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Stolz Moves to Ban 'Porn' From Emmaus Summer Reading

East Penn School Director Julian Stolz moves to remove two books from the Emmaus High School summer reading list after a parent complains to the board about the sexually graphic nature of their content at Monday’s board meeting.

East Penn School Director Julian Stolz said he doesn’t want to go down the route of banning books, even as he moved to eliminate two books from ’s optional summer reading list at Monday night’s meeting of the .

Stolz put into a play a measure to be discussed at the board’s next meeting that would remove two books from the Emmaus High School optional summer reading list: Tom Wolfe’s “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,” which is on the 10th grade list and “Prep,” a 9th-grade selection written by Curtis Sittenfeld.

“I understand that this is just optional reading,” Stolz said. “I would not feel comfortable reading this content out loud at a board meeting. If I did, I would be charged with the corruption of the morals of minors.

“I feel that it is my moral duty to see that something like this is not on the suggested reading list. I have taken a history class, I watch the History Channel. I know what happens when we go down the path of banning books, I don’t want to go down that route,” Stolz said.

Board president Charles Ballard told Stolz that his motion would be put on the agenda for discussion at the next school board meeting, allowing it time to be properly advertised and allowing the public time to respond. “Saying that, it (this motion) is going down the route of banning books, Mr. Stolz,” Ballard said.

Stolz’s motion was prompted by a parent who came before the board to share her concerns about the books during the public comment portion of the meeting.

Paula Wittman, 560 Broad St., addressed the board along with Jeff Lotte of the same address. Lotte handed out to the board photocopied pages from both books, while Wittman spoke about the selected passages.

She began with text from page 315 in “Prep,” which, according to Wittman “graphically describes a minor girl during her first time performing oral sex with explicit detail and references to swallowing.” Wittman moved on to page 176 in “The Electric Kook-Aid Acid Test,” which, in Wittman’s words “describes a drug-and-alcohol-induced gang bang, with descriptions of glistening semen and orifices being filled multiple times.

“Why would the administration think that pornography is OK,” Wittman asked? “If this were in a movie, it would be X-rated.

“Emmaus is my alma mater. I am appalled ... I am disgusted. I can’t believe this is something recommended for school children of these ages to read. They have enough on their plate and I don’t think that they should be learning it from a book in this way,” she said.

At the beginning of his superintendent’s report, East Penn Superintendent of Schools Thomas L. Seidenberger addressed Wittman and Lotte, explaining that there is an established process in East Penn School District for voicing a concern about a book selection and that such issues can be submitted to the district online.

“Stick around and at the end of the meeting I will show you how,” Seidenberger said. Wittman and Lotte appeared to have left the school board meeting before it ended.

atthebeach September 12, 2012 at 02:42 AM
Here's a novel idea...Parents read the same book as your child an have a discussion about the book(s). Involve yourself in your child's education. I did this. The rewards are endless.
tamarya September 12, 2012 at 02:44 AM
To Paula I understand the parents do not agree with the book, just was wondering out of curiousity how young does east penn let kids into 9th and 10th grade? Usually 9th is either 14 or 15 and 10th is 15 or 16.
Jeff Lotte September 12, 2012 at 03:13 AM
“Stick around and at the end of the meeting I will show you how,” Seidenberger said. LOL! And just why would I wish to submit another complaint? I just did....sir! I really wish these meetings were interactive. If they were, I would have stayed.
slyfox September 12, 2012 at 11:19 AM
What great comments on this issued. In my opinion, it is not the subject matter that is objectionable, the wording itself is explicitly offensive. Age of the children *does* factor into this. You need to draw the line by having family members and those in the education field teaching sex. They need to be bombarded with what is right and what is not acceptable behavior. Half-truths, giggling and hushed voices coming from their friends certainly bombard them so you need to offset that with a good offense. Everyone needs to be involved. There is only a fraction of a lifetime to shield them from the nasty parts of this society and teach them the good and moral things. I agree that those books should not be removed from the shelves however due diligence must be provided. Peace.
Abel Anderson September 12, 2012 at 03:20 PM
Seems like the book Prep comes at the intersection of two different, but equally valid, parenting philosophies: 1) Parents who encourage reading this book as means to foster a discussion that would reduce sex among teens and address teen issues of identity and self-worth, and 2) Parents who discourage reading book as a means to prevent teens from emulating the behavior described in the book and delay teen exposure to sexual behaviors and language that might make them feel uncomfortable. But either philosophy embraces the same basic goal: to protect our children from damaging, unwanted, untimely or inappropriate sexual experiences. Each philosophy has merit. But each philosophy only works if it is brought to bear through discussion and examination. And how do we begin to broach the subject, without broaching the subject? In short, whether we choose to read the book or not, the function of the piece as a work of art, as a mirror society uses to examine itself, has already begun to be served. By taking the book off the list, we send the message that the issue, however uncomfortable, however difficult and unpleasant, is less worthy of our consideration, is less worthy of our attention. As parents, we may all agree that teen sexuality, promiscuity, loss of identity, indifference, depression and worthlessness deserve our immediate parental recognition, attention and love.
Michele September 12, 2012 at 04:40 PM
Let's take a quick poll: How many have actually read either of the two books? You do more research in your weekly grocery shopping, people. I agree with Abel Anderson - you want to stop your children from being exposed to potential "morally corrupt" influences, discuss the reality behind them. Personally I'd rather have my child discuss the effects of drug use and promiscuity in the safe manner that literature offers rather than have them experience the consequences firsthand through peer pressure and lack of judgment. If you had read these books (and other "banned books" like "Go Ask Alice") you would understand that while the protagonists do experiment with drugs, alcohol, and sex, the books revered as classical young adult literature (because your kids should learn to LIKE reading to succeed in academia) offer students the safe avenue to discuss negative impacts of said inappropriate behaviors without making the poor judgments themselves. It's pretty simple here, folks. You want your kids to grow up with positive, safe, and mature views of sex, drugs, alcohol, and any other counterculture issues? You're the parent, instill that viewpoint in your kids through talking to them as the mature and responsible adults you want them to be. Teachers have enough responsibility teaching your child to make it in college and the world - don't add raising YOUR child to that list.
Paula Wittman September 13, 2012 at 12:29 AM
Let's get one thing straight here...I NEVER used the word BAN! I just suggested they remove that those books from their recommended summer reading list.
Hester Prynne September 13, 2012 at 03:40 PM
Shouldn't we also ban from school libraries all copies of Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter" which we were required to read during our tenth grade literature class. Oh my! My morals were utterly corrupted by this tale of an extramarital affair between a young woman and her minister and their out-of-wedlock child. The entire school board and faculty should have been summarily fired for including such a scandalous book in the school's curriculum. Until I attended tenth grade, I had never even heard of the word "adultery." Alas, I am a fallen woman.
Robert Smigielski September 13, 2012 at 05:56 PM
It is interesting to me,and insightful, that those who comment that this issue is about banning the books in question also argue that the books are appropriate for our children. So the people who cannot comprehend the ACTUAL FACTS of the school board meeting are those who jump to the wrong conclusion that someone is suggesting banning these books. It shows me that the past several decades of failing public schools has succeeded in what is displayed here, failing comprehension by adults. No matter, people who care are driving this issue home.
careless fills September 23, 2012 at 12:25 AM
Well said, Robert, except I would suggest that the defenders of these books have said little more than they shouldn't be banned. What is happening here is that the school district is assigning its students to read two books out of a short list of a few dozen books, and that at least two of those books are at best of very questionable merit and are more likely very objectionable by most people's standards. Parents can certainly pick what they might allow or want their children to read, but we are busy and would think the school would use some similar judgement to help us out Shouldn't we be able to trust them? This controversy isn't about banning books; rather it's about the judgment of the teachers or curriculum writers who chose to recommend them. I haven't seen any defenders of these books say anything about the actual merits of these two books other than the specious argument that they shouldn't be banned. There's a whole lot of books that could be on this sort list for the summer reading assignment. Out of all of that huge universe, why are these two chosen to be on the relatively short list? Somebody, tell us something, please.
Abel Anderson September 23, 2012 at 01:46 AM
Please don't turn our review of the merits of the book into a personal attack on the educators. I've known many educators in my lifetime. They work extremely hard, with minimal compensation, above and beyond the call of duty, because they love teaching. They are on the front-lines with the kids each and every day. No one becomes a high school English teacher as part of some hidden agenda to corrupt the morals of our children.
Abel Anderson September 23, 2012 at 01:50 AM
Could it be that the educators who selected this book are more disgusted by the fact that 1 in 4 girls is the victim of a sexual assault? Could those educators feel an obligation to explore all available avenues to help shield and protect those girls from such experiences? Could those educators recognize the struggles teenagers face finding their way, learning how to fit it, desperately seeking social acceptance? This subject matter in this book is difficult and painful to process because the reality it exposes is even more difficult and painful to confront. I graduated in 1990. I remember two young girls who engaged in high risk sexual behavior with high profile male student athletes. One girl was videotaped and subsequently humiliated and socially ostracized for her actions--which occurred while under the influence of alcohol. She left school, never to be heard from again. Her family moved away. The book Prep exposes how desperate young teenage girls can be to "fit in" and to find "social acceptance." These girls will do almost anything, even engage in acts of depravity and self-destruction in order to gain the attention of the young male athletes so feverishly worshipped by the students, the alumni, and the administrators.
Abel Anderson September 23, 2012 at 01:58 AM
“The interest I felt in certain guys then confused me, because it wasn't romantic, but I wasn't sure what else it might be. But now I know: I wanted to take up people's time making jokes, to tease the dean in front of the entire school, to call him by a nickname. What I wanted was to be a cocky high-school boy, so fucking sure of my place in the world.” ― Curtis Sittenfeld, Prep “At that time in my life, no conclusion was a bad conclusion. Something ended, and you stopped wishing and worrying. You could consider your mistakes, and you might be embarrassed by them, but the box was sealed, the door was shut, you were no longer immersed in the confusing middle.” ― Curtis Sittenfeld, Prep
careless fills September 23, 2012 at 04:02 AM
No one is attacking teachers. We are questioning the judgement of the teachers, curriculum writers, or administrators who included these books in the relatively short list of selections approved for the summer reading assignment. I've also known many educators in my lifetime, having been raised by two, and socialized with many more, including as a precocious 10 year old who read their NEA journals (and even before it effectively became a union). All of my siblings are also teachers and I have personally been involved with schools where I lived. I know what my parents made in the 1960's and it was not minimal, and can even quote my daddy as saying he knew his single colleagues were off-base saying that they were so underpaid that they needed second jobs since he was supporting a family on the same money whilst my mom was stay at home for more than a dozen years. If you are a teacher, I'm sorry for any offense you've taken to my remarks, and I thank you for your more substantive comments in your subsequent posts.
careless fills September 23, 2012 at 04:12 AM
Do you really think 15 year olds can discern any of this on their own without the guidance of an adult who is reading along and discussing it with them? Many parents don't have the time or inclination, and even those who did might not have sufficient warning that they would need to do that. I'm reading Prep now, and I'm not far enough to argue the points you make here, but I don't recall any redeeming value in the Acid Test book that a fifteen year old or 60 year old would find in helping to understand any of the issues you mention.
careless fills September 23, 2012 at 04:21 AM
Of course, since I haven't got far in the book, it's hard to comment. But without the benefit of additional context, a youngster might conclude from these two quotes (or even confirm in their own mind) that life for me sucks, and I don't fit in like Curtis, so I might as well end it all. This is heavy stuff and shouldn;t be recommended for summer reading where many kids and parents won;t have the guidance or preparation for what's coming next.
careless fills September 23, 2012 at 04:30 AM
bom noite
careless fills September 25, 2012 at 01:41 AM
These other quotes are seriously depressing and could validate some youngsters' suicidal ideations.
Sheri L. Gordon September 26, 2012 at 10:55 PM
I chose to read, "Hip Hop High School". As a tutor, it is my job to explain things so that my student understands English words and concepts. I was uncomfortable telling this student from a different culture how on p. 130 "all cheerleaders know you performed oral sex on him." What a culture shock! Try to explain p.151 "genital piercings" to a child from Vietnam. On p. 78 "let's not wear any underwear" to this party.The first page of the book opens with "Doing da freak between da sheets- it is only a matter of time" at this school. The main character is "always thinking about sex" and this is still on the very first page. The character's best friend gets pregnant ends up at an abortion clinic where they are assured that things will remain confidential and things are a lot safer now than before. (Are ALL medical prodedures such a walk in the park in real life?) Why not put another option on the Summer Reading List, one that includes a book that does not include such explicit sexual content. Let's be a little more culturally sensitive and provide more options for parents and tutors! This book would have been a great option for me to read with my daughter. This book was entirely inappropriate for a student who is coming from Vietnam and who is very uncomfortable learning these private and personal topics from a tutor.
Abel Anderson September 26, 2012 at 11:25 PM
So "teenagers might kill themselves if they read this" is now a component of your ever-evolving collection of rationale for removing this book? I'm not aware of any cases in which teenagers were driven to suicide by reading Prep. I am aware of cases in which teenagers became suicidal, or committed suicide, after painful, unwanted, or deliberately self-destructive sexual experiences... a lot like what the main character experiences in this book. And, that exact theme of suicidal tendencies after a traumatic sexual experience is one subject of Sylvia Plath's "The Bell Jar." These are cautionary tales that have widely recognized literary standing and merit. These are not "how-to" guides. The how-to guides are available in Redbook, Cosmo, Glamour and Men's Health--all magazines common enough to be found in any doctor's office, home, library, airport, coffee shop or supermarket check out aisle and legally purchased by a child of any age.
Abel Anderson September 26, 2012 at 11:34 PM
These books are so well-received, so lauded, because they contain beautifully written prose that is relevant and didactic to young readers. There is no intent to arouse. But if you, as a parent, feel that one of these books might be harmful, you have everyone's support in telling your kid not to read it. "But I don't have time to read them all and the summary doesn't tell me much." Great point. Let's address that. I have offered compromise solutions on other posts... like establishing a free book ratings community website for Emnmaus and Lower Mac parents to rate books using a set of metrics, similar to what commonsensemedia.org promotes. That solution was patently ignored by everyone. It seems clear that the goal has never been to really educate parents about books or to help working parents who don't have time to read all the books make more informed decisions so as to guide their children. The goal here is and always has been to sow seeds of division and to generate outrage for political gain. It takes a truly immoral individual to exploit and manipulate children to serve their own Machiavellian political ambitions. And, as the story goes, your own sick methodology will prove to be your undoing.
optimist September 26, 2012 at 11:48 PM
Below is a link to the list. I see plenty of choices. do you disagree? http://www.eastpennsd.org/ehs/forms/Summer%20Reading/Incoming%209th%20Grade%20Summer%20Reading%20List%205.22.12%20FINAL.pdf
Abel Anderson September 26, 2012 at 11:48 PM
Discern it? They're living it. When you're in the midst of an experience you're subjectively involved and can't evaluate it. One of the many benefits of reading a book, seeing a film, or watching a play, is that you, as the audience, can consider and relate to the struggles of the character. The audience has the opportunity to consider the characters decisions without the risk of making making those decisions in real life. The audience member can reflect on choices made by the character and draw extensions to their own life.
Abel Anderson September 27, 2012 at 12:21 AM
How would you explain the socio-political relevance or impactfulness of "A Brave New World" to an exchange student raised in Vietnam? So much of that book applies directly to western society and culture. You might be able to translate the science fiction language in great detail but that poor kid will have no clue what it means or why it is relevant--having not grown up in Western culture--submerged within the machinations of our capitalist, Judaeo-Christian cultural millieu. I could make the same comparison to the collected works of Confucius, which I will never really understand because I wasn't raised in an Asian culture into which those ethos have been irreconcilably instilled. I've read and studied translations at great length. But I'm smart enough to know I'll never experience those teachings as a matter of cultural context. Some things just don't translate or require translation. Most things are written with a particular audience in mind. Unfortunately, Vietnamese exchange students was probably not the author's intended target audience. Might want to pick a different book. And probably not Brave New World, either.
Abel Anderson September 27, 2012 at 12:34 AM
And also don't pick "A Prayer for Owen Meany." It's been a while but I vaguely recall some anti-Vietnamese sentiments lurking in there.
East penn parent September 27, 2012 at 01:59 AM
Most authors write books with a particular audience in mind. That is not the issue! The issue is that the East Penn School District needs to consider THEIR audience when developing their Required Summer Reading List. In a perfect world, parents and students read together and share their ideas and reinforce their family values. Nothing wrong with sexually explicit literature. The problem is when there are no other options but to read sexually explicit literature from the required summer reading list. Not all literature is sexually explicit. Give the parents and students a wider variety of books to pick from.
optimist September 27, 2012 at 03:22 AM
Ya but that is not true: http://www.eastpennsd.org/ehs/forms/Summer%20Reading/Incoming%209th%20Grade%20Summer%20Reading%20List%205.22.12%20FINAL.pdf Read the list. plenty of books with 0 sexual content
careless fills September 28, 2012 at 01:38 AM
If my opinion of this book is "ever-evolving", it's because of two things: 1) My comment was in response to the specific quotes that YOU printed here. They were new information and added the concerns about depression and suicide on top of the porn. 2) I'm reading the book now, and in my busy life, haven't had time to get as far as you have or seen the same exceprts as you might have. But I'll get there after I finish my other 21-day limit newly published library books first.
careless fills September 28, 2012 at 01:40 AM
Sheri, I think I'd have a hard time explaining most of those topics to any student who wasn't my own child.
careless fills September 28, 2012 at 02:03 PM
I wish I could share your optimism that the schools would pick literature that was appropriate for all and that every parent wouldn't have to vet every assignment.

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