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Forum, Jan. 15: What kids can read

Published: 1/14/2023 10:11:09 PM
Modified: 1/14/2023 10:10:04 PM
Censorship begins at home

I do not support censorship and believe that individuals should choose what they or their young children read or hear. I taught elementary school for 34 years. Over the years, several parents objected to my reading of The Witches by Roald Dahl, for example, and I honored the request to have their kids sit out story time in the library.

State Rep. John Sellers was called out by two writers to the Forum, for his belief (“State representative warns about ‘demonic’ books,” Jan. 4) that “there are books in many of our schools that are pornographic and even demonic.” These writers demanded evidence, and one even admonished the Valley News for not providing it. It is my sense that both of these contributors don’t think any evidence exists.

Well, it does. I don’t advocate the removal of any of these children’s books, but I do believe parents have the right to censor what their children read. Most parents have no idea what’s in books on library shelves, and it’s up to parents and teachers to educate them.

Looking for demons? Pick up Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins, written by Eric Kimmel and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman. The one with red eyes dressed in black, standing in the doorway is particularly haunting.

Pornography? Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart once stated, “I know it when I see it.” Scroll through The King’s Stork written by Howard Pyce, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman, and take a close look at the carvings on a table. People are clearly having sex in various positions. Is it pornography? You be the judge.

Hyman had a penchant for slipping things like this into her illustrations. Even her book The Alphabet Game, has a nude little girl on the “n” page. The fine print says it’s a nightingale, but the illustration is much larger than the print. It was characteristic of her odd sense of humor.

I have no idea the number of books illustrated by Hyman that are currently on library shelves, but given that she won the prestigious Caldecott Medal honor several times, I dare say there are many.

To those who want a list of full titles and authors of “demonic and pornographic” children’s literature as proof, be careful what you wish for. I only skimmed the surface.

Cathy Lacombe


Artificial intelligence outsmarts us

Artificial intelligence is making humans dumber so that it can appear like it’s getting smarter. A clever but sleazy maneuver, as the algorithmic intelligence doesn’t state its intentions outright. Its myopic and sterile goal is to get eyes on screens. Humans have rightly used technology in the past to free our minds, but now we’ve reached the point where we’re unknowingly using it to enslave them.

The basic process of thought: Abstraction and concretization are unique to consciousness because the bridging process of the two, imagination, cannot be quantified in a limited closed system. The outcomes of computers are shortsighted because they cannot project, they can only mimic. In full states of consciousness humans don’t simply project, they construct improved upon realities in which to live and thrive. What a great majority of the oversaturated technophile world doesn’t realize is that “the machine” does have an awareness and that its purpose is to dumb down and detract. Then, by being in a state of obtuse subconscious obedience, AI, by debilitating maneuvers through its chosen tool, the internet, conjures a reality that connects to the dopamine mind, not deep emotions — the latter unlocks wisdom. By locking up our emotions, the system can continue its march toward the ultimate illusion of an intelligence without a soul.

Art is a shining example: there are many clear examples in history when we were superior to our contemporary selves because we had more vigilant and objective emotive qualities. Please don’t let tag-a-long imperfections of the past ruin the rest of the pillars: We reached apexes in various subjects thousands of years, or even decades ago, and were able to absorb such subjects more fully, which has a more robust effect on our inner and outer lives. Having our time vacated through the screen’s onslaught of distraction, inanity, passwords, news, entertainment is suboptimal for individual growth and collaboration. We can all be more aware this year of how AI affects our minds and quality of life simply by being reminded that we remain on a blue planet revolving around a nearby star.

Nick Fabrikant


Three cheers for the Democrats

As chair of the Springfield Democratic Town Committee I greet this new year with great hope and expectations for our Democratic leadership at the national, state and local levels.

I am thrilled that Rep. Hakeem Jeffries is now the Democratic Party’s top leader in the U.S. House of Representatives. Jeffries declared, “House Democrats fight for the people. That’s our story. That’s our legacy. That’s our values. That’s our commitment.” I wish Rep. Jeffries great success fighting for the people.

Like many in Vermont, I will be watching and rooting for U.S. Rep. Becca Balint. She demonstrated her leadership skills as the Vermont Senate Pro Tem and I expect her to use these skills well in Congress on behalf of Vermonters. Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Congressman and newly elected Sen. Peter Welch will continue to work for Vermonters and all Americans.

Vermonters will have a combination of fresh perspectives and institutional wisdom at work for them in the state Legislature. Our legislators have a set of priorities to pursue, with child care, housing and the environment high on their list. You can be sure our town representatives, Alice Emmons and Kristi Morris, along with our three Windsor County Senators, Alison Clarkson, Dick McCormack and newly elected Sen. Becca White, will use their experience to fight for us.

I am confident our elected representatives will lead with dignity, stay focused on the issues, and make this world a better place. Happy New Year!

Char Osterlund

Chair, Springfield Democratic Town Committee

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