Further thoughts about the SBOE and Brown Bear

My mother and my father were illiterate immigrants from Russia. When I was a child they were constantly amazed that I could go to a building and take a book on any subject. They couldn’t believe this access to knowledge we have here in America. They couldn’t believe that it was free. —  Kirk DOUGLAS (1916- )

Since my post about the Texas  State Board of Education’s action on Bill Martin, Jr.’s picture book, a friend has reminded me that articles like the one I based my post on don’t always have all the facts.

She also pointed out that Board member Pat Hardy, who moved to remove the book from the third-grade curriculum, is an educator who has in the past strongly supported libraries. The Statesman.com article references Ms. Hardy’s statement that she wanted to pare the list and that didn’t mean to offend anyone.

I “know” what I read in the article. I regret it if  any of my satirical remarks were off-base because they were based on misinformation or insufficient information–especially since depending on insufficient information appears to be reason the Board’s action was newsworthy in the first place.

I also note something that went over my head when I first read the article–that Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? is a book appropriate for very young children. I’m not sure why it was being considered for the third grade. If I’d offered to read it to my third-graders, they’d have been insulted.

Something else I didn’t mention in the previous post, however, does concern me–and again I’m assuming my source is accurate: that a book is to be dismissed simply because it appears to contain ideas the authorities don’t approve of. Or that a book is to be dismissed because the author has written another book that appears to contain unpopular ideas.

Books should be judged on what’s inside them, not what we think is inside them or what we think about the author.

And even if those ideas are unpopular, is that justification for pulling the book?

Third-graders aren’t going to read Bill Martin, Jr.’s book about Marxism. It’s intended for college students.

But if a book under consideration for inclusion in the high school economics curriculum were critical of capitalism, should that book automatically be disqualified?

Education should seek to broaden minds. It should teach students of at all ages to think critically. If we’re afraid of acknowledging different points of view, or of examining the world from different perspectives, or of admitting faults, how do we advance?


3 thoughts on “Further thoughts about the SBOE and Brown Bear

  1. Wrong Author Redux!

    Hi there. I’m Bill Murphy Jr. I found this because I set up a google news alert for my own name.

    Funny thing: You meant Bill MARTIN Jr, not Bill MURPHY Jr.

    But, funnier still, I’m also an author.

    I’ve written a lot of things, as a matter of fact. If you wanted to pick up a copy of my book, In a Time of War (conveniently located here, at http://bit.ly/iatowpb), I wouldn’t object.

    But I haven’t written any books about brown bears. Or Marxism, for that matter.

    Aw, what the heck. This all made me laugh, so if you send me an email, at billmurphyjr[at]gmail.com. I’ll send you a copy of my latest book. Or you could check out my own new blog, at billmurphyjr.com.

    By the way I clicked through to your other post. Doesn’t the irony of your original story being about the mixup of two authors makes this all the more fun?

    Bill Murphy (That’s “MURPHY!”) Jr.


  2. I think you bring up a valid point about acknowledging different points of view and allowing children to experience myriad opinions and decide for themselves what they believe as they grow and learn and develop critical thinking skills. This is why I’m running for Texas State Board of Education, District 5. I believe that the focus of the Board needs to be brought back to educating children, not cherry-picking ideas that coincide with the personal beliefs of some of the current Board members.


  3. Dear Mr. MURPHY,

    Woe is I. I apologize. Thank you so much for pointing out my error and also for thinking it’s funny. In two or three years, I might think so, too. I have no idea how your name got into my post.

    I have replaced your name with MARTIN. I shall check periodically throughout the day to make certain I’ve caught all the lapses.

    When I was much younger, I told one of my classes (after grading a stack of sloppily typed essays), “I’m not a good typist, but I can at least turn in an error-free paper.” I haven’t done anything right since.

    Again, thanks.



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