When school boards usurp parents rights
The ongoing Foxfiresaga reveals just how much disdain some board officials have for parent s feelings.
Many parents feel it’s time to change this.
With Christmas on the way, your teen might want to stock up on a little light holiday reading material.
If so, you should check out a book which the Halton (Ontario) Board of Education sent home last Christmas with grade 12 students.
But be warned that Joyce Carol Oates’ Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang, is anything but light reading. Rife with lesbian sex, rape, gratuituous violence, underage, drug and alcohol abuse, obscenity, racism, nudity and even Satanism, the book has drawn the outrage of Halton parents
In the name of so-called “gender tolerance,” the Halton Board chose Foxfire as the first semester study text, on wich students are expected to write tests, submit esssays perform group assignments, draft compositions and conduct seminars.
But at least one student won’t be play-acting roles from the book or forming his own in classroom gang. That’s because when his father discovered the book and immediately launched a campaign to have it removed.
Jack Huisman, a Milton Chartered Accountant and father of eight, isn’t the only parent who has a problem with Foxfire.
Several others want to know why the board approved the book without consulting them, why it represents such a major portion of the first semester mark and why it’s being studied in group sessions—which are known to break down individual convictions.
Nancy King, whose son is in grade 12 questions why students are being encouraged to form their own “in-classroom gangs.” complete with mottos, emblems, uniforms, and initiation ceremonies.” She points out that, ‘hundreds of kids live in violent situations where school is their only haven.”
“Why are they now being exposed to even more violence at school” she wants to know.
Roger Neuman, whose daughter is in grade 11 is disturbed that Foxfire portrays sex as “horrible, ugly, dirty thing.” He questions why “we’re importing pornography from the U.S. when there’s lots of positive twentieth century Canadian works?”
Ilsa Folkens of Citizens United for Responsible Education is also outraged about Foxfire and says her organization will work to make sure that parents are aware of the book.
But in spite of the concerns raised by parents, the Halton Board has continued to stand behind the book. In a telephone interview Barb Singleton, the Principal at Milton District High—where Huisman’s son attends school—says she’s “happy to support it.”
But Huisman says, when he first contacted her in early October, “she claimed to have read Firefox ten years ago. I knew this couldn’t be as it had only been published in 1993, so I pressed her further and she finally conceded that it must have been a different Foxfire.”
According to Huisman, after
“We don’t have to have our heads buried in toilet water to know it stinks”
Singleton finally read it, she told him that although she didn’t personally like Foxfire, “she had to stand behind board policy.” Singleton denies ever having told Huisman she didn’t like it.
When she didn’t get anywhere with Singleton, Huisman called his Trustee, Tim Kingsbury and left a message, but Kingsbury didn’t call back. A week later, Huisman called again and had what he terms, “a very negative and confused conversation.”
“Kingsbury claimed not to know who I was or why I was calling.” Says Huisman. “But as the conversation unfolded, I discovered that he had copies of all my letters and had even listened to my interview on CBC radio.” According to Huisman, Kingsbury also claimed that he had to stand behind “board policy” on this issue.
When contacted Tim Kingbury said he didn’t find anything wrong with Foxfire, adding “there’s not a book out there that offends no one.” When asked why students are being encouraged to form gangs, Kingsbury replied, “I’d have to re-read that rational, but I think if it’s done in a controlled circumstance in class, it could be positive in keeping them out of gangs.”
However, Kingsbury did concede that “it’s too bad” all of the adults in the book are violent, abusive, perverted characters. “It would have been nice if there was one positive adult role model” he said. When asked if he thinks that Foxfire fulfils the boards own policy of “educating students towards high standards of conduct, literacy and achievement,” he said he thinks it does.
“Sometimes a graphic illustration of obviously wrong behaviour becomes an easy way to demonstrate what is acceptable” maintains Kingsbury.
But Huisman feels Kingsbury’s rational is “ridiculous.”
“We don’t have to have our heads buried in toilet water to know it stinks” maintains Huisman, who also wrote to MPPs Ted Chudleigh and Cam Jackson, Attorney General Charles Harnick, and Education Minister, John Snobelen, charging that Foxfire contains “scenes straight out of the video library of Paul Bernardo” and demanding that the book be investigated.
Only Chudleigh officially responded. In a letter to Huisman, the M.P.P. denounced Foxfire saying he was “shocked and saddened” after reading excerpts and that he does not believe in belongs “on the core curriculum of our province’s high schools.”
Huisman took this to mean that the Provincial Government would take steps to get rid of Foxfire and was disappointed but determined when told that the government wouldn’t be involving itself. “They’ve thrown it back to us—the parents—so be it. We’ll have public readings, we’ll have petitions—we’ll not rest until this book is gone.” Promises Huisman.
But Graeme Barrett, Director of the Halton Board of Education, remains oblivious to the uproar. He says Huisman and Chudleigh are “welcome to their own opinions, but that he stands behind the book as “ a study on power and the abuse of power, geared as a specific learning tool which supports the curriculum.”
When asked if he thinks the selection of Foxfire satisfies the Boards own policy to be “sensitive to the standards of the community and to individual viewpoints,” Barrett dodged the question, commenting that “students are always given an option of reading another book.”
This doesn’t fly with Huisman, who says his son doesn’t recall being given another choice. “Anyway, unless they’re really strong kids, they’re not going to exercise an option that would alienate them from their peers” maintains Huisman.
Many parents believe that the selection of Foxfire, a book supposedly meant to demonstrate the consequences of the “abuse of power,” is itself an abuse of power—by the Halton Board of Education.
They can only do that to a 17-year-old
I have to admit I haven’t read all of Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang. Oh, I’ve tried. Escaping from my daugher’s skating lesson to the library, making them pull it out of storage. Sitting in a comfortable chair, opening it up and forcing myself through the never-ending arrangement of cursing, cursing and obscenities.
Back home. Where was I? Catholics, blacks and parents getting it good. The next day, back at skating, dragging myself silently through attacks against grandmothers and God muffling groans at sense of slaughtered kittens, botched abortions and sexual violence. Then a woman leans over and inquiries, “What are you reading?” And at that moment I decide, I’m not reading anything. I’m not reading any more of this hellish stuff. They can’t make me. They can only do that to seventeen-year-olds.
Seventeen-year-olds, grasping at the possibilities of life, hoping wishing, failing at so much that had once seemed conceivable. And Foxfire is here, drawing out their anguish, raising their rage and directing it against everyone but themselves. Victims all of you—pawns of an evil, capitalist democracy, fatalities of the “gender wars,” sacrificial lambs of a perverse and dying religion, mere property to your parents. Even casualties of each other. Trust no one. Especially God, because he doesn’t exist.
Seventeen-year-olds, powerless, washed in isolation and alienation and a sense of not belonging anywhere or to anyone or anything. And Foxfire is there, cleverly, speaking their language, acting out scenes from our lives, offering them the power of vengeange and of belonging to a new wave of rebellion, to a revolution that is sweeping the land-gangs.
Seventeen-year-olds, hormones raging, energy pulling and pushing them in a thousand different directions. And once again, Foxfire is there, weaving words into magic, running thoughts and concepts and subliminal suggestions together so that there’s never a chance to absorb or reflect or stop and think what is really being said.
And what is really being said is he same thing hat is being said everywhere: Turn against your God—He is dead. Turn against your country—it is corrupt. Turn against your parents—they are stupid. Turn against the opposite sex—they are you enemies. Turn against each other—you can trust no one. Except of course the Halton Board of Education who knows what’s best for you.
Is this what parents believe? Maybe not. But if you don’t do something about it now, it will undoubtedly be what your children believe.