To Each His Own

January 14, 1994

The Carroll County Board of Education made the right decision when it decided to keep the rhyming picture book, "Slugs," on the shelves of elementary school libraries. While the book may have some shortcomings, the board upheld the principle that it should be parents and teachers who decide what is appropriate reading material for students rather than school boards.

A parent found the book "disgusting" and "revolting" because it mentioned numerous silly ways of eliminating slugs, including frying, stewing and grinding them in a blender.

In a review in a professional library journal, "Slugs" was characterized as a "tasteless collection of awkward rhymes." Nevertheless, children seem to like it. If all the "dumb and stupid" books were removed from school libraries, many shelves would be barren.

In the course of growing up, children will be exposed to confusing, troubling and disturbing ideas. Given all the various places -- movies, television shows, video games, magazines, comic books, friends and older siblings -- where school children can see, hear and pick up ideas, removing books is a pointless exercise. There is no way to ensure children are exposed to only those ideas we like.

Matters of taste loom large in virtually all of these cases involving objectionable books. Over the years, none of the books has been universally considered to be tasteless and wholly inappropriate for schoolchildren.

County Board of Education member Anne Ballard was right on the mark when she said that parents were reading too much into "Slugs." Anyone who has spent time around grade-school children probably has heard hours of "bathroom" talk and disturbing conversations about violence that would make a bartender blush.

Parents and teachers have the task of educating and civilizing youngsters.

As parents, we can make every effort to control the books that our own children read to ensure they learn the values we cherish. But that does not give us the right to control what other children may read.

Their parents or guardians -- and not the school board -- can best determine what is most appropriate for them.

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