To The Daily Sun,
I am appalled by the article headlined "Graphic Description of Teen Sex in Assigned Reading Sends Gilford High School Parent Through the Roof," which was published in Saturday, May 3rd's issue.
It is both ironic and alarming that The Laconia Daily Sun would use such a blatantly sensationalist headline to promote the narrow-minded and ill-informed words of a single parent. The study of Jodi Picoult's novel, "Nineteen Minutes," demonstrates Gilford Middle High School's conscientious efforts to openly address and educate students about bullying, sexual abuse, and gun violence.
The "graphic... teen sex" on page 313 is a rape scene. It is not "pornographic." To be described as "pornographic" would suggest that readers derive pleasure from the rape of the character. That a reader would describe this scene as pornographic suggests more about the reader than it does about the text.
Through catharsis and the paradox of fiction, the rape scene challenges students of both genders to reflect on non-consensual sexual actions. By "experiencing" this scene in literature, readers build compassion for victims in a safe and open environment with the assistance of a certified educator. It also helps readers to develop a clear definition of rape. This is a necessity for all individuals striving to become responsible and mature members of society.
Perhaps if Mr. Baer would think back to his adolescent years, he would remember his own sexual discoveries and the challenges of interpreting the wants and needs of his future sexual partners. Gilford Middle High School uses Picoult's novel to aid students in this discovery. They are not encouraging sexual behavior. Instead they are prompting awareness regarding moral behaviors. If the discussion of rape becomes taboo, it only empowers the criminal and heaps shame upon victims. Does Mr. Baer, or any parent, wish to raise children in such a society?
Furthermore rape is one of the lesser thematic explorations in "Nineteen Minutes." The novel also prompts teens to explore the psychological and sociological damages of bullying. Creating and perpetuating unfounded rumors is bullying. It injures well-meaning individuals and further corrupts the minds of easily influenced individuals. Mr. Baer's daughter is learning about this in her honors English class. Perhaps Mr. Baer needs to attend such a class as well. If Mr. Baer does not want his daughter to engage in an emotionally supportive, 21st century learning environment, perhaps he should move back to New Jersey.
However, as I am stubborn in the ways of Jay Gatsby, I have infinite hope. I would like to kindly remind Mr. Baer and any other outraged parents that jumping to conclusions based on a "stumbled" upon passage is akin to judging a person by his or her skin color. Suppositions based upon limited information are almost always faulty. Gilford's mission statement includes creating "life-long learners," and they do an admirable job at this. However, education starts in the home, and parents would be wise to model good educational behaviors for their children. Such behaviors include doing comprehensive research and applying critical-thinking skills before jumping to conclusion and sparking sensationalist rumors.
Finally, I would like to address the suggestion that censorship is the solution. I ask you, Mr. Baer, have you read Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451"? Bradbury beautiful describes how censorship leads to societies wherein people no longer can differentiate between moral and immoral behaviors. Texts such as Jodi Picoult's "Nineteen Minutes" help students develop the much-needed understanding of what is moral and immoral. I remind you that the rape scene is not pornographic. It is in fact integral to the plot-line and character study within the text. It is necessary to feel the emotions of the raped character in order to understand the actions at the end of the novel. The novel would be greatly limited and practically nonsensical should the scene to censored. Without the scene on page 313, the novel could be misinterpreted as supporting gun violence and vigilante behavior. Censorship is not the answer.
In this case, the best solution would be for Mr. Baer and any other concerned members of society to first read the whole novel and then, should they need further guidance, they should ask an educator to further explain the importance and effectiveness of the text. If 14-year-olds are able to grasp the lessons taught through the text, adults should be able to do the same.
I am a graduate of Gilford Middle High School, and I am vastly appreciative of the compassion, conscientiousness, and innovation that has always be demonstrated by the Gilford English Department. It saddens me that Mr. Baer and The Laconia Daily Sun would attempt to tarnish such an exemplary department of dedicated educators through such obviously ill-informed, hyperbolic fear-mongering.
Dr. Deborah Anderson Gallant
English Department Head
American Creativity Academy
Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 May 2014 11:01
To The Daily Sun,
An informative candidates' night was held in Sanbornton recently in preparation for our town elections on May 13. We heard from candidates for selectman, Johnny Van Tassel and Jeff Jenkins, and candidates for other offices as well. I asked Jeff Jenkins to dispel a rumor I'd heard about his intention to be an absentee selectman during the winter months each year. He did not dispel the rumor. He confirmed it.
He stated that he will continue to take a winter vacation in Florida. Mr. Jenkins did not tell us the length of his vacation, but he believes that he can meet legal obligations by participating in the selectmen's weekly meetings via electronic equipment like phones or Skype. He believes this is allowed by statute, amended to reflect changes in technology. Legally sufficient or not, it is the voters' opinion that matters here.
Will he be away from his duties in Sanbornton for two weeks or three or four months? The undispelled rumors suggest the latter is more likely. He did not say.
Rare is the selectman who limits involvement to the weekly meeting. There is much more to the job than attendance at a meeting. Also, the town warrant has a proposal to restore our town meeting to the traditional date. Whether we continue our May town meeting or return it to the March date used by towns throughout the state, selectmen's activities are at their height during the winter months.
The voters of Sanbornton deserve to know how Mr. Jenkins intends to fulfill a selectman's duties. Jenkins answer at the candidates' night is not sufficient. Sanbornton deserves more than an absentee selectman.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 May 2014 06:23
To The Daily Sun,
Kudos to those members of the Belknap County Legislative Delegation, including two Republicans, who voted to fund the contract with the Belknap County Nursing Home employees. Unfortunately, this was voted down 9-7 by the extreme-right legislators under the leadership of Rep. Colette Worsman (R-Meredith). Shame on them.
Rep. Worsman, when told that if the Delegation did not vote to fund the new contract if might result in layoffs at the nursing home, seemed to not consider such effects her concern. In fact, she basically said as much. This shows a real lack of compassion on Ms. Worsman's part.
We are not talking about "overpaid and underworked" public employees as Ms. Worsman and her fellow extreme ideologues would have the public believe. Nor are we talking about highly-paid top medical professionals. In fact, I believe that even RNs are exempt from this contract. For the most part, we are talking about LPNs and LNAs, among the lowest-paid of the paramedical fields. And, in spite of disinformation disseminated by a Republican member of the County Delegation, they are trained and licensed.
I have known a number of LNAs, also known as nursing assistants. This once included my wife. They work long, hard hours. At the Belknap County Nursing Home, they get about $12 an hour. This is about $1 over a "living wage." In addition, many have had to pay for training.
I attended the meeting between our bi-partisan County Commission and the Legislative Convention. The commissioners, in good faith, negotiated a contract with the nursing home workers. These employees did not ask for much: a change to their medical plan that would encourage good health habits, and for a modest 1.6 percent pay raise after two years of no raises. It would have only cost each taxpayer about $2 — the price of a decent cup of coffee.
These are the people who "empty the bedpans," wash the patients, feed them, comfort them when they are dying, and help them with their bodily functions. They are also often the first recipients of verbal or physical abuse from patients. Is a 1.6 percent raise too much to ask for these workers? These workers are dealing with our least powerful. Don't we want them fairly-compensated for what they do?
Was there a bit of "classism" or "elitism" in the attitudes of those who voted "no?" After all, those who go to the Belknap County Nursing Home are those who cannot afford a private one.
E. Scott Cracraft
Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 May 2014 06:19
To The Daily Sun,
I graduated from Gilford High School in 2008 and was a member of the English class that originally read "Nineteen Minutes" in 2007. At the time, Gilford High School had been selected as one of three schools to receive copies of the book prior to its public release. Students in the English class read and discussed the book, and were given an incredible opportunity to sit down with Jodi Picoult herself to discuss the issues raised in the book. We talked about bullying and social pressures in high schools, school shootings, and sexual aggression and violence among teens. I can honestly say that "Nineteen Minutes" was one of the most insightful, challenging, and valuable books I read as a student at Gilford High School.
The discussion that arose surrounding the content of the book was in-depth, honest, and utterly valuable to the students who participated. Bullying, school shootings, social pressures, and sexual aggression are issues that exist within and affect high schools across the country. To continue to sweep these issues under the rug, and not use "Nineteen Minutes" to open discussion about these issues all because a single passage describes a sexual encounter in a graphic manner is no excuse. Never mind the fact that this passage does not describe an "erotic love scene" or "pornographic romantic encounter" as some media have declared. The scene is graphic and uncomfortable to read because it describes an aggressive act of sex between two teens, one of which attempts to withdraw consent when the act begins to make her feel uncomfortable. Her request is ignored and the act continues. This scene, and this act in itself, is an issue that should be drawn to light — the presence of sexual violence and aggression among today's teens is a very real and ongoing concern, and only one of many addressed in "Nineteen Minutes."
Furthermore, before one attempts to remove a book from someone else's hands, people should educate themselves about what the book is truly about. A graphic scene that fills only a single page of a book that is more than 300 pages long is in no way representative of the book as a whole.
This book is a valuable and important perspective on bullying, school shootings, and social pressures that isn't supposed to make one feel comfortable — it is meant to invoke discussion about the significant issues within our high schools. If we judged every book based on a single page or passage within it, there would be hardly anything left in our libraries and schools to read. I urge you to take the time to read the book yourself, or at the very least, take the time to discuss it openly with your friends and children.
The issues that are highlighted in this fictional story are an unfortunate reality for many teens today. Let us talk about them, not run away because they make us uncomfortable.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 May 2014 06:10
To The Daily Sun,
Over the last 10 years (2004-13) Sanbornton's average residence tax bill (including town, county, and school taxes) has increased 46 percent, but the town's portion of the bill has increased 100 percent. In other words, Sanbornton is taking an ever larger portion of a resident's total tax bill. This situation exists because town expenses have increased at a much faster rate than town growth which has been less than 1 percent per year over this same 10-year period. This situation, if allowed to continue, is unsustainable.
I am running for re-election to the Budget Committee in an effort to help stem the tide of ever increasing costs and rising taxes. My tenure on the Budget Committee coupled with the knowledge gained over 30 years as president of my own industrial distribution company has given me the necessary know-how to deal with the challenge of maintaining essential municipal services while at the same time looking for inventive ways to reduce costs.
Dedication to solving Sanbornton's rising costs problem by itself is not enough. It is also essential to be able to work constructively with town administrators and department heads who may have very different ideas as to what is necessary. The cordial rapport I enjoy with the Board of Selectmen as well as an excellent working relationship with fellow Budget Committee members demonstrates I have this ability.
If you believe, as I do, that rising taxes in Sanbornton are a serious problem in need of a solution, then I ask for your support and vote May 13.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 May 2014 06:05