully convince us they are, themselves, wonderful.” What a delightful description! The press or project, as they say) was named for “head librarian, author, gardener, animal-and-art lover, bookmobile-driver, and great aunt Dorothy Traver, who on each birthday and holiday gave a book with an owl bookplate.” Who could resist? Not me. Nor will you if you check out one of their four books so far issued. Event Factory is the first in a trilogy that has a “linguist-traveler” arrived home to Ravicka only to find the inhabitants fleeing from an undefined calamity and her own ontological crisis brewing. The second in the series, The Ravickians, uses an insider perspective who in one day, journeys to attend the reading of an old friend, and traces the political and personal crises of the life she knows to be “untranslatable.” Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead follows the Willoweed family and their English village as first a flood then a series of gruesome deaths plagues the inhabitants in this re-published 1954 “twisted, tragicomic gem.” And in The Time of the Blue Ball, a collection of short stories, the detective Bobby Potemkine and his musical dog Djinn, plunge into “mystery, romance, maritime-adventure, and a very angry noodle named Auguste.” Sounds intriguing.

Imaging Books & Reading:
With springtime officially here, what better picture could there be than one showing the joy of reading among the flowers?

Of Interest:
The Alternate Titles of Famous Books: Who’s Afraid of Franz Kafka? is a wonderful look at what books we know well might have been (in most cases unfortunately) named, if not for the timely intervention of editors. What’s That Noshin’ on My Laig? Really?

Until next week, read well, read often and read on!

Lauren

 


 

 
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