Come on…this is dragging…

An editorial in the Modesto Bee reveals more on the continuing saga of a struggle to ban the book “Bless Me, Ultima” from required reading at a high school in Newman, California.

Come on guys…play by the rules. I can understand community standards and allowing parental input. But it appears that the administrators and board in the district are ignoring their own protocol.

While I thoroughly disagree with books banning, it shouldn’t be this difficult. By the way, the main reason this came to my attention was not complaints about the banning – but about how the process was ignored.

Oh – and does this same parent (singular) who wants to act as a censor for every other child in the district carefully monitor all TV shows, video games, movies, songs, and every friend her child makes? Because there’s a whole lotta stuff out there that is far worse than “Bless Me, Ultima.” And without the life lessons that child could learn from this book.

On a happier note, “Bless Me” is one hot book at the school, where more students are checking it out (due to the contraversy) than ever.

Check out this cartoon from Baby Blues, which might help you make the connection with how censorship can motivate people to seek the truth.

(copyright Baby Blues 1/8/09)


Book ban: the community speaks…

“Bless Me, Ultima” may gain an even wider audience after last night’s special meeting by the Newman-Crows Landing School Board. I’ve been following this story with interest because it is relatively close (unfortunately more than an hour drive or I would have gone to the meeting) and the issue is one that touches us all: book bannings. So I’ve had to rely on the local press down there as well as TV reports and some input from folks who attended the meeting.

Let me state that I understand the right of communities to draw the line and define who they are within reason. I do not agree with the rights of many being purged a complaint by one or two. Especially if there are alternatives – and in this case there were.

Apparently this entire process began with one parent’s complaint. Supporters of the book, including English teachers at Orestima High School who teach using the book, were the majority in the crowd at the meeting (according to media reporters) and only one person spoke out against the book.

This past weekend I stepped out of my role as a journalist and sent an email to Dr. Richard Fauss, superintendent of the Newman-Crows Landing School District, in support of the book and explaining why I thought it should not be banned. Dr. Fauss replied, but has asked that his response not go in the blog. I honestly wish he would allow this because even though I may disagree with him, we need to hear from all sides without deriding them. Some of his comments were eye-openers and well worth considering.

If you want to learn more, go to the Modesto Bee or Fox 40 news.

You are cordially invited to a (potential) book banning…

Newman, California
Newman, California

In previous posts such as this one and this one I’ve discussed a potential book banning in the small rural town of Newman, here in the great central valley of California.

The book, “Bless Me, Ultima,” contains some language and concepts that ONE PERSON found offensive, so now school superintendent Richard Fauss is pushing to ban the book from the list of approved district reading materials.

Here’s your opportunity to attend an actual book banning meeting!

In a comment left on the blog a few days ago, a very concerned citizen wrote the following:

If only the dust had settled, unfortanely, the school board is just now getting into the mix. There will be a “special meeting” (on January 5 @ 6:30 @ the McConnell Education Center next to Von Renner Elem. School) for the public to comment on this issue.
We need all the help we can get to prevent this lovely novel from being pulled from the curriculum at the high school. PLEASE help us spread the word…sign the guestbook at and/or send an email to the superintendent at
Thanks for your help!!

So if you have the time and inclination, go down and get a front row seat.

Oh – and take a copy of “Bless Me, Ultima” AND “Fahrenheit 451” with ya to pass the time.

Note added 2/3/09 @ 4:40pm: Dr. Fauss responded to an email I sent to him, explaining his job thus far has been to listen to what others have to say, then make recommendations based on what is best for students.

Serendipity on Sunday….

Love that assonance alliteration (blame my burned-out brain cells).

It’s been a while and a backlog has built up….and after resurfacing yesterday at the BAPPA digital day I guess I’d better post and dive again.

The afternoon workshops were just as good the am ones. Checked out the Canon and Nikon sessions on their gear w/o much interest (yeah, I’m a videot). Listened in on “Care and Feeding of the 800 Lb Gorilla in the Newsroom.” Pretty bland until RK Hernandez got up and let loose – what a surprise. I’ve never heard him blast or lamblast, so when he lit into the sales department at the Merc News about not selling/knowing how to sell multimedia (he says advertisors were asking to buy into the multimedia pages but sales didn’t know how to handle it)…wow. He kept reinforcing and repeating that what was happening to PJs and VJs was NOT THEIR FAULT. Now that brought some applause…and was sorely needed.

So of course I had to go to his Final Cut on Deadline workshop. He has the basics nailed – what is the minimum you need to survive? Well, first off – don’t go with Pro because Express will do everything you need 99% of the time. How to set the scratch disk – buy an external portable and put all of your media there. How to start a new project – save immediately. How to capture and basic drag and drop editing. Time ran out before he could finish – and he fielded questions as he went along.

Day ended with Scott McKierman (Zuma Press) and Jan Sturmann (Albinocrow) talking about making your way as a freelancer. Not quite a repeat of the am session, which was pretty general – more detailed and again (as many of these sessions are) motivating. YOU CAN DO IT.

On to more of the backlog. Some time ago I mentioned following up on rumors. Specifically a small valley town where the school district superintendent may have worked to get a book banned based on one parent’s complaint.

All along I’ve been in contact with some concerned citizens who feel that this wrong, considering it was only one parent complaining.

Time to go public – now that it seems to be over, although the dust has not settled and there may well be repercussions in the future. The town is Newman and the superintendent of the Newman-Crows Landing Unified School District, epicenter to this story, is Dr. Richard Fauss. Here’s a link to a story run in the Modesto Bee, plus an editorial. Please note the ironic reference in the last lines in the editorial to Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. And the final editorial:

We strongly disagree with the decision of Newman-Crows Landing Unified School District Superintendent Rick Fauss to remove the book “Bless Me, Ultima,” by Rudolfo Anaya, from high school classes. Books should be removed from curricula only in rare circumstances — for pedagogically sound, legally sufficient reasons — and only after conducting a thorough, measured review process that includes evaluating controversial excerpts in the context of the book as a whole.
Banning “Bless Me, Ultima” sets a dangerous precedent. Which books will be next? “The Golden Compass” by Philip Pullman? “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley? The Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling? All are on the American Library Association’s list of the most frequently challenged titles. And all, like “Bless Me, Ultima,” are highly recommended by educators across the country.
In our experience, controversies of this sort are best handled by expanding the array of curricular offerings available, not restricting it, and by including more voices in the conversation rather than silencing any. Individual freedom, democracy and a good education all depend on the right to read, inquire, question and think for ourselves.
Kids’ Right to Read Project, National Coalition Against Censorship New York

This story is repeated across our country. Ideas are scary, dangerous things and small minds are often afraid of those whose ideas tower above them.

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