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Suit to Control Pupils' Reading

November 07, 1986

The article (Times, Oct. 25) about the Christian fundamentalists who won a federal court battle against the school district in Tennessee deserves a response. The case is so angering on a variety of levels that it is hard to know where to begin. For example, the fact that one of the plaintiffs stated that the "Diary of Anne Frank" was unacceptable for her child to read because it supported toleration of opposing religious beliefs is so pathetically sad.

Anne Frank's story is one of the greatest examples of why toleration is so important. She died because of who she was and her religious beliefs, but these fundamentalists who profess to believe in the Bible seem to forget that when it says "Love thy neighbor" that statement isn't followed by "but only if she or he is a Christian."

The issue that seems the most twisted about these people, however, is the way that they attack others for their own ignorance and irresponsibility. They have the right to raise their children in the manner that they see fit--unfortunately, for their children's sake--but then they condemn the rest of the world for not choosing ignorance as they have done.

The basis of their complaint is that they are angry because the public schools assign literature that somehow runs counter to their narrow understanding of the Bible and that their children are learning the "wrong" things.

I do not have children, but I don't think that you have to be a parent to realize that raising children is a constant process of teaching them your own conceptions of good and bad, right and wrong, whatever. The reason that this is necessary is because when a child is growing up she or he will be confronted with lots of both kinds of things; it's not possible to make sure that the child will only encounter ideas that you as a parent agree with. To the extent that you fail to teach a child to cope with diversity, you fail as a parent. Every day I read the Letters section of this paper and every day I disagree with most of them. That is what living in a human community is about.

The judge who ruled in favor of the plaintiffs can't force those people to be intelligent and/or tolerant. He can't even force them to put their children in a Christian school, although it should be noted that the parents had that choice if it was so important to protect their children from the world. However, he did have the ability to force those parents to be parents and treat their children as intelligent, though impressionable, human beings , by making them sit down and read the material with their children and then teaching them why they felt those texts were wrong, just as any other concerned parent would and should have done.


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