Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Modern Day Book Banning or Something Else?

Many in the blogging community have joined Farenheit 451's Banned Book Challenge. We are reading books that have been challenged or banned by schools, libraries, and/or countries. There are books on that list that we, as parents, would prefer that our children didn't read and there are books we, ourselves, don't choose to read; but we believe that education not banning is the answer to negative and degrading literature.

Today I ran across a several blogs that are asking people to boycott for selling books written by Michael & Debi Pearl, a minister and his wife, that supposedly promote abusive child disciplining methods. According to these blogs the books are responsible for the killing of a young child last year. Read the article. I maintain the books are not responsible, but the mother who allowed herself to be misdirected by the books. I have not read the books, but the possibility exists that the mother may have been 'over zealous' or 'out of control' when implementing the discipline. I don't know.

This is from one blog:

Please consider boycotting Amazon yourself.

Some things you can do:

1. Stop buying from Amazon.
2. Privatize or remove your wishlist from Amazon.
3. Go to the pages for this book and this book and leave a negative review tagging the books “abuse” or “child abuse,” or at least click YES that the one-star reviews are helpful.
4. Sign the petition
5. Stop using Amazon links in your blog.
6. Write in your blog about why you’re boycotting Amazon.
7. I just found out that Powells no longer keeps books by Pearl in stock. They’ll come up on a search, but Powells responded to customer requests and stopped carrying the books. So shop there instead of Amazon if you want to join the boycott.
8. Write to Amazon: At the top of the Amazon main page, click Your Account. Scroll way down, and then at the bottom right, under Need Help? click Visit Our Help Department. On the right, you’ll see a Contact Us section, and a By Email button you can click. Do NOT put a subject heading where they ask for a number. Leaving it blank works, but putting in words does not.

I was almost on board, ready to sign the petition, but then I stopped. Why boycott just amazon? The blog said that Powell's no longer carries the books. That's not entirely true. You can get them on back order.

Another blog says this:

Sign The Petition asking Amazon to stop selling the Pearl's materials.

Other large booksellers have already stopped stocking the Pearl's materials.
I checked Barnes and Noble and Borders - both still carry Pearl's books. As does Books a Million. Those are the only big chain bookstores that come to mind.

So the question I have is this - If we are going to support a boycott, why not boycott ALL major bookstores, not just one? And, are there other books that purport some of the same techniques? What's to be done about them? What about the author's website and their magazine, shouldn't something be done about those? Lots of questions. Answers are harder to find.

The above mentioned article in the South Carolina newspaper includes a quote from Pearl that sounds sane enough. But it's just one quote - not enough for me to form a complete and intellegent decision about him or his books. Also from this same newspaper article is this passage, "The Pearls' teachings helped mobilize another group of Christian parents to speak out against such corporal punishment. The Web site rails against the Pearls' first book; the Web site's founders, Susan and Steve Lawrence of Virginia, say the book "reads like a child abuse manual." The Web site encourages parents to post critical reviews of the book on" I think posting negative reviews about this book is a much better idea than boycotting a bookstore.

I also thought speaking out against the books on their website was a good idea, until I visited the website. One good thing on this site is the petition asking congress to ban the advertising and sale of devises for the express purpose of whipping and beating babies and children. Believe it or not, there are devises sold for that purpose. The negative thing about this site is the amount of propaganda. There is a picture of a spanking stick with the caption, "Read how this type of "rod" killed a little girl." Give me a break, people! That stick could not have killed a girl unless it was used repeatedly and with great force. The person holding that stick killed the little girl! is targeting the Pearl's dogma concerning discipline, devises for implementing discipline, as well as James Dodson's books dealing with disciplining. All that is fine with me, but why not present the arguments against such techniques in a rational, educational and critical manner. Instead Stop the rod is using emotionally charged propaganda techniques that are riddled with invaliditness. One such example - this emotionally charged animation of a father whipping his son with a belt. The site labels it thusly, "See and hear a brutal "Dodson-style" child-beating! Click here. The password is nospank". I've only read one book by James Dodson and it was years ago, but I suspect what that video is talking about is NOT "Dodson-style". Surely Dodson is not suggesting beating a child intermittently for an hour, reading scripture in between the beatings and telling the child God hates him. Obviously the parent in this video has a big problem. Sponsoring and advertising this video in this way is a lie.

How many things can you find WRONG with this picture? I mean the whole picture - banned books, books that may promote child abuse, boycotting one bookstore and not others doing the same thing, and websites that use propaganda to blacken other people's reputations.


Cardine said...

I think you have a lot of good points here. I also think that we need to be really careful in today's world about joining in on boycotts that allegedly will create some sort of desirable response. A lot of them are actually marketed as one thing and targeted at something else.

It's like these gas boycots for a day. They don't actually do anything to keep gas prices down. What helps to keep prices down is increasing supply or reducing demand, and not purchasing fuel for one day doesn't do that. Most people aren't replacing the gas purchase on that day with another non-gas-using activity. They're just purchasing their gas a day earlier or a day later. The entity that would actually feel the pain in that case would be the owners of the gasoline stations. It potentially cripples the small person who isn't responsible for the gas prices and ultimately does nothing for the overall fuel provider.

In the case of this book, maybe someone should write a book that tells why that author is wrong and has more effective child disciplining techniques. That, to me, would seem to be the best way. Boycotting Amazon really has nothing to do with the book. Sure, writing a letter may help, but you don't get the message to Amazon by purely boycotting. They won't even know you're boycotting!

Ranting concluded.

Lisa said...

Well, here's my two cents. There are a LOT of things in the world today that I don't agree with. BUT, the great thing about this country is that we have freedom to express whatever views we choose. This man has a right to express his views in book form and even get it published, and that's what makes America great!! Of course, his book can flop because we all vote with our pocketbook and don't buy it.

But I don't agree with boycotting Amazon or any other store that carries it. Being able to access things that we want, whether other people think they are "right" or not is what freedom means. If people abuse their children, there are mechanisms in place in our society to remove those children from the offending homes. I know the system isn't perfect, but in some sense we need to trust that anyone can read this drivel if they want to, but if they practice it, that's where the legal line is drawn.

I know, I'm a big liberal soppy mess.

Booklogged said...

Cardine, thanks for sharing your points. There is a petition to amazon in addition to the boycotting tactics. So many scams - including the gas price thing.

Lisa, you said it all so well and so succinctly. Thank-you.

Wendy said...

Thanks for an interesting article. I thought I'd include my two cents :)

I don't like the idea of boycotting stores which sell certain merchandise - a far better way to protest is to just not buy the merchandise which one finds offensive. Economies are driven by supply and demand. If there is no demand, the book will cease to be published.

And one other thing - I don't believe books cause people to kill or maim their kids. Books are ideas. Ideas don't kill or maim - behavior does. My guess is that children are dying not because their parents read a book - they are dying because they are living with abusive parents.

Anonymous said...

This is a very cogently argued piece... in fact the most balanced post I've read on this issue in the last 48 hours.

Amy said...

Booklogged- You did a wonderful job of writing a balanced article.

I have read "To Train Up a Child" by the Pearls. Frankly, I don't remember a lot about it except that I felt it was extreme and not consistent with how I wanted to raise my children.

On the other hand,I have read several of James Dobson's books and found him to be very different than the Pearls. He offered good advise in several areas and the parts I disagreed with, I discarded.

As with anything, we are free to take what we find beneficial and leave the rest and I wholeheartedly agree that a boycott is not the answer.

Moviegirl20 said...

That is so sad. I personally do not boycott stores. If they sell something I don't agree with, i don't buy it.

Anonymous said...

Great post. The situation is wrong on so many levels.

hellomelissa said...

i am a complete wreck without amazon and don't know if i could boycott it for ANY reason.

Bookfool said...

I agree with absolutely everything Wendy said, but Amy is also right that about using bits that work for us and discarding others. I've found that I did so with parenting and marriage books and now I use what works for me in financial guides but discard the rest. Thanks for writing such a thought-provoking post. Child abuse is horrible; I do think it takes a very out-of-control or demented person to beat a child to death with a stick.