Monthly Archives: September 2009

It’s Banned Books Week!

Banned Books Week by Michael_Lehet.A bookworm to the core, Banned Books Week is one of my favorite holidays. Not only do I get to celebrate reading, I also get to give props to the First Amendment and intellectual freedom, and snub my nose at the conservative zealots who have tried to suppress some of my favorite books over the years. All in all, an awesome time. (#1 on the holidays for atheists list, perhaps?)

In honor of this Banned Books Week, why not read one of 2008’s most challenged books, listed on the American Library Association’s website. I personally recommend #2 on the list, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, one of childhood favorites that has stood the test of time, as a recent re-reading proved (undertaken in time for the release of a movie based on the first book in the series, The Golden Compass). Pullman’s work attracted the ire of would-be censors for “political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, and violence” (translation: it’s too progressive and makes organized religion look bad). You’ll also find the Gossip Girl series on that list, and though I’ve yet to read the books, I’m a devotee of the T.V. version. (Oh, Chuck and Blair, together at last, but for how long?)

Or, go for one of the “Banned and Challenged Classics.” Forty-two of the Radcliff Publishing Course’s top 100 literary all-stars have been subjected to ban attempts, so there’s plenty to choose from. I’m currently engrossed in #11, Vladmir Nabokov’s Lolita.

If you can’t decide which to read, here’s my suggestion: George Orwell’s classic dystopia, 1984. One of my all-time favorite books, and great for BBW because the book has not only been censored, it’s about censorship. Anyone who hasn’t read it yet should take this opportunity to celebrate the holiday and find out the true meaning behind “Big Brother” and the thought police.

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Filed under Arts, Education

Not Enough Sex Ed in the City

When I attended school in Manhattan, I received what I considered good, comprehensive sex education. Sex ed started in 5th grade: the boys went to one room, the girls to another, and we learned how bodies worked. (Okay, by that point we’d picked up enough through the playground, parents, or TV programs that we had the basics down already.) I don’t remember what precisely was covered, or how useful it was, but I have a clearer memory of 7th and 8th grade. I’ve mentioned the assembly on flavored condoms before; condoms could be procured for free in the bathroom at the nurse’s office.

I moved to New Jersey for high school, so I missed out on a continuing New York City sex education. But I always assumed–well, it’s New York City!  Where would you expect to find better sex education?

So imagine my surprise when I read a letter, “Sex Ed in the City,” to the New York Times a few days ago from the president of Planned Parenthood of New York City. Joan Malin points out in that the city actually does not require sex education, a fact I find shocking. With the current budget cuts being made in New York schools, as a program legally considered non-essential, sex education is often a target. This puts youth at danger by not educating them on making healthy sexual decisions–and those young people grow up to adults who still don’t know how to make the best decisions.

I’ve realized, considering my own New York education, that the best sex ed I received was in 7th and 8th grade, when I attend a school that, though not private, was affiliated with Hunter College, not the Board of Education, and it had chosen to prioritize the subject where the city administration had not. While some public schools now also do an admirable job of providing comprehensive sex ed, it shouldn’t be left up to the discretion of individual school administrators.

If you’re a New Yorker and want to see sex ed secure, sign up with the Planned Parenthood “We’re Going to the Principal’s Office” campaign.

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Filed under Education, Reproductive Justice, Sex

Counter Climate Change With Condoms

Mother Earth wants you to use a condom.

That’s right: these little latex wonders are the newest old green technology. “Fewer Emitters, Less Emissions, Less Cost,” a report from the London School of Economics, checks out what would happen to our carbon footprint if all the “unmet need” for contraceptives was, well, met.

The Alternet article asks the question: “Can Condoms Save Us From Climate Change?” The Optimum Population Trust, which commissioned the report, states in their press release: “The 34 gigatonnes of CO2 saved in this way [providing contraception] would cost $220 billion – roughly $7 a tonne. However, the same CO2 saving would cost over $1trillion if low-carbon technologies were used.” Providing contraception for unmet need is cheaper per ton than a host of other environmentally-friendly technologies, such as solar power, wind power, and hybrid or electric cars. Of the various sustainable lifestyle choices individuals can take, not having kids trumps–especially in developed countries, where the monetary and carbon costs of raising a child are far greater than in developing countries.

A key point here is that no one is suggesting we take a page from China’s book and institute kid quotas. The study considers the benefit of decreasing the number of unplanned, unwanted pregnancies by providing contraception to women who want it, but don’t have it. Furthermore, the study’s findings are underestimated because “unmet need” is only measured in married couples–and obviously there are many single, sexually active people out there, who are just as likely to face the problem of obtaining contraception as unmarried women.

Increased access to birth control for those who want it should already be a top priority in developing countries, since it combats other current problems: i.e. AIDS, hunger, poverty. Our contraception-distribution efforts and legislation such as PEPFAR (the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) have been severely weakened by conservative religious meddling that insists on teaching abstinence-only for the unmarried, creates a stigma around condoms, and ignores the gendered power imbalances that often make it impossible for women to abstain from sex or insist on a faithful husband who wouldn’t put her at risk for sexually transmitted diseases.

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Filed under Environment

Latinos Tired of Lou: Pressure CNN to Say Goodbye to Dobbs, Hateful Rhetoric

Say Lou Dobbs, and I immediately think leprosy. Not because I want to be near him about as much as I’d like to be near a leper, although that’d be true too. No, I’m referring to his hysterical accusation that undocumented immigrants are causing an epidemic of leprosy. Ever since encountering his crazy last year, I have a one-track mind when it comes to Dobbs–and his continued appearance on CNN gives me doubt regarding that network as well.

Today, and a host of other allied Latino organizations are helping CNN to help itself by calling for Dobbs’ termination. Recent events such as the Tiller murder or Holocaust museum shooting remind us that hate-filled language can lead to hate-driven actions; aware that Dobbs’ rhetoric puts them in danger, Latinos want to protect themselves by getting him off the air.

mmbanner2Ludicrous references to undocumented immigrants as “invaders” attempting to reconquer America inflame members of anti-immigrant groups like the Minuteman American Defense (MAD): in May, a Mexican man and his nine-year-old daughter were murdered by three members of the organization, which touts the tagline “doing the job our government won’t do.”

Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center states:

How dangerous is Lou Dobbs? The rise in hate crimes against Latinos coincides almost exactly with the time Dobbs has been propagating false conspiracy theories about Latinos on the air. He’s not urging people to go hurt and kill – but that is the effect of what he does.

In a country where citizens of late have proven willing to resort to violence–in this case, even the killing of a child–in support of a hate-fueled extremist agenda, giving primetime air space to an incendiary force such as Dobbs cannot be justified. He can’t just be dismissed, ignored, as a voice out-of-touch with reality, because people listen to and believe him, especially with CNN giving him the appearance of legitimacy.

If you want Dobbs’ off the air, go to for more information and to tell the president of CNN that, with Lou, the network is a far cry from the “Most Trusted Name in News.”

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Filed under Immigration

Why Homeschooling Freaks Me Out

An article on Alternet today bears the ominous title: “An Army of Home-Schooled ‘Christian Soldiers’ On a Mission to ‘Take Back America for God.'” In it, Robert Kunzman discusses some of what he uncovered researching the “Generation Joshua” program for his book on the “world of conservative Christian homeschooling.” Children are quoted calling public schools tools of “the Enemy” and “quite simply humanist churches” out to undermine Christian values. (I guess they’ve never heard of Christian humanists.)

Of course, Jesus Camp probably holds the honor for the most disturbing depiction of anti-science Christian fundamentalist homeschooling: [youtube=]

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Filed under Education, Religion