27 February, 2009
The Big 21st Century Children's Book Banning: CPSC Rulings on Lead in Childrens' Books ~ Perspective of One Book Restorer and Conservator
I enjoy restoring and preserving old and vintage books. It is a fascinating thing to work with paper materials, cloth materials, adhesives, needle and thread, leather. It is fascinating to see how different books and papers respond to various treatments in the process of restoring them and preserving them for future generations. That is why I studied book restoration for years.
Hubby is an American Lit. Teacher and a Master of English.
We have always loved the more rare and obscure titles of vintage books, but enjoy classics from Mark Twain, Louisa May Alcott, also classics from British History and Literature, as well. We have always homeschooled. Many and many homeschoolers use vintage books (or even not-so-vintage-books printed pre-1985).
I have my own personal collection of Nature books, Americana, history and biographies, for both adults and children. I also have a lot of very old Charles Dickens novels, and enjoy multiple other British authors, as well. I have a decent collection of old Geography books...you can not read more interesting travel and geography books than were written a hundred years ago.
Have you ever read the Opal Wheeler books for children about famous Composers? They are simply lovely; so beautifully written. They are not dumbed-down into bits of boring facts, but are narrative in nature. The same is true for some of the editions of Children's Plutarch or Children's Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb, just to name but a few examples. Who writes for children in that way anymore? I know that some of these titles are available in newer or in cheaply done, softcover editions, but I love the stamped, embossed, covers, the wonderful illustrations; the craftsmanship of the cloth-on-board, older editions. They should be kept available, preserved, to be enjoyed by future generation, as I am able to enjoy my Grandad's school books. Craftsmanship sadly and largely went out the window long ago, but there is still a band of booklovers and bookbinders who appreciate and value such work, who learn to work within, handle carefully, and preserve that work.
It is from the above perspectives that I share this post today.
I have literally been dumbfounded by the crazy details and the far-reaching implications of the August 2008 CPSC (US Consumer Products Safety Council) ruling:
This act was well-intended, and I am all for protecting children from dangerous levels of lead and phthalates. But this one act over-reaches this mark to such a detrimental point.
Since the Act was instated on February 10th, all products...each and every item intended for children 12 and under must be tested for lead and phthalates (not some simple, inexpensive pen blot test from what I've read) or be tossed out. And yes, this includes children's books. Frustration and outcry from the American Library Association and others finally led to the CPSC amending the original banning of all children's books en masse, narrowing it down just to children's books published before 1985. Oh. WOW. THAT's a relief, isn't it?
Not in the least!!
Many good websites have broken down and chronicled the journey of this act, and subsequent reactions (and lack of reactions) with very good details, and I will share a few of them later in this post, so that I don't misrepresent something, or become redundant.
But first, allow me a brief rant (an activity I do not often indulge).
This act was passed by the Democratic-led Congress and signed by then President Bush last August and went into effect on Feb. 10th of this year. I'm not the only one who is confused or overwhelmed because so much information and even some misinformation has been floating all over the internet for the past few months, but almost NOTHING has been covered in the news. So regular Joe and Ann American do not know about it, much less care. Hugh Hewitt finally brought it up on his radio show this past Monday, and I was cheering from the driver's seat of my van as I was driving to tutor a student in Spanish.
Glen Beck is said to have shrugged off the need to mention anything about this, because he (alledgedly) said that there is not enough public outcry to justify it. (Grrrrrrr)
Can I mention the timing...the timing is also horrendous, when many families are tending more and more to need to shop at Goodwill and thrift stores in order to clothe their families. Our family has benefited from such practices for decades, (many things still have new price tags on them) what with living on Hubby's income as a teacher and afterschool director. (My minimal contributions over the decades has been just enough to keep an emergency fund from time to time).
More Americans are seeing the need to live within their dwindling means, and thrift shopping and antiquing is one way to accomplish that. The reach of recent legislation and implementation is so broad and so patently bad, it is already putting some small businesses out of business, or forcing them to become expats overseas.
I have been silent on the matter of the now-banning of books (intended for children) printed pre-1985, simply because I was literally knocked almost speechless, and I had such hopes that the American Library Association and other interested groups would be able to plead for some sense to come back into Congress's heads...perhpas that they would be able to reason with the politicians and the powers-that-be the ridiculousness of their actions.
*I forgot to include this last night: Nebraska City Library quarantines their collection of children's books this very week. Here is another link from a librarian showing a couple of photos from her local library, where she has marked out the books that she knows this ban includes. Just in case you don't believe the scope of this Act.
Many Americans don't even know it happened, what all the bans include, and it simply overwhelms me to the point of disbelief that it all really went into effect. It is difficult to put it all down in words
1) I am coming out of the shock, denial, and disbelief that it would mean the banning of wonderful books from my own childhood, but of my parents, grandparents, and so-on, and so-on....childhoods; some beautiful books, both in their artistic display of covers (though some bindings and papers were made on acidic materials, papers with high iron contents, or were printed in the wrong grain direction), the words and stories themselves will be lost. Some have sneered, "Well, no one reads those old books anyway."
If this would be protested well, and be publicized well, then maybe a poll could be taken to prove that there are whole groups passionate about the preservation of old books for the sake of history, heritage, for their unequaled quality of writing and content that they contain, not to mention a whole different set of standards which were celebrated 'once upon a time.'
Now I am fuming and beyond disappointed in our politicians: the Democratic-majority congress and my former Conservative and Republican representatives and President. (I am an independent now) I am so upset by their knee-jerk overreactions to the lead-laden charms, toys, and other cheap junk imported into our country that made all the news last year.
Libraries have "sort of" been given a one-year reprieve. People at thrift stores are already throwing away good, useful books. Some are probably worthless, but many...so many that have gone out of print never to be published again...what will become of these?
Why can't people just hold their horses? Do nothing for a time. Take the books off the shelves but don't toss them into the proverbial incinerator just yet, please!!
My frustrations ~
1) Our former President and Congress voted on this sweeping, overgeneralized legislation without even reading it and digging into what it would require for businesses and people that it likely never thought it would effect. Note this quote from Federalist Paper #62 ~
"It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man who knows what the law is today can guess what it will be tomorrow. Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule which is little known, and less fixed?" (Hat tip: The Amused Cynic)
2) I was already teetering near the edge in my passion and disgust for politicians and what they end up becoming in the machine of The Beltway. I *so* know and believe that God is ultimately in control, and I trust Him and have almost given up on trying to "make a difference" on a grand scale.
3) I therefore prayed that the American Library Association, and other lobbying blocks would be able to sway the aforementioned politicians to see *reason* before the Feb. deadline rolled around.
Look, I am all for getting rid of unnecessary and dangerous chemicals in plastics (Phthalates) and the high amount of lead in charms, jewels, toys that are predominantly come from imports from the far east. Why could not the testing requirements be on those highly known offenders and products? Oh, yeah, because the powers-that-be are always quick to throw out the baby with the bathwater in order to save us from ourselves.
For much more detail about all of this confusing mess, read Val's blog. I've bought many children's books and book sets from her over the decades. Check out Walter Olson's writing at Overlawyered...he keeps posting updates and thorough, and some downright angering/disappointing reports from the Folks in Denial at the New York Times . Also read the interesting effects to the ATV industry. Check out a touching personal story by lawyer Mark Bennett. Then read the incredible in-depth insights by fellow homeschooler, the brilliant Deputy Headmistress in her multiple and ongoing posts at The Common Room. I've bought children's books from her family, as well, and read or own many of the books she has recommended to so many people over the years. She writes further about one of the links I shared (via FaceBook) a couple weeks back about Senator Jim DeMint's efforts to reform this mess ~
"Senator Jim DeMint has a reform bill in Committee right now. That link is to an article he wrote about it, this link is to a site where you can read the test of S. 374, his reform bill. There is also a version in the House, here is where you can read the actual bill. Unfortunately, it's in the same Committee that gave us this bill in the first place. She goes on to list the members who have been selected to serve on the Energy and Commerce Committee in the 111th Congress. Please contact them and ask them to support HR 968, and specifically to exempt books, all books, not just those published after 1985, and thrift shops from all but the recall portions of the bill ."
I see that she has linked to Overlawyered, as well. The news update there is not good on a just- cancelled Congressional meeting where small business owners were supposed to get a chance to share the consequences of the CPSIA on their businesses. I guess they can't handle the truth, and they don't want the truth getting out, because they might lose face.
If you are beginning to see where this is leading us--to a nationwide book ban...heck, the ban has already happened, people...it is just not being reported in the media--then DO something to try and help get this thing repealed. If you are already doing something, I will join you in the protest. I could write about the protest that Etsy is brewing up...but I'll simply link to it for now.
C'mon, friends! This is not a partisan issue. Let's keep hounding Congress and the CPSC (available through the links above). Let's make calls to some think-tank lawyers who see the dangers of losing whole chunks of history, artisanship, art, you-name-it.
Project Gutenberg, Bartleby and other e-text projects are able to digitize or print up some of the OOP books, but many will be lost because they are so obscure, but none-the-less important accounts of biographical and historical nature.
Let's get this grassroots effort growing!
26 February, 2009
The bees are also surrounding the Rosemary bush blossoms beneath these beautiful (but smelly) white blossoms.
This has been a gorgeous week. It is so sunny and warm today that I had to switch on the AC, but it should only be for a few hours; and we'll keep the thermostat at 78 degrees.
The only thing lacking is a little bit of beneficial rain.
19 February, 2009
16 February, 2009
Let me give a little explanation as to 'why.'
From near the end of Chapter XV:
Mr. Hale said--'I dare say I am talking in great ignorance; but from the little I know, I should say that the masses were already passing rapidly into the troublesome stage which intervenes between childhood and manhood, in the life of the multitude as well as that of the individual. Now, the error which many parents commit in the treatment of the individual at this time is, insisting on the same unreasoning obedience as when all he had to do in the way of duty was, to obey the simple laws of "Come when you're called and "Do as you're bid!" But a wise parent humours the desire for independent action, so as to become the friend and adviser when his absolute rule shall cease.' [Javamom, here...Charlotte Mason says something to similar effect!!]
This reminded me that in some circles, there has been this push to deny that this time in kids' lives did not exist until 1960, that somehow, our 20th Century was the first to "come up with this time period in kids' lives" in which we somehow make excuses (as a society) and give them permission to rebel. Perhaps it is just the term 'teenager' that became more accepted in this time, but I have to *heartily* disagree that the transition never existed before 1960.
This never set right with me, and I skirted the possibilities of it while our older two were going through the changes of the teenage years.
It is (to me) very exciting to read older literature that alludes to this time period in the lives and normal development of humans in earlier time periods than the 20th Century. Another fact of older literature is the divulsion that more than a few adults were addicted to Opium and Laudenum (it was given for medicinal purposes) and snuff!
Why do we glorify certain centuries or eras more than others and put down the supposed 'construct' of the teenage years?
The second passage I quoted was of Margaret mentioning:
'I heard a story of what happened in Nuremberg only three or four years ago. A rich man there lived alone in one of the immense mansions which were formerly both dwellings and warehouses. It was reported that he had a child, but no one knew of it for certain. For forty years this rumour kept rising and falling--never utterly dying away. After his death it was found to be true. He had a son--an overgrown man with the unexercised intellect of a child, whom he had kept up in that strange way, in order to save him from temptation and error. But, of course, when this great old child was turned loose into the world, every bad counsellor had power over him. He did not know good from evil. His father had made the blunder of bringing him up in ignorance and taking it for innocence; and after fourteen months of riotous living, the city authorities had to take charge of him, in order to save him from starvation. He could not even use words effectively enough to be a successful beggar.'
It finally clicked with me: I now think she is referring to the story of Kaspar Hauser, also mentioned in Charlotte Mason's Volume 3, pages 71-74.
Continuing to make connections; characteristics of life-long learning ~
15 February, 2009
I have already written some about Mrs. Gaskell in previous posts about Cranford and literary Connections and my early reflections on the novel North and South, the Norton Critical edition, well worth having for all the extras included within.
Tonight, while doing some more online research into her other works, I noted one of her stories written in 1859, My Lady Ludlow. Then I remembered a "Lady Ludlow" in the movie version of Cranford, and I wondered where she came from. Gaskell wrote Cranford from 1851-1853, so much earlier than My Lady Ludlow.
It seems (from early inspection of Chapter one) that the creators of the movie version of Cranford might have infused this character into the script. Why, I do not know, yet. At first (before I knew she was a real Gaskell character) I thought it was to create a little conflict and tension to the rather calm goings-on in the fictional-named town of Cranford (but based on the real town of Knutsford, where Gaskell spent some of her younger years). The formulaic writing and movies of today must have "tension" to hold our interest, we are told, so I chalked it up to that.
There is one other storyline that is in the Cranford movie that is not in the book, either. Perhaps the characters are from one of her other stories, as well. I look forward to finding out!
Ha! I've just found out...yes. Gaskell's novella, Mr. Harrison's Confession, does supply the third plotline in the BBC movie version of Cranford! Mystery solved, and I am relieved. Wives and Daugthers and North and South were both adhered to quite nicely (with the occasional line of one character in the book being given to another in the movie version).
Do, friends, pick up some of these books when you are looking for a good, old-fashioned story to get lost in and even learn from.
Ciao for now!
09 February, 2009
One of our favorite football players, Adrian Peterson (who played for OU in college football--our team), won MVP last year. It was good to see him play today, as well.
I like the diversity of players, and since we have one son who loves multiple players and is not just holding out for one team, it has been the busiest season of football watching that I've ever done. But I must say that I have enjoyed it! I like watching football with our boy. He and I really like OU best of all (and college ball is very exciting), though we both enjoy watching good players play well. We also have our preferred announcers.
Hubby and I are oldtime Cowboys fans, in spite of their ups and downs. The mark of a true fan is that you still have hope for your team, even when they have some off years. Ds and I listen to ESPN radio off and on during the week, listening to them whine or complain, and sometimes bring up good points. Well tonight we got to see a long interview with a Dallas sports reporter and our quarterback, Tony Romo, to get a couple of different viewpoints. What a breath of fresh air. People really need to keep life and sports in perspective. I know these guys get paid a lot of money, but their careers are relatively short, and not all players get great commercial endorsement deals. The flip side is, they should get about a decade to prove themselves, before we go criticizing them for saying something stupid (always seems worse taken out of context, too) or losing a playoff. I am with the critics, though, when players break the law and repeatedly engage in disorderly conduct.
Alright, that's my rare sports post for the year. We do enjoy football at the booksncoffeehaus, right along with our poetry, symphony, literature, radio shows, and foreign films. Yes, we are eclectic, but it keeps our connections with people broad and open!
Ciao for now,
08 February, 2009
"Elizabeth Gaskell is one of the foremost novelists of the nineteenth century. Famous in her own day and admired by Charlotte Brontë, Charles Dickens, Thomas Carlyle, and Florence Nightingale, Gaskell was, for many, the social conscience of Britain as the full effect of the Industrial Revolution took hold.
Published in 1854, North and South is Gaskell's great novel of social unrest. Its themes of responsibility, duty, class, and gender in a changing society are mirrored in the day-to-day struggles of its heroine, Margaret Hale, as she adjusts to life in the norhtern industrial town of Milton."
I have read to page 178 out of 395 pages. I so enjoy Gaskell's writing. One difference that is very noticeable from the movie version: Margaret is the main narrator throughout the movie in the form of letters to and from her cousin, Elizabeth (whose voice we hear when Margaret is reading her letters).
And of course, there is so much more detail in the book; not to be missed. There are a few minor rearrangements of details from the book to the movie, but overall, I think the spirit of what Gaskell wrote is kept intact.
One scene in the movie that is *not* in the book is the scene early on in Milton where Margaret goes to the mill herself, looking for Mr. Thornton, and finds him yelling strictly at a worker for smoking in the mill. He is very harsh with him, much to Margaret's chagrin, but has to be strict, for smoking could cause the whole mill to go up in flames and everyone with it. This scene is not in the book so far.
Here I share a quote that I am replaying in my head. In context of the story, it is Mr. Hale's discussion with Mr. Thornton on how much control or "despotism" need be exerted over his workers, both on and off the clock; how much he is responsible to them after work hours in what they do with their time at home. It makes for interesting points on all sides. Anyway, I like the quote, then the subsequent story that Margaret (Mr. Hale's daughter) shares after he speaks.
From near the end of Chapter XV:
Mr. Hale answered--
'I dare say I am talking in great ignorance; but from the little I know, I should say that the masses were already passing rapidly into the troublesome stage which intervenes between childhood and manhood, in the life of the multitude as well as that of the individual. Now, the error which many parents commit in the treatment of the individual at this time is, insisting on the same unreasoning obedience as when all he had to do in the way of duty was, to obey the simple laws of "Come when you're called and "Do as you're bid!" But a wise parent humours the desire for independent action, so as to become the friend and adviser when his absolute rule shall cease. If I get wrong in my reasoning, recollect, it is you who adopted the analogy.'
'Very lately,' said Margaret, 'I heard a story of what happened in Nuremberg only three or four years ago. A rich man there lived alone in one of the immense mansions which were formerly both dwellings and warehouses. It was reported that he had a child, but no one knew of it for certain. For forty years this rumour kept rising and falling--never utterly dying away. After his death it was found to be true. He had a son--an overgrown man with the unexercised intellect of a child, whom he had kept up in that strange way, in order to save him from temptation and error. But, of course, when this great old child was turned loose into the world, every bad counsellor had power over him. He did not know good from evil. His father had made the blunder of bringing him up in ignorance and taking it for innocence; and after fourteen months of riotous living, the city authorities had to take charge of him, in order to save him from starvation. He could not even use words effectively enough to be a successful beggar.'
'I used the comparison (suggested by Miss Hale) of the position of the master to that of a parent; so I ought not to complain of your turning the simile into a weapon against me. But, Mr. Hale, when you were setting up a wise parent as a model for us, you said he humoured his children in their desire for independent action. Now certainly, the time is not come for the hands to have any independent action during business hours; I hardly know what you would mean by it then. And I say, that the masters would be trenching on the independence of their hands, in a way that I, for one, should not feel justified in doing, if we interfered too much with the life they lead out of the mills."
Good food for thought, these quotes...