Issue 97, Spring 2005
The Public Broadcasting System pulled an episode of a children’s show, Postcards from Buster, when Education Secretary Margaret Spellings complained. In the segment, Buster, a rabbit, learns how maple sugar is made in Vermont at the home of children with two female parents. The Department supported the show to encourage diversity but “not to introduce this kind of subject matter to children,” Spellings said. For NCAC’s letter of protest, see pair.ncac.org.
City Council members in Lakewood, Colorado removed an artwork by an Air Force veteran, Gayla Lemke, which they considered “anti-American and anti-military.” In the exhibit were ceramic “Hope Stones” with quotes about war from famous people, including Benjamin Franklin. The offending quote, from Bill Maher, said, “A real coward is someone who drops a bomb from a protected space several thousand feet up.” The council restored the stones and apologized after NCAC protested and the ACLU threatened to sue.
Whale Talk and Athletic Shorts, by the award-winning young adult author, Chris Crutcher, have been challenged for profanity and racially sensitive words in a spate of districts. NCAC’s letter helped restore Whale Talk in one district in South Carolina.
Similarly under attack for language depicting the realities of racism is the historical book, War Comes to Willy Freeman by James Collier, in a middle school in Ithaca, NY. The book had been taught for 10 years but was unilaterally removed from the classroom and the library by the principal, in disregard of the district’s procedures, on the complaint of a parent.
An art exhibit, Made in Palestine, showing the work of Palestinian and Arab-American artists about the Palestine-Israel conflict at the Westchester, NY County Center, was attacked by the district’s assemblyman as “anti-Semitic,” and for “promoting terrorism.” The legislator tried to cancel a fund-raising event the group had scheduled and the exhibit itself, but was overruled by the County Executive.
In Portland, Oregon, Douglas County Commissioners asked the museum to remove a display of the pagan goddess, Hebe, which was part of an historical exhibit. Some viewers considered paganism offensive. Under public pressure, the Commissioners reconsidered.
The ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to obtain records relevant to charges that the administration denied visas to foreign scholars who criticized US policies. Several scholars were forced to resign teaching positions and others were excluded from scholarly conferences. The visas were revoked under a provision of the Patriot Act which permits the government to exclude foreigners it judges to have “used positions of prominence to endorse or espouse terrorist activity.”