Posts Tagged ‘education’

Banning Books, an American Tradition

Tuesday, October 6th, 2020

By Bob Gaydos

 Captain Underpants

Captain Underpants

   It would appear that I’m the kind of guy who, when visiting a book store (remember book stores?), headed straight to the banned book section and got comfortable. (Remember how comfortable.book stores could be?)

     I do not make this confession arbitrarily or boldly, but rather matter-of-factly. Also a bit surprisingly. Until recently, I had no idea that I was such a fan of banned books, Then, Banned Book Week showed up on Facebook and other social media and I started looking at the various lists of books that have been banned or challenged, as the American Library Association puts it.

       I’m a few days late to mark the annual reminder of the importance of freedom of expression, but in a time when voices of protest and outrage are being stifled, I figure any day one can promote the free expression of ideas is a good one. So, my list, in no particular order, compiled from a few lists found on the Internet:

        — The Catcher in the Rye

        — To Kill a Mockingbird

        — The Lord of the Flies

,       — 1984

        — Lolita

        — Catch 22

        — Brave New World

        — Animal Farm

        — The Sun Also Rises

        — Invisible Man

        — Howl

        — One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

        — Slaughterhouse Five

        — In Cold Blood

        — Rabbit, Run

        — Moby Dick

        — Canterbury Tales

        — Captain Underpants

        — The Kite Runner

        — The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

        —.The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

        — Fahrenheit 451

        — Moll Flanders

     I’d be interested in hearing what banned books are on your list so I can add to mine. And I know some of you are voracious readers. So please contribute.

     I’m writing about this because we are living in a time when reading, indeed, learning of any sort is under attack by forces — Republicans, Evangelicals if you want to be specific — who seek to maintain power by discrediting education of any kind. “East Coast Elites” is supposedly an insult. Higher education, Republicans believe, is a threat to America, a survey tells us. We hear claims of fake news and hoaxes and Fox News is full of outright lies. It’s all nonsense, created and disseminated out of fear. Fear of others, of the unknown, of feeling inferior, of discovering that long-held beliefs were simply not true.

      Education is the answer, but our education system — already challenged with adjusting to distance-learning because of Covid — has a lot of work to do to repair the damage done in recent years. Encouraging reading is a good place to start. Even in Covid America, books are available as never before online. Some free. I read “Slaughterhouse Five” and reread “1984” on Kindle. Seemed appropriate. And there’s plenty of time to read. 

       The American Library Association began Banned Books Week in 1982 in response to increased challenges to books in libraries, schools and other public places. Its stated aim is “to celebrate the freedom to read and to promote silenced voices.”

      Reasons why books have been banned or challenged include: LGBTQ content, sexually explicit language, profanity, racism, violence, religious viewpoint, sex education, suicide, drug and alcohol use, nudity, political viewpoint and offensive language, Sounds like a shopping list for Republican politicians. It also sounds a lot like life and one person’s “offensive language“ is another person’s truth.

       The decision on whether any book is appropriate for a child or a teenager theoretically belongs to the parents. I say theoretically because some parents don’t get too involved in such things. My parents were not book readers, although my mother devoured at least four newspapers every day. I don’t remember them expressing an interest one way or another in what I was reading. I guess that’s a decision by default. They trusted me and my teachers. I think it eventually worked out fine for me.

       Other parents, however, are extremely interested in what their children are consuming. That can be a good thing, I think, if it allows for a variety of viewpoints and room to explore. By the way, Captain Underpants is on my list because I have two sons, now grown. I also think a couple of my books were high school reading assignments for one of my sons. Kudos to the teacher.

        Anyway, in a country in which clearly anyone can grow up to be president, I think it would be a good thing if he or she had actually read a book or two, including some that challenged his or her beliefs. But maybe that’s just the Orwell, Vonnegut and Salinger in me.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

 

Team Trump: Arrogance as a Virtue

Friday, April 27th, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

Dr. Ronny Jackson with his boss.

Dr. Ronny Jackson with his boss.

The first time I had any doubts about Dr./Admiral (Admiral/Dr.?) Ronny Jackson was also the first time I had any idea who he was — the presidential physician. That was in January when Jackson, after what he said was a thorough examination of Donald Trump proclaimed the clearly overweight, often confused Dotard-in-Chief to be in “excellent” health.

Indeed, everything about Trump’s health was seemingly “excellent,” or “very, very good.” “Excellent,” Jackson kept saying over and over.

Trump even did “exceedingly well” on his cognitive test, the doctor said. “I have absolutely no concerns about his cognitive ability,” Jackson said at the time, making a point that Trump scored 30 out of 30 on a cognitive assessment test. Funny, I mused at the time, I don’t remember ever hearing a presidential physician feel the need to provide such detail on his patient’s cognitive abilities. Maybe it’s just me, I thought. Maybe I just never paid that much attention before. But Jackson did make sure to note that Trump is “very sharp, and he’s very articulate. .?.?. Very, very sharp, very intact,” Jackson insisted. The admiral/doctor said he “found no reason whatsoever to think that the President has any issues whatsoever with his thought process.”

Really? How could this stirring physical and mental report be true, I wondered, knowing as we do Trump‘s regular diet of fried chicken, Big Macs, red meat, Diet Coke and ice cream, his lack of any physical activity other than swinging a golf club and tweeting, the fact he is borderline obese and takes medication to lower his cholesterol, his habit of routinely contradicting himself and his resistance to reading or to facts or to anything that conflicts with what he prefers to believe?

“Good genes” was the doctor’s diagnosis. In fact, “incredible genes.”

Kissing the boss’s butt was my conclusion.

It gives me no pleasure to say it appears that I was right. As the admiral prepared to go before Congress this week to answer questions about his qualifications to head the Department of Veterans Affairs it became immediately obvious that he had none, except for saying a lot of nice things in public about Trump, having a cool military title and looking good in uniform. That’s a trifecta for promotion to Cabinet status in the Trump White House, a disaster in real life.

Unfortunately for Trump and the doctor, but fortunately for millions of veterans, others took the job of vetting a potential Cabinet member more seriously than did the White House. The main question: Can this guy manage the second largest department in the federal government even though he has no experience in that area? But before he even got to face a congressional committee to answer that question, Jackson withdrew his name from consideration amid stories of him drinking on duty, indiscriminately dispensing pills and overseeing a hostile work environment that curried favor with people in power and had staff members operating in fear of retribution.

Another one of “the best.”

I started running through the names of Trump’s Cabinet members trying to decide which one troubled/angered/disgusted me the most and was stunned when I realized Rick Perry wasn’t anywhere near the top of the list. I mean, the guy wanted to get rid of the Energy Department when he was running for president, then took the Cabinet post from Trump without realizing it regulated nuclear arms and energy.

But the former Texas governor has some stiff competition in what surely is the worst Cabinet and sub-Cabinet in modern U.S. history, perhaps all time. For sheer arrogance — strutting about acting as if they know what they are doing, living large on public tax dollars, ignoring the missions of the agencies they are supposed to lead and destroying the foundations on which this nation was built — the group cannot be beat. It is a perfect reflection of Trump, all con, all greed and incredibly cruel to boot.

I’ll spare you the whole, pitiful list. But briefly …

  • Rex Tillerson, as ill-suited as he was for the post of secretary of state was at least smart enough to note that Trump was “a moron.” That got Rex fired and gave us Trump super-fan and former congressman Mike Pompeo, moving from the CIA to State, neither of which he has the background or understanding of world tensions to direct. He prefers weapons to diplomacy. I-know-what-I’m-doing arrogant.
  • Steve Mnuchin, treasury secretary, was a former Goldman Sachs executive and hedge fund manager — perfect qualifications for “draining the swamp,” as Trump promised, right? A Trump loyalist who lobbied for the job and loves to let everyone know he’s the money guy. Snobbishly arrogant.
  • Betsy DeVos, secretary of education, is a very rich woman who hates public schools, indeed doesn’t even know how schools run. Phony, arrogant and entitled, like Trump
  • Jeff Sessions, attorney general, is a racist who also wants to do battle with marijuana and immigrants. A Trump punching bag of late, but still arrogant in denying this country’s history.
  • Ben Carson, secretary of housing and urban development, is a brain surgeon-savant. The real world is a mystery to Carson. He wants to raise the rents on public housing tenants and spent $30,000 in public funds on a dining room set. Loyal to Trump. Doesn’t even know he’s arrogant.
  • Ryan Zinke, interior secretary, rode into office on a horse and should go out the same way. Selling off public lands and spending a fortune on travel are his hallmarks. An ex-military guy. As stated, Trump loves that. Defiantly arrogant.
  • Scott Pruitt, the EPA administrator is being grilled by Congress for his expensive travel and security arrangements. Trump likes that Pruitt denies climate change and favors undoing all environmental protection regulations for air, water, autos, etc. Proudly arrogant.
  • Mick Mulvaney, the budget director, was so good at being mean — meals on wheels and free lunches for poor kids are not justifiable expenses, he feels — Trump made him interim head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as well. Mulvaney has systematically dismantled the bureau since getting the assignment. The Tea Party darling told bankers that if they wanted to be heard in this White House, they needed to give money and the more they gave the louder their voice would be. He loves his job. Trump loves him. A truly despicable human being. Beyond arrogant. Guess he’s my number one.

That’s enough. Just to return to the admiral for a minute. The depths of his self-serving smarminess should have been evident when he “examined” Trump and declared, “I think he will remain fit for duty for the remainder of this term and even the remainder of another term if he is elected.”

Sycophancy, as Team Trump demonstrates, can be contagious. It can also be dangerous to careers. The doctor should have known.

rjgaydos@gmail.com