Opinion: Alpine Crest Elementary School teacher sought equality with lesson

After a complaint about her planned presentation of a Mother's Day program for kindergarten through second grade students at Alpine Crest Elementary, librarian Caroline Mickey may have remembered a sobering observation: No good deed goes unpunished.

That's not to say, however, that she considers herself punished. Not with the outpouring of support she's received from people, including parents, who have defended her.

It's important to note that Mickey followed departmental protocols. Her principal approved the lesson. And as Times Free Press writer Emily Crisman reported, Mickey also sent a letter to parents giving them the option to choose a different lesson for their children if they wished.

Mickey's "sin," so to speak, was to "choose books with nontraditional family structures to be inclusive of children without mothers in their lives," as the Times Free Press reported.

One book, "Stella Brings the Family," was a story about a girl with two fathers. The other, "Mother Bruce," was about "a male bear who a group of goslings believe to be their mother."

The local chapter of Moms for Liberty wasn't impressed. And when they complained, school district administrators cancelled the lesson.

Unfortunately, the "Moms" were unaware that a lot of people really don't like meddlers. Especially those who assume they have the right to decide what lessons other parents' children can or cannot receive.

More than a thousand parents and others made their irritation clear by signing a petition asking the administrators to reverse their lesson-cancelling decision. That was sent to the school board, but for now it's unclear how or whether the board members will respond at its June meeting.

Mickey's careful preparation reflected her awareness of the nationwide phenomenon of parents' concerns about the lessons their children receive.

But she made it clear that was not a problem: "We were just trying to be self-aware and proactive."

Some organizations crave the power they hope will ensure their dominance. In the Alpine Crest incident, Moms for Liberty seemed to present themselves alone as entitled to "liberty."

The larger issue, as Crisman reported, is that in 2022 the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom "documented 1,269 demands to censor library books and resources, compared with 729 challenges" the previous year. Most of the "challenged books were written by or about members of the LGBTQ community or people of color, according to the ALA's website.

To her credit, Mickey "compared the book challenges nationwide to complaints about the books she chose. People are saying they're just looking out for the kids, when really they're just trying to erase the lives that people lead who are LGBTQ or a person of color."

The criticism of "Stella Brings the Family" ignored reality. As Mickey noted, gay people exist. Families with two fathers or two mothers exist.

But she added these valuable insights:

[The book] "is not saying that your family structure is wrong or that your family structure is inferior ... Giving somebody the equality that they deserve as a human being doesn't give you less equality, but when you've always had privilege, equality feels like oppression."

This brings us to the 1962 movie, "The Music Man," in which several women led by the mayor's wife confide to professor/grifter Harold Hill that River City's librarian, Marian Paroo, "advocates dirty books."

And the books' authors are?




The film version of Meredith Wilson's 1957 Broadway play included a scene in which the women sang, "Pick a little, talk a little, pick a little, talk a little, cheep, cheep, cheep, cheep, cheep, cheep, cheep."

During the song scene, the camera switched back-and-forth from the singing women to hens scratching for food, as hens will do.

Who knew Meredith Wilson could have imagined the future?

Michael Loftin is a former editorial page editor at The Chattanooga Times.