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Mother's Letter Was 'Scared, Unfounded'

August 30, 1987

Marcella Melendez's letter taking Al Martinez to task for his column on Culver City censorship exhibited the attitude I fear will be the eventual ruin of the public school system. It is scared, unsure and, to a large extent, ill-founded, and it will, I think, do more harm and havoc to our children than any book could come close to wreaking. The defensive posture Melendez assumes makes it all the more disturbing and to me, as I compared the original column with her letter, the spectacle was of a parent on unsteady legs reaching for anything that might help her regain her balance, even at the price of common sense.

Her letter is not only paranoid-sounding, but it also sets some sort of record for downright irrelevance, for it takes aim at the media while hiding behind a racial barrier, which is as low as you can go. I doubt that Martinez's nationality has anything to do with his column, just as I am skeptical that Melendez's had anything to do with her efforts to ban books she found distasteful. And while I too have at time taken issue with the media and those who control it, to lay the pratfalls and difficulties of parenting at their feet is irresponsible, lazy and wide off the mark.

Parenting is not the world's easiest profession and it is not supposed to be, but to imply that the family is being undermined by educators and writers is to duck responsibility by skirting the issue. Schools by their very nature are supposed to provide the arena for our children to set up their own lights, and the media by its design merely shades their eyes and reflects that light.

It is quite clear that our schools have dimmed in recent years, but the solution to that is not to further hamper their voltage by trashing books and materials that may bother us, but by allowing our children the right to be bothered on their own, which is how growing up is meant to happen anyway.

If, as Melendez complains, parental rights have been lost in recent years, it is not because the media has stolen them, for the media has enough worries of its own. A right, however, is not an imposition of wills or morals. No one, including Al Martinez, begrudges Melendez the right to raise her children in the manner she is most comfortable with, but that does not mean she has the right to deny anyone else's children access to a book or magazine she finds "obscene." I think it is better to teach not through denial but entitlement, where education takes place not through ignorance but knowledge.

I doubt that the Culver City Unified School District wishes to raise her children and I know I don't want her teaching mine.

A healthy family does not need to fear what is written in books, and a strong school system must be allowed to set up a curriculum that is not only a reflection of our times but also an open invitation for our children to be the times and set up lights of their own.

JOHN HARTMIRE

Manhattan Beach

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