5-25 letters

Editor:

As you all know the Merrill School district had a meeting to resolve an issue regarding folks from the community being upset about use of the book MONTANA 1948 in MAPS classrooms. Information presented by Principal Shannon Murray told those in attendance the book had been approved for use 12 years ago. During that time there had been three requests by students or parents to read alternative books.

The book has been read by all board members and most felt it was not anymore problematic than many other books used by the district which are considered to be CLASSICS. In my mind prime time TV has as much “objectionable” things or more than this book.

To me the most ironic fact of the evening was that the book has been in use 12 years and approved by the district for use while one of the objectors Mr. Joe Fink served as president of the Merrill School Board. Further question can be raised by the fact that the district has a policy in place for folks in the community to handle objections such as this. Those objecting were advised of the policy and chose not file the proper papers to accomplish what they wanted to do.

Thanks for your time.

Regards,

Chuck Bolder

Merrill

Dear Editor:

I would like to comment on Chuck Bolder’s letter defending the adult-rated and sexually explicit book, Montana 1948, which is being taught to Merrill High’s l0th grade English Composition class. This book was discussed at a special BoE meeting on May 16th. At this meeting, Principal Shannon Murray referred to 10th grade students as “young adults,” while Superintendent Lisa Snyder referred to them as “children.” It is obvious to parents that neither “young adults” nor “children” should be subjected to sexually explicit novels in school. The BoE fusses over students’ diets, yet they poison their minds! Is this the best that MAPS has to offer students?

A BoE member expressed that a student who suffered molestation could be traumatized by reading this book. How is this being monitored? How are 9th graders prevented from borrowing this book from the school library? Some BoE members claimed that good parents know what is going on with their child’s schooling and simultaneously condemned parents for speaking up with their concerns!

Mr. Bolder defended the book by comparing it to television and classical books. However, children are not required to watch TV nor is Montana 1948 a classical book. Whatever happened to our Christian principles, “Thou shalt not commit adultery” and “Lead us not into temptation?” The BoE has an obligation to listen to the community; however, no community input was allowed at the May 16th meeting. Who is censoring who?

I would quote the Bible on scandal – that it be better that a millstone be hanged about the neck and to be drowned in the sea than to give scandal, but in defense of humanism, I would be accused of taking this out of context, too.

Respectfully,

Kathleen Gruetzmacher

Merrill

Editor:

This letter is to thank all the many people and businesses who helped to make the third annual Run United 10K, 5K, and 2 mile Fun Run a success. Riverside Athletic Club sponsors Run United to benefit the 21 programs Merrill Area United Way helps to fund.

We want to give a special thank you to the Merrill Police Department and the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department for providing traffic control to keep the runners safe, and to Dave’s County Market for donating race food. We also thank the following area businesses for contributing to the gift bags for the runners: Aspirus Merrill Clinic, Beacon Bar, Chip’s Hamburgers, Culver’s of Merrill, Hugo’s Pizza, Ministry Good Samaritan Health Center, and Ye Olde Sweet Shoppe. The Merrill Street Department and Park and Recreation Department were both very helpful in making our race run smoothly. Our race route volunteers were outstanding and deserve extra recognition for their enthusiasm and thoughtfulness.

Paul Kienitz

Riverside Athletic Club

Editor,

Over 200 years ago Ben Frankling stated “Beware: no man’s life, liberty or property is safe when the legislature is in session.”

How true these words are today.

Enough said?

Phil Thompson

Merrill

Editor:

After attending the May 16 MAPS Board of Education meeting addressing the book Montana 1948, I would not trust my child’s well-being to these elected school officials. Nearly every member of the board defended the book, in which graphic sexual content dramatizes the themes and characters of the novel. Parents’ concerns about the explicit nature of the novel were effectively ignored. Parents were not even allowed to speak – perhaps the BOE considers this democratic? We helplessly listened as our conerns were overridden by personal biases, exaggerations about censorship, and offensive comments about the meeting being “absurd” and unnecessary. Specifically, seven members of the board demonstrated unprofessionalism in their disregard for genuine parental concerns. Parents were attacked by name, and police were even present – a tactic to intimidate parents or stir up fear-mongering?

Board members claimed that Montana 1948 provides an opportunity for 10th grade English students to learn about and discuss social issues, like racism and the abuse of power. I completed a Bachelor of Social Work without ever needing to read an explicit novel. Graphic sexual literature is not necessary to understand social injustices. The board actually provided a list of novels with themes of social justice, but lacking the nasty sexual illustrations.

This board is demonstrably infected by moral relativism – the self-refuting idea that moral issues are subjective. Intellectually weak and inconsistent reasoning was used to defend a book that should not meet with respectable moral standards for children. Several members commented on how children will be exposed to immorality anyway, as if this is justification for tolerating toxic literature in the classroom. Do we use Playboy magazines to help children understand exploitation of women? A good parent tries to protect his child, but the BOE apparently has different expectations for educators.

Johanna Miller

Merrill

Dear Editor,

The special meeting of the MAPS school board called recently to discuss and vote on the controversial book Montana 1948 merits additional comments. I attended the meeting as a taxpayer and grandparent of Merrill students. My concern centered on curriculum issues.

One of the themes supposedly taught in the book is the abuse of power by respected local officials. Those who attended the special meeting witnessed an abuse of power by local MAPS officials.

District Superintendent Snyder announced at the beginning that Merrill’s local access station (MP3) would film the meeting as well as various media outlets. The public, however, were told they would be prohibited from doing the same. This statement by Superintendent Snyder was illegal under Wisconsin State Statute (19.90). This statute clearly states that “Whenever a government body holds a meeting in open session, the body shall make reasonable effort to accommodate any person desiring to record, film or photograph the meeting.” The public cannot interfere with the conduct of the meeting by their actions.

An additional abuse of power, in my opinion, was perpetrated by high school principal Shannon Murray. A lengthy statement by Murray contained a personal attack on the actions of local parent Karen Cournaya. Since no public comment was allowed by MAPS officials Murray’s attack amounted to an obvious cheap shot. Does anyone honestly believe that Ms. Cournaya wanted Murray to read the offensive passages to his two and five year old children?

Finally, board member Kanitz whined that some people (the public and taxpayers) simply like to complain. Public interest in governmental affairs is the basis of our American system. Anything less reeks of the abuse of power and of authoritarianism.

Bill Zeitz

Merrill

Dear Editor,

As a former English teacher, mother, grandmother and taxpayer, I have been watching the unfolding saga of Montana 1948 in print and on television. I couldn’t help noticing the consistent emphasis on MAPS Superintendent Dr. Lisa Snyder’s comment that “To precent your own child from reading a book is good parenting. To prevent someone else’s child from reading it is censorship.” I began to expect this quotation to be followed by a burst of light and blare of uplifting music. The offending parents weren’t given the benefit of such coverage, but were portrayed as “taking passages out of context” and “misrepresenting” Principal Shannon Murray’s responses.

In studying the District Instructional Trade Book List for High School, which I assume is only a basic guideline since I have seen other more extensive reading lists, I was struck by the emphasis on heavy, depressing works, especially on the 10th Grade level. It would be tough to instill a love of great literature using that list. Not much joy there! More importantly, much of the material definitely is not age-appropriate, but presented in the name of relating to the “real world.” Any English teacher knows that the truths of great literature are true for all times and don’t depend on “relevancy” for their impact. Children are bombarded every day with low-life entertainment images, so why not take the high road with education?

With regard to the specific work in question, what does it matter if this book is in many high school libraries and classrooms around the country, nor that it has been in MHS for 12 years with only 3 challenges? That highlights the low point that our civilization has reached.

I read the book with the intention of letting it stand or fall on its own merits. Even more disturbing than the use of unnecessary offensive language and descriptions is the fact that the resolution is so unsatisfying from a moral viewpoint. If many of the traditionally taught classics hit us over the head with didacticism, I maintain better that than being pounded with relativism. Furthermore, the best writing in the book is in passages of observation tough to swallow as true-to-life from a 12-year-old boy. Finally, I find it truly sad that the students who would most likely choose this book “beecause it was the shortest one on the list” are unwittingly led to believe that such behavior and injustice is the norm in Montana or anywhere else! Why focus on the sordid failures of society? Why not present courageous and admirable characters?

I agree that it is not the place of concerned parents to apply censorship to the high school curriculum. No, that is the job of our duly elected School Board representatives. School Board members are elected to hire and fire, approve and disapprove, not to rubber-stamp the choices of the “professional experts” who use our money to decide how teachers should educate our children in the direction the “experts” decide is best while the parents work hard to pay for it. You certainly are fortunate, Merrill parents, to have these professionals bringing you out of the Dark Ages of education based on traditional values. Teachers, how can you possibly teach without such enlightened guidance? School board members, follow the lead of Loretta Baughan and Brad Geiss to give concerned parents some true representation!

Nancy L. Zeitz

Merrill

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