Dave Simpson: Lander Valley High School Endorses This Book For Children? Seriously?

Columnist Dave Simpson writes, "We're not talking about taking 'Catcher in the Rye,' 'Huckleberry Finn,' or 'To Kill a Mockingbird' off library shelves. This is about not making the most raw, obscene material available to young people at Lander's high school."

Dave Simpson

June 03, 20234 min read

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Remember Spuds MacKenzie?

I was a wet-behind-the-ears editor of a tiny paper in Northwest Colorado.

The high school had a competition, and one of the prizes was a Spuds MacKenzie t-shirt.

A t-shirt promoting (wouldn't you just know?) Bud Light beer.

It was a 1987 promotion, unveiled during the Super Bowl, using a bull terrier in its advertisements to promote Bud Light.

First Lady Nancy Reagan was still beating the “Just Say No” drum, which would no doubt take in Colorado high school students who might be tempted to drink Bud Light beer. (How does Bud Light keep getting into these flaps?)

The school superintendent was a reasonable guy, and he probably rolled his eyes when he realized that some teacher at the high school got the school district's leg in a crack appearing to encourage high school kids to drink beer, via a t-shirt prize.

Somehow that message was conveyed to the person who made the poor decision, and it didn't happen again.

There was no big flap in the community, just a lot of Spuds MacKenzie jokes from local wags. I think we might have written one story about it. The superintendent made it clear that educating kids was tough enough, without handing out beer promotion t-shirts. I don't think it ever made it to the school board.

That's the way things used to be.

Not so, today.

Have you read Clair McFarland's story on Cowboy State Daily about the book “Let's Talk About It” that's causing debate at Lander Valley High School? When I read the story, it was shocking, but not much  more shocking than what we've been reading about other obscene books in libraries, like “Gender Queer,” which Clair wrote about last fall.

But, when I called up the illustrations from the book included in the photo gallery (see below), I could hardly believe my eyes. We're talking about frank, comprehensive, obscene descriptions, fully illustrated, of the full menu of sexual options, including some kinky stuff that I venture even old goats like myself might not know about. It's enough to curl what's left of our hair.

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This book is currently available in Lander's high school library, and in young adult and teen sections of public libraries in Teton County, Glenrock, Cheyenne, Natrona County, Park County, Sheridan County and Sweetwater County. Folks like us – who still believe that some vestige of innocence survives in our teenagers – will be appalled. As a society, we seem bent on lowering every bar, doing away with every standard, circling every drain.

While there are those who will brand opposition to books like this as “book banning,” Scott Jensen, vice chairman of Fremont County School District No. 1, correctly said that there are millions of books in the world, and it is a school administration's choice whether to include any particular book on its library shelves, subject  to review. Given the task of addressing traditional academics, it would seem logical to avoid graphic, sexually-oriented, how-to material like “Let's Talk About It.”

We're not talking about taking “Catcher in the Rye,” “Huckleberry Finn,” or “To Kill a Mockingbird” off library shelves. This is about not making the most raw, obscene material available to young people at school.

This is a time when just about every kid you see on the street is staring into a cell phone that can easily access any kind of sexually-oriented material they want. Why would our schools get in the middle of this? What an easy headache to avoid.

Parents have every right to ask why their tax dollars are spent on material like this, and more importantly, why kids would be potentially exposed to such obscene content.

One would hope that education officials in Lander – like that school superintendent in the Spuds MacKenzie flap years ago – would conclude that education is tough enough without crazy distractions like this, and let kids find “Let's Talk About It” somewhere else.

You have to wonder how we got to the point where some in positions of authority don't have the common sense to pour (forgive me) piss out of a boot.

Dave Simpson can be reached at: DaveSimpson145@Hotmail.com

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Dave Simpson

Political, Wyoming Life Columnist

Dave has written a weekly column about a wide variety of topics for 39 years, winning top columnist awards in Wyoming, Colorado, Illinois and Nebraska.