honors biology

More Fun with Censorship

The Gilbert Public School District supports the state of Arizona's strong interest in promoting childbirth and adoption over elective abortion. The District is also in support of promoting abstinence as the most effective way to eliminate the potential for unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. If you have questions concerning sexual intercourse, contraceptives, pregnancy, adoption or abortion, we encourage you to speak with your parents. A.R.S. §15-115 A.R.S. §15-716

Call it a lesson learned. When I was young, parents the problem was kids listening to rock music, and the solution was to put stickers on albums warning parents that their children might hear explicit words.

These days the problem is apparently smart kids learning biology, and the solution is to put stickers on textbooks warning kids that they need to talk to their parents about what the state of Arizona thinks.

True, we are not certain what lesson was actually learned, but the tale is hardly unfamiliar.

And now, the update from the one and only Laura Conaway:

The board acted at the urging of the same group that backed gay discrimination bills in Indiana, Arkansas and Louisiana, the Alliance Defending Freedom. Based in Arizona, the Alliance insisted that Gilbert’s biology books were out of compliance with an Arizona law requiring school districts to present childbirth and adoption as preferable to abortion. msnbcBut soon after the Tea Party majority decided to censor the biology books, voters in very conservative Gilbert decided to replace them with a new majority. Shortly afterward, the outgoing board reversed course and decided against going ahead with ripping pages out of biology textbooks.

From the beginning, superintendent Christina Kishimoto had warned her bosses on the board that removing information from the books would only send kids to the Internet to find out what they were missing. With the new majority taking over, Kishimoto told us late last year she would have a team of biology teachers go over the books this summer and likely put together two or three pages of information that they would include in an envelope glued to the inside back cover.

Last night, though, a local viewer emailed us Gilbert’s solution, and it turns out to be much smaller than expected.

As you can see below, teachers are adding this small sticker to the inside back cover of the honors biology textbooks.

The stickers read:The Gilbert Public School District supports the state of Arizona's strong interest in promoting childbirth and adoption over elective abortion. The District is also in support of promoting abstinence as the most effective way to eliminate the potential for unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. If you have questions concerning sexual intercourse, contraceptives, pregnancy, adoption or abortion, we encourage you to speak with your parents. (A.R.S. §15-115, A.R.S. §15-716)

The Gilbert Public School District supports the state of Arizona’s strong interest in promoting childbirth and adoption over elective abortion. The District is also in support of promoting abstinence as the most effective way to eliminate the potential for unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. If you have questions concerning sexual intercourse, contraceptives, pregnancy, adoption or abortion, we encourage you to speak with your parents.

And there is a political moral to the story. Remember that this intrusion of the moral authority of the state government of Arizona is brought to you by small-government Tea Party Republicans.

To the one it is part of a conservative notion whereby small government means using local government to tamper in people’s lives, like citing square footage in order to censor Zombie Jesus. Or, you know, TRAP laws, by which Republicans use zoning regulations to shutter businesses providing goods and services they don’t like. Women’s health care, for instance. The infamous abortibudget, for instance, in which Republican presidential candidate and Ohio Gov. John Kasich refused to use his line-item veto to strike anti-abortion provisions from the state budget. Here’s a fun one: Abortion providers must obtain transfer agreements with local hospitals. This is similar to the admitting privileges debate in other states; many abortion providers can’t get local admitting privileges because they do not admit enough patients to the hospital. But Ohio, knowing this wasn’t popular with the courts, went with another idea. A “transfer agreement”. A doctor needed a transfer agreement with a local hospital before providing abortion services. The hospitals, meanwhile, are explicitly forbidden under law from entering such an agreement. It’s no wonder Mr. Kasich didn’t want to discuss the anti-abortion law he signed, and the only real question remaining is why the Cleveland Plain Dealer tried to scrub that episode from history. One need not be a paid pundit to recognize, also, that it is always Christian supremacist moralism.

At least it’s not forcible insertion this time.

But it is using the state to deliver a moral message intended to undermine reality. And this in itself is problematic.

Which leads to the other. Only Tea Party activists in Arizona could rush to follow in the footsteps of Tipper Gore and somehow manage to screw up even worse.Parental Advisory: Explicit Content

No, really.

Come on.

At some point, we must admit the entire Tea Party brand really is that stupid.

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Benen, Steve. “Ohio’s Kasich approves sweeping restrictions on reproductive rights”. msnbc. 1 July 2013.

—————. “The gag rule Kasich doesn’t want to talk about”. msnbc. 31 October 2014.

Conaway, Laura. “Arizona town decides not to censor books, adds stickers instead”. msnbc. 14 August 2015.

An Update: Fun With Censorship

Ah, Arizona!

Just a piece of follow-up; heaven knows we’re bad enough about that around here.

This was supposed to be the day when the superintendent of public schools in Gilbert, Arizona, would present a plan (pdf) for redacting the kids’ honors biology textbooks. The Tea Party majority on the school board voted last month to remove references to abortion from the books, which have been in use for several years now in the district. The board ordered the superintendent to figure out how to do it ....Reece et al. 'Campell Biology' (7th ed.)

.... Board president Staci Burk told the Arizona Republic that parents had already volunteered to help with the redacting, whether by tearing out the pages or cutting out the paragraphs with scissors or blacking them out with a Sharpie. Even after voters undid the Tea Party majority in the elections this month, Burk told us that she expected the superintendent to report back today with a plan for carrying out the board’s order. “I don’t believe there will be any more discussion on the textbooks,” she said.

The board may have failed to account for the opinion of the superintendent herself.

A district spokesperson tells us that Dr. Christina Kishimoto, who is new to the district, believes that the honors biology textbooks already comply with Arizona law about mentions of abortion and that there’s no need to change the books. Kishimoto talked to the board about this yesterday, and now the superintendent does not intend to offer a plan tonight for pulling back information from students. Instead, the board and the superintendent will hold a public discussion about what, exactly, the board wants taken out of the honors biology textbooks.

“Now the board has come back and said, ‘Hey, wait, we want further clarification,’ ” said spokesperson Irene Mahone-Paige. “We’re back to where we started.”

(Conaway)

Not to put too fine a point on it, but when you start running around like village idiots in a panic, it is entirely possible—and, in truth, somewhat likely—to end up looking like, well, village idiots.

Back to where they started? The schools in Gilbert, Arizona, have a simple choice: They can either educate their children, or not. It would seem that in coming back to where they started, they have simply returned to the point of looking for any reason to decide the choice should be to not educate their students.

And, of course, a raising of the wrist to those educators who understand that the students need to pass tests after high school, too. Maybe next Arizona can pass a law prohibiting the use of college degrees in employee candidate assessment.

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Conaway, Laura. “Glimmer of hope for those Arizona honors biology textbooks”. msnbc. 18 November 2014.

Fun With Censorship

Detail of framegrab from The Rachel Maddow Show, msnbc, 31 October 2014.

“So, dear honors biology students of Gilbert, Arizona, I now address your directly. You may soon find yourself holding a biology textbook with a hole where some true facts used to be. Don’t despair. We here at ‘The Rachel Maddow Show’ have preserved the part of your biology textbook that the crusading religious group and the Republican state senators and the conservative majority on your school board no longer wants to allow you to see.

“We’re going to keep it posted for you in perpetuity at ArizonaHonorsBiology.com, which we bought today so that we could post the page that they’re cutting out of your textbook. You can get it there. ArizonaHonorsBiology.com.”

Rachel Maddow

At least in the face of morbid politicking, we have the relief of morbid humor.

Steve Benen, in addition to expressing his amazement at the situation in Arizona, notes:

Apparently, in 2012, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) signed into a law a measure that requires public schools to present childbirth and adoption as preferred options to elective abortion.

msnbcWhat’s wrong with that? In Gilbert, the honors biology class uses a textbook with a page that told students, “[C]omplete abstinence, avoiding intercourse, is the only totally effective method of birth control.” The same page includes information – rather clinic information – about the morning-after pill and medically-induced abortion. The procedure, the text says, “requires a doctor’s prescription and several visits to a medical facility.”

The state Board of Education and its lawyer said the paragraph in question isn’t a problem – it doesn’t advocate or encourage abortion – but apparently that didn’t matter. Conservative activists and local Republican officials insisted the textbook is illegal under the law created by Brewer two years ago.

As a practical matter, they conceded that the textbook pre-dates the Arizona statute, and that the school district can’t just go out and buy new textbooks because of one paragraph the right finds objectionable, so in the interest of expediency, conservatives want to “excise” the offending page – which is to say, they want to literally tear out the page that mentions abortion from the book.

Remember, these are “honors” students, for whatever that designation is worth in Arizona.

Not worth a copper in the Copper State. The grandest of canyons is between the censors’ ears.

Oh, and that link Maddow mentioned? ArizonaHonorsBiology.com? Yeah, go ahead and click. It does, indeed work, redirecting the reader to AZ Central, where the Arizona Republic has posted a copy of the page some officials in Arizona have deemed honors biology students too stupid to be allowed to see.α

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α As hyperlinks to news sites are not the most reliable—this isn’t the Beeb, after all—we will do our part and preserve a copy to last as long as this blog does.

Maddow, Rachel. “School board to rip out textbook’s abortion mention”. The Rachel Maddow Show. msnbc. 31 October 2014.

Benen, Steve. “Arizona law leads to ‘edit’ of biology textbook”. msnbc. 3 November 2014.