5.13.2006

PWDO*= That's Disgusting! That's a Travesty!

Yanno (tm/patentpending) , you'd think these suits would get a clue.
The fastest way to draw attention to just about anything is to throw a hissy fit about "inappropriate for children or families".

Or cancel a speech by a childrens' book writer who draws grandmas with potato noses, purple skirts and children doing cartwheels...very very suspicious Patricia Polacco is; I've met her and I'm not sure I'd want to risk being portrayed cleverly by her smart, subtle, witty, colored pencils

Here are two paragraphs from a longer article on PW Daily (yes, this is total theft AND copyright infringement)

After being asked by a firm called Buchanan & Associates to speak at an event held at the International Reading Association's conference in Chicago earlier this month, Polacco said she accepted the invitation through her staff.

A number of exchanges between Buchanan and Polacco's people followed, largely regarding what the author would discuss at the event, until Polacco was ultimately told she could not speak against No Child Left Behind in her speech.

Frustrated and confused, Polacco went to the IRA looking for answers. It was then, she told PW, that she found out Buchanan & Associates was working for SRA/McGraw-Hill and not the IRA (as she had assumed).


Because SRA/McGraw-Hill publishes a number of the tests used in NCLB, the house was not eager to have Polacco speak her mind on the Bush-established initiative. And, after Polacco refused to alter her speech, she was dropped from the program. It was then, when McGraw-Hill neglected to release the details of why she did not appear at the events, that Polacco took matters into her own hands.


The people attending that event can decide on their own if Patrical Polacco is a whack job and pay her no mind; OR they can hear what she has to say after a long and illustrious career as a school visitor who makes her living by speaking to schools and selling books to parents and kids.

There are certainly places for censorship: war; bank account passwords; Miss Snark's love letters to Mr. Clooney. Not art. Not books. Not ideas. If you think a piece of art is offensive, (and yes, I think Piss Christ was an abomination) or a writer is a shoe pounding knee jerk dunderhead, fine. Other people may not share your view. Let people decide on their own.

But, honest to dog, why anyone thinks calling MORE attention to something, censoring it, and thus giving the story legs is an effective way to get rid of something, needs to spend a little more time in the library reading this.




* Publicity we dream of

24 comments:

AM said...

Did you know that SRA/McGraw-Hill has being traveling through the blogosphere searching for people who've commented on this and posting rebuttals? They've been on Read Roger (Horn Book), Fuse#8 and a bunch of other places.

Wonder how long it will be until they find this.

ann said...

Preach it, sister! Amen!

Anonymous said...

GalleyCat has some lovely links to show what Polacco is talking about ("Politcal Dust-up..." not latest story).
Again, wonderful the way they call attention to this stuff by trying to stiffle it.
Maybe there's something about being a suit that prevents oxygen hitting the brain?

librisfb said...

Oh Miss Snark, if I was still a hiring/firing library manager, I'd hire you in an instant to work in my library (well, you'd also need to know how to answer reference questions ;-) The thing I most love about this country is our protected right to say and think what we want, even if it means we--or the person we're listening to--are total nitwits...(with some reasonable limitations of course...can't scream "fire" in that crowded theater, etc.) As a librarian, I've been called "the Devil's Helper" by a good Christian mom because I wouldn't remove a music CD from the teen department (it had a suggestive cover.) I've seen library copies of a classic picture book (I think "In the Night Kitchen"??)systematically defaced because the child wasn't wearing diapers (the defacing was added on diapers done with White Out.)And yes, it isn't always easy to defend free speech: I found myself arguing with the County Librarian that we needed to add the review copy we bought of Madonna's "Sex"--though that book personally made me sick. (Yes, I reviewed cover to cover. Eeeeuuuuuu.......)

Now that I'm not a library manager (part time temp only now) I hope IF and when I get my book(s) published someone out there will stand up for my right to write (and speak) nitwittery. Besides librarians, journalists, booksellers etc. Like, oh, Congress...now that's an idea!

Just sign me The Devil's Helper...

sally apokedak said...

I love the blog, Miss Snark.

I do wonder, though, what one should do with distasteful art exibits? I don't want my children seeing this junk. I don't want to see it myself. I don't want to watch people having sex in public, either, and I'm glad we have laws against public nudity.

So what is with the artists who think that just because they are artists they are allowed to be lewd/rude/crude in public?

I used to drive cab in Anchorage Alaska and many of my fares were strippers and hookers. Amazingly, they fancied themselves artists. Fine. Let them have that view of themselves. Why should I burst their bubbles? But I don't think we should allow them to have exhibitions in the park.

LJCohen said...

"Thank you Mr. Falker" is one of the most important children's books I've ever read. I don't know about the particulars of this kerfufle, but Patricia Pollaco is a wonderful writer and seems to be a tireless advocate for teachers and learning. This is the conference's loss.

Bernita said...

I remember going to bat for "Jeramy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher," when a local minister decided it was devilish.

Gerb said...

BTW, you can read the whole story in her own words (with absolutely no theft or copyright infringement involved...) at http://www.patriciapolacco.com/

Anonymous said...

"There are certainly places for censorship ..."

But by juxtapositioning the Brooklyn College kerfuffle and the Polacco brouhaha, you've muddied the line between real censorship (action by the government) and a decision made by a private company.

You don't have to like what Buchanan & Associates or the IRA (I love it) did or why, but the fact that you don't like it doesn't automatically boot it up to the level of "censorship." That's a great red flag to wave because it gets people all riled up - "ooh, censorship! all censorship bad!" - but it's intellectualy dishonest. I don't like their decision either, but it's still nothing more than a crappy decision that we don't happen to like.

Miss Snark said...

Sally, if you don't want to see "offensive art" don't go. If you don't want your children to see things, don't take them. None of the events I mentioned were in a park; they're all in a voluntary attendence, ticketed venue.

However, NYPL does have R-rated movies right there on the open stacks; 50cent CDs too; doesn't mean I want Killer Yapp checking them out. He's only 6. Much like any responsible adult, I monitor what youngsters in my care see and attend.

I'm AMAZED when people bring young children to R-rated movies in the theatre.. but they do. Doesn't mean the local cineplex is going to stop showing anything but Snow White (which in and of itself has a rather bizarre theme for children).

You're an adult. You make those choices for you and yours, but not me and mine.

Besides the point of this post was not whether art should be seen but how to deal with things you think are objectionable: dignified silence was a wise choice by Grandmother Snark when those pictures came out in the National Enquirer. (The fact that you don't remember the photos proves my point).

Miss Snark said...

Anon above my last comment is quite correct.

The act of a private company to dis-invite someone is not censorship. Censorship is the act of a government/government entity to control something (not only speech).

i should have used a better word.

In the context of the post however, it's the action of calling attention to something you find offensive (by censoring it, restricting it, or setting Miss Snark's coiffure on fire) thus giving what you decry MORE attention and prominence that I find...well...witless.

BuffySquirrel said...

Funnily enough, I was having a long conversation with someone recently about why some organisations and individuals seem incapable of learning not to point and shriek when confronted with something they don't like. We couldn't figure out why they do it or what they get out of it either. Publicity for themselves?

*shrugs*

The Beautiful Schoolmarm said...

MAy she speak long and hard against NCLB--it will destory our schools. As for censorship--I agree with Miss Snark (What a surprise, hm?)

Gregory K. said...

I don't know if you've seen the statement (I wouldn't call it rebuttal) that SRA/McGraw-Hill has been leaving in the blogosphere (including my blog). What's odd about it, other than them aggressively posting, is that while it does poke some holes in Patricia Polacco's description of events, it doesn't answer any of the subtler issues at all.

Yes, they could cancel on Ms. Polacco and no, it's not censorship, but the contract they post here doesn't seem to give them the right to approve her speech. Is it customary for organizations to invite children's authors to speak then ask for speech approval? Maybe it is. I do not know. I've publicly asked McGraw-Hill on my blog about why they feel they had this approval right. Maybe there is a reason. I posted the question on Friday afternoon. Mabye they'll answer next week.

I'd also note their response doesn't mention Buchanan Associates who Ms. Polacco mentions. Why they were involved and what they did is unclear. There's information needed from both parties here that could help clarify things.

But oddest about the reply is the final paragraph: it reads like pure spin to me, attempting to take attention off the issues at hand. That makes my hair stand on end... making me, perhaps, resemble KY.

Jen said...

I've seen library copies of a classic picture book (I think "In the Night Kitchen"??)systematically defaced because the child wasn't wearing diapers (the defacing was added on diapers done with White Out.)

I'm amazed (and irritated) that someone would censor a kids' book like that. >_< I've read "In The Night Kitchen" a zillion times (one of my favourite books when I was a kid), and I never thought about Mickey's lack of clothing in the story once. o_O

Political correctness has gone mad again... >_<

Anonymous said...

Jen
In what way is diapering an illustration of a naked kid a children's book political correctness?
It's prudish vandalism.

Dave Kuzminski said...

If the college is receiving government funds of any sort, then it blurs the line between a private and government decision as to the support given those artists. There are cases in the past where the government has threatened to take away support if an educational institution didn't go along with its policies and edicts.

There should be a law stating that government funds may not be used as a weapon to force private institutions to stifle creativity and individual thought. In fact, I think there is, but it seems like the authorities are reluctant to enforce it even though it's in the Constitution. Shame on them.

Eika said...

Fifth grade, I was taken to an art museam. There we were made to stare at classics while a guide prattled on and on.

Most of those pictures featured people nude, or at least not covering what should be covered. Several featured suggestive poses, one even with the people staring at each other.

THat was grade 5, those were considered classic paintings done by the best artists, and nude or not, we were going to spend 5 hours staring at them.

Here I though we had a more free society in regards to things like this than they did when we had Puritans.

Jen said...

Jen
In what way is diapering an illustration of a naked kid a children's book political correctness?
It's prudish vandalism.


Anon, I probably did pull the "politically correct" card too early on that one. ^_^;; And you're right, it is vandalism. >_<

What gets me is altering it just to avoid offending their own sensibilities. Whatever happened to returning said book unread, and respecting other people's stuff? o_O

Anonymous said...

McGraw Hill gave finanical support to the International Reading Association for its conference. McGraw Hill is benefiting financially from the No Child Left Behind government program/law. Thus, McGraw Hill has a financial stake in the NCLB and did not want to financially support any author's speech that was going to criticize the NCLB at the IRA conference.

I don't spend my money on businesses that take positions I don't like--if I can help it. So I think McGraw Hill had a right--in the name of free speech and association--to say that it did not want its money going toward speech it did not support.

The real problem I see is that IRA agreed to let McGraw Hill through its agents control who was invited to the IRA conference and set limits on their speech. I'm a member of IRA--it is a great organization that supports reading and teachers of reading. It should have made clear to anyone who wanted to financially support its work that it would not allow repression of speech of its participants.

I happen to agree with Patricia Polacco that the NCLB law is not helping our students or our teachers. And I like SRA/McGraw-Hill a lot less than I used to because of their decision to uninvite her, even though they had a right to do so.

Anonymous said...

Sally commented: "I do wonder, though, what one should do with distasteful art exibits? I don't want my children seeing this junk. I don't want to see it myself."

I agree with the points Miss Snark made.

Sally has the right to decide for herself, and the right and responsibility to guide her own children, in choosing books to read, movies to see, exhibits to attend, music to listen to, and speakers to hear. Sally's right to free speech includes choosing what she won't read/ see/ hear, as well as what she will.

We've each got the right to choose for ourselves, or our own children--but not for other adults or other people's children.

If Ms. Polacco gives a speech and says something that someone else thinks is silly or illogical or wrong, then that person has every right to respond to her "bad" speech with more speech.

Personally, I don't denigrate books that I have chosen not to read, nor movies I haven't seen. The price of admission to the debate about the work is to read it or see it.

Indeed, it seems to me that the most effective course of action for people who dislike a book or work or art is to just pass on it, without demanding that it be suppressed.

One art curator commented that a particular exhibit included several paintings that he thought were much better works of art than the controversial one that got all the attention. The message to young artists was that the only way to get any attention is to stir up controversy.

Similarly, a YA novelist told me that whenever his books are challenged by people who think they are too immoral for teen-agers to read, there is one guaranteed consequence: kids who had no interest in the book before get their hands on a copy to judge it for themselves.

Simon Haynes said...

I was invited to speak at a kids' lit festival recently, and there was a mention in the presenter guidelines to the effect that the material should be 'kid friendly'. Each session had a couple of adults present, presumably to pull the plug on any subversive speakers with a hat full of blue jokes.
I used a bunch of little prompt cards and ad-libbed six different one-hour sessions. How on earth would they be able to pre-approve a speech which was made up on the spot?

bonniers said...

The trouble with the traditional distinction between government censorship and the corporate right to spend money as they see fit is that in many cases, the corporate entities are larger, more influential, and more controlling than the government. SRA/McGraw-Hill, for example, is certainly big enough to impose its desires on others. They can provide money to political figures who promote legislation that financially benefits the company, or they can threaten to withhold donations from organizations that depend on them. Often the threat doesn't even need to be made explicitly -- would you offend the 900-pound gorilla tramping around your classroom?

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