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Private School Director in Trouble Over Poetry

March 12th, 2008     by Stacey May Fowles     Comments

Here at Shameless we’ve had some lengthy discussions about sexism, racism and homophobia in art. We’ve debated ideas around whether or not an author, musician or filmmaker is any of these things when they produce a work that’s characters or content is offensive. Here comes a case where someone who writes “offensive” things could be asked not to work with children.

Toronto school director David Prashker is currently under fire from parents because of some “sexually explicit” and “at times violent” poetry found on his personal website. From The Toronto Star:

The board of Leo Baeck Jewish Day School, with campuses in Forest Hill and Thornhill, struck a committee of parents to review six poems by director David Prashker. The poems were circulated to parents last week in an anonymous email that called the works “disturbing” and asked whether they felt comfortable entrusting their children’s education to the author.

I found this entire scenerio rather troubling, specifically because it reeks of puritanical censorship. Anyone who has written an angsty poem or two knows that poetry is a creative outlet that can lend itself to extremes. Admittedly I haven’t read much of the content, only that which appears in The Star, but I view it as pretty innocuous to say the least. Some people certainly don’t agree with me:

“It’s not that I’m prudish, but I think the sort of imagery he uses about women is degrading, and when the head of a school for young children displays them for all to see on his own website, it shows an appalling lack of judgment,” said (parent) Allan Kaufman, a lawyer with an 11-year-old son at the school. “Mr. Prashker should be removed from the school immediately, since we can no longer trust him with the care and custody of our young school children.”

I’m not sure what particular poem this man was reading, but I certainly didn’t feel degraded by what I read. And I had to laugh when the star referred to Prashker’s work as “online sex poetry.”

This kind of thinking really opens the door for discrimination - If a man who writes and publishes “sexy poetry” in his other life is not allowed to work with children, what next? Imagine what kind of limitations we’d be able to impose. Parents are arguing that full access to his writings on the internet suggests an error in judgment on his part, but where is the problem in adults accessing his site? The man is a published poet who writes for an adult audience - students that he works with certainly do not have the same kind of access if their parents are monitoring their internet use. I think the real question is, why are we all so damn afraid of sex?

It seems to me that Canadian schools are a little censorship happy lately. That, and the webbernets seems to be getting a whole lotta people into trouble.

Tags: news flash

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