Conejo Valley Faux Book Banning Controversy: Just the tip of a dangerous iceberg

By Paul D. White


The book “censorship” debate in the Conejo Valley Unified School District (CVUSD) speaks to a larger education issue, and centers around two false premises.

1)   False Premise #1:  Censoring high school students is wrong, unnecessary, and would create a bad precedent.

All schools (including CVUSD) already practice censorship in most areas of their students’ campus life

• Candy and soda are frequently banned to encourage students to develop better eating habits.

• Risque and inciteful clothing are not allowed, in order to promote a wholesome school climate.

• Alcohol and tobacco are not permitted, to discourage future use.

• Vulgar language and disrespectful behavior are censored, to teach students socially acceptable manners.

Much of the literature that targets juvenile audiences is increasingly inane and/or pointlessly obscene, and of limited educational value.  Shouldn’t schools monitor the curriculum that is presented to K-12 students, at least as carefully as they censor skirts that are too short, or foods containing excess sugar?

2)   False Premise #2: Teachers should not be questioned by parents and the community regarding the learning materials they present to students, because ALL teachers have innately superior character and moral values which enable them to know, better than the parents, what is best for their children.

43 years of teaching and administration at 14 schools, and close contact with hundreds of teachers, tells me differently.

A small group of teachers, (just like small groups of truckers, lawyers, construction workers, police officers, nurses, engineers, and clergymen), certainly DO have high moral character and exceptional commitment to their work.  They possess a deep concern that children learn “right things”, and can definitely be trusted to pass-on those values to children they instruct.

Another small group of teachers are morally bankrupt and should never have been granted teaching credentials.  These include the ones I’ve observed having inappropriate relationships with students, using drugs and alcohol at school, psychologically tormenting children, showing soft porn videos in class, mocking traditional religious values, promoting sexual activity, and insisting that students accept the teacher’s personal political views.

MOST teachers I’ve worked with fit neither extreme, but are just like the rest of society.  For them, teaching is just a job   Like most employees in most occupations, the largest number of teachers just do what it takes to get by.  They take attendance, present lessons, give tests, repeat this procedure 180 times each school year, and are thankful for 10-12 weeks of annual vacation, and early retirement benefits that are better than most.   For this majority of teachers, deep concern about their students ends at 3:00 every afternoon.

That is not a knock on teachers.  It is simply a plea for community members to reject the ridiculous argument that, by virtue of their occupational choice, ALL teachers should be (or even WANT to be) trusted more than parents, to make moral decisions for their students.

Parents – not teachers are to blame for the public’s unrealistic and unfair over-trust of educators, that leads to destructive battles like the current one within the CVUSD schools.

It is parents who increasingly refuse to take the time to be actively involved in their schools’ values-based policy-making (including what literature books are selected for instruction).  By default, teachers and administrators have to make most morals-related policy decisions without meaningful parent input.  Over several decades, a balanced parent “voice” has disappeared from the decision-making; and moderate teacher voices from within the schools have been driven out of policy discussions.  They’ve been replaced by a peer-intimidating, rabidly secular/liberal group of educators that has given us school policies resulting in academic failing, sociological dysfunction, and moral bankruptcy.  Parents have justified their lack of involvement by palavering to an embarrassing extent about “our great teachers don’t need our input because they know what they’re doing.”

Or at least teachers know what they’re TRYING to do.  In addition to the huge demand to educate an overwhelmingly diverse group of students, they’re also being forced to assume a growing parenting role regarding moral issues – due to irresponsible moms and dads who refuse to do their job.

 It’s not working…as the current tip-of-the-iceberg debate in CVUSD demonstrates.  If nothing changes, the next book added to CVUSD’s (and every public school’s) required reading list should be, “The Voyage of the Titanic.”


Paul D. White is director of the Stronghold Institute and a Co-Director, a nonpartisan, non-profit foundation dedicated to providing facts and insightful solutions about key issues.You can email him at [email protected].

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