25 Pages

“Protecting a Roomful of Fruit from Venereal Disease”

Our Wayward Schools
WithJohn Leo

In his new book, Free Speech For Me—But Not for Thee, Nat Hentoff tells the story of a Pennsylvania high school pressuring two fundamentalist students to read Working, a Studs Terkel book with a chapter on prostitutes and a good deal of blasphemous language. Supported by their parents, the schoolboys asked, in conscience, to opt out from reading it. The school said it would withhold diplomas if the students didn’t read the book. The two families hired a lawyer and won a settlement. Vengeful to the end, the school gave the boys Fs in the class that assigned the book. Along the way, the school board said haughtily that “with all deference due the parents, their sensibilities are not the full measure of what is a proper education.”