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Alice Walker, "Roselily", Censorship & the Religious Right

The Merc (an excellent newspaper, by the way) also published pro and con commentaries concerning the removal and reinstatement of Alice Walker's short story, "Roselily", for use on California statewide 10th-grade student assessment tests. The Merc also reprinted "Roselily" in its entirety. I read the story and liked it. But that's irrelevant. The point of education should be to make students think, make them use their minds, make them learn how and what to communicate, etc. Frankly, I didn't understand the debate, that is until I read "CON: STORY'S IDEAS SHOULD TROUBLE ALL PARENTS" written by Beverly Sheldon, director of research for the Traditional Values Coalition in Anaheim. After discussing how schools should get back to the basics of reading (the right stuff, apparently), writing and arithmetic, Sheldon gets to the nub of her argument: the test "ignores basic skills in favor of politically correct answers and has a built-in system to keep parents uninvolved." (why is it every time I see the "PC" I think the speaker would like to say the N-word without condemnation?)

An example from Sheldon:

"One performance-based math test asks, ''If you have 17 apples and divide that by 4 children, how many apples will each child receive?'' The answer should be 4 1/4. WRONG! Although there are no right or wrong answers, the best answer is: Each child gets 4 apples and the extra apple is given to the most needy child. Would you hire this person as an engineer to build a bridge? With the new restructuring he could give you the politically correct answer, but would you want to travel across the bridge?"

Hmmm, there are no right or wrong answers? Can't have that now, can we?

About "Roselily", Sheldon says:

"Alice Walker's story, ''Roselily,'' gives the perception that religion, both Christian and Muslim, oppresses women. There are no facts in the story to support this and no alternative position is given. The Muslim Public Affairs Council wrote to the California State Assembly stating that they ''feel that the implications drawn out of the passages of Alice Walker's 'Roselily' perpetuates the negative stereotypes Muslim women are subjected to in this country. . . . "

Again, having read the story, I think this argument is bogus. It's clearly fiction. It clearly represents the writer's point of view, or the point of view she was trying to articulate. But that's what _all_ writing does! And student's should be prepared to read, and understand, and think, and articulate themselves, and agree or disagree or whatever. So like book burners of the past and present, the Traditional Values Coalition comes down on the side of selective information to students, information that supports their point of view. And I guess the "thought process" inherent in education would be disallowed if it leads to the "wrong" thoughts? Once again, the people who seem to oppose PC (which I think is a false and negative construct to begin with) really oppose what they consider liberal ideas and would replace those ideas with a more conservative (read that right wing, Christian, white, reactionary, etc.) form of PC.

Concludes Sheldon, "A few educational elite are using the front of teaching students HOW to think when, in fact, they are teaching them what to think. Y'all shd read Roselily to see what _you_ think. I'll be happy to email a copy to anyone who wants one.

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Meanderings 1.01 -- March 20, 1994