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Are parents that stupid?

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Jim Opionin by Jim Powers
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A story ran in the March 24 issue of the Tyler County Booster about a CISD board meeting where all members voted to sign a pledge sent by State Representative Jared Patterson (R-Frisco) stating that “they will not knowingly partner with, purchase from, or associate in any way with a vendor who has supplied pornographic materials to schools, nor allow pornographic materials to remain on campus.”

Patterson specifically referenced a graphic novel titled “Gender Queer: A Memoir.”

Superintendent Eldon Franco commented that this should be “a parental issue”, and to his knowledge, “we don’t have anything of this sort” in the school’s library. He also said, “I wouldn’t want my children reading it”.

My first question to Mr. Franco would be, have you read it? If not, how do you know if it is appropriate for your children to read? My second would be, how do you define pornography, or obscene? And my third would be, why would you sign a pledge to potentially remove books from a school library if you haven’t read them and can’t even define objectively what is pornographic or obscene?

I’m not picking on Superintendent Franco. School boards are in a tough position these days, they have become a central fixture of the current culture wars in America. School boards shouldn’t be a target of political or religious agendas.

After reading the Booster article, I downloaded the Kindle edition of the book. It didn’t take long. It is 231 pages, but is a graphic novel, so it’s a quick read. I assume all the board members did the same, before signing the pledge. Just to get an idea of the kind of content Mr. Patterson was asking them to ban.

The book, in my opinion, is appropriate for teenagers. Younger children would likely have no interest in it, if for no other reason than plowing through 231 pages of something that made no sense to them.

“But, there are graphic drawings depicting sexual acts and body parts.” Yes, there are, but they are maybe 10 percent of the book. And there is certainly nothing pornographic or indecent (whatever that means culturally) in the drawings, any more than the famous paintings and sculptures that fill museums and are viewed by public school children during field trips every year.

The thing that causes me to ask the question in the title of this column is, if a parent is so fearful of their child being exposed to pornography in the school library, why do they give their children smart phones? At least with the library, the kid would have to take the book to a librarian and check it out. With a smart phone, they are three clicks away from the most violent, disgusting pornography the parent probably can’t imagine.

“Well, I’ve got parental controls set blocking all of that,” you say. I can (but won’t) tell you how to get around that in as few as four clicks, and your kid probably already knows how to do that. You cannot shield your teenager from pornography and indecency, especially if you think Gender Queer: A Memoir is pornographic or indecent.

I was exposed to pornography at age 11. Some older teens had some little booklets that had photos of adults having sex that they were sharing with us younger kids. It was forbidden fruit, so clearly it was something we were interested in. Now, this was in 1961, and teens didn’t generally have access to porn films. But there were no age restrictions then on buying Playboy magazine or any of the other soft-porn magazines.

Turns out being exposed to porn at age 11 is pretty much the norm, even today. One in 10 kids have been exposed to it by age 10. The average age for exposure to porn is 11 years. 10 percent of 7th graders are worried they are addicted to porn.

If you are over 40 years old, and were exposed to porn as a teen, but not as an adult, the pornography today is not what you remember. It’s not just sex. It is violent, degrading, dangerous sex. Kids who watch this stuff grow up with a distorted view of what real-life relationships are about. This is the pornography you should be concerned about. And odds are, your kids are being exposed to it.

The truth is that politicians sending school boards these kinds of pledges really don’t care about pornography, or indecency. They don’t care about Gay or Trans or LGBTQ. They care about ginning up wedge issues and fanning the flames of culture wars to get re-elected. It’s slight of hand, redirection. Don’t be stupid and fall for it. 

It doesn’t end with taking away the rights of these groups. They are also targeting women’s rights, reproductive rights, and rights of people of color. Lately some politicians have been arguing that people have no right to use birth control.

I don’t care if you want or don’t want your kids to read a book about sexuality. It’s your kid. Just understand that they are going to learn about all of this, despite your best efforts, and are likely to be far more accepting of it as adults than you are. Which is as it should be. The way other people live does not diminish me in any way. Leave people alone. Focus on the important stuff.

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