Popular author Winston Groom’s character, Mama Gump, schooled her son, Forrest, to get over his self-conscious thoughts about his own mental ability, telling Forrest that “stupid is as stupid does.”
The fictional Forrest Gump blossomed.
But apparently the lesson was lost on Baldwin County (Ala.) school superintendent Eddie Tyler and the county’s board of education. They overreacted when Spanish Fort High School teacher Gene Ponder posted a list of books by conservative and libertarian authors. The idea was that each of his Advanced Placement government and economics students could read just one book off the list over the summer to earn extra academic points.
As he has done for a decade, Ponder posted the list of books, and participation was voluntary. The list included:
— Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation” by Ronald Reagan.
— “Black Rednecks and White Liberals” by Thomas Sowell.
— “Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto” by Mark Levin.
— “FairTax: The Truth” by Neal Bootz, John Linder and Rob Woodall.
— “God & Government” by Charles Colson.
— “48 Liberal Lies About American History (That You Probably Learned in School)” by Larry Schweikart.
— “Guilty: Liberal “Victims” and Their Assault on America” by Ann Coulter.
— “Climate of Corruption: Politics & Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax” by Larry Bell.
Within hours of Ponder listing the books, the complaints started trickling in. Why? Because the liberal left was not represented on the list. Never mind that the liberal point of view is well represented in today’s school textbooks. Forget that the national media is saturated with liberal viewpoints. Even locally, one critic reportedly called the conservative authors “terrifying.”
Seriously? Ronald Reagan – one of the most level-headed, efficient and popular presidents in U.S. history – terrifying? Thomas Sowell — terrifying? Sowell is one of this nation’s premier economists and social theorists. And so on.
Superintendent Tyler noted that Ponder’s reading list was not endorsed by the public-school system. Moreover, Tyler noted, Baldwin County’s system has a process in place to ensure that all reading lists are approved.
In this case, that smacks of political censorship.
This entire matter likely would not have earned public exposure if Tyler and the school board simply would have instructed Ponder to balance his original list by adding some published liberal authors. Saul Alinsky (“Rules for Radicals”) comes to mind. Or how about Mark and Paul Engler (“This Is an Uprising”). Or Michelle Alexander perhaps, who authored “The New Jim Crow.” Or Erica Chenoweth (“Why Civil Resistance Works”).
These last book titles should tell you why Ponder limited his list to books by authors who have earned wide respect and whose morals and principals follow in the footsteps of great leaders such as Abraham Lincoln and Dwight D. Eisenhower. Moreover, the big picture shows that while Baldwin County’s school leaders might be well educated, they seem to come up a quart low on common sense — choosing political correctness over reputable substance.
If a teacher’s job is to educate in a way that builds character, honesty, service, pursuit of the truth and a strong work ethic, then Ponder is doing his job. Unfortunately, dirty politics intervened. And dirty politics eventually will kill the goose that laid the golden egg.
A final thought: Wonder if the critics would have come out of the woodwork and would have attracted a “corrective” school-system response if Ponder had posted a list of nothing but left-leaning liberal and socialist authors?