By Meghan Koepke
The “sexual education” textbook, It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, Gender, and Sexual Health, is appearing in curriculum employed throughout Florida public schools. As a result, children as young as ten years old are being exposed to shockingly explicit sexual material; the material contained within It’s Perfectly Normal is egregious enough to shock an experienced adult, nonetheless an innocent child. This work contains not only graphic, verbal descriptions of intimate, sexual acts; it also contains detailed illustrations of these very acts. Yet, despite the alarming nature of this book’s inclusion in our children’s educational materials, little is known about the two authors behind the work: Robie H. Harris, and Michael Emberley. An exposition of these two authors, and the ethics with which they apparently navigated their project of It’s Perfectly Normal, reveals exactly how unfit they are to serve as teachers to our children.
Robie H. Harris attended Wheaton College and the Bank Street College of Education. Harris claims that the idea for It’s Perfectly Normal began when an editor asked her if she “would like to write a book on HIV and AIDS for elementary school age children.” Harris, apparently believing HIV and AIDS to be appropriate subject matter for elementary school study, took this undertaking a step further; instead, she proposed she write an all encompassing children’s handbook on the intimate details of sex. She did just that, and as Florida Citizens Alliance has uncovered, Harris chose not to censor any of the material included in her work, regardless of how obscene, offensive, and pornographic the material is. Harris’ self-motivated desire to write It’s Perfectly Normal reveals, above all, a simple fact: Robie Harris has no regard for the preservation of our children’s innocence.
Michael Emberley, the illustrator of It’s Perfectly Normal, does not hold an education degree of any variety; still, he has found success in the world of children’s book illustrations. Describing the project, Emberley admits that “the illustrations [for It’s Perfectly Normal] involved drawing nude people for an age group not previously overrun with nude imagery.” Despite the sanitized imagery he employs in this statement, do not be mistaken: the illustrations Emberley describes depict children, and are of an explicitly sexual nature. Emberley admits that he was initially reluctant to serve as the illustrator of It’s Perfectly Normal, claiming that he “knew there were people out there who were intolerant of more than their view on certain topics.” Here, Emberley fails to recognize that an intolerance for the production and state-sanctioned propagation of child pornography is not an unjust prejudice, and neither is it a partisan issue; rather, it is a moral stance oriented toward the rightful protection of America’s most defenseless citizens: our children. Clearly, as evidenced by his own articulations, Michael Emberley does not hold any interest in the protection of our children.
The moral stances and particular personalities that gave rise to the publication of It’s Perfectly Normal reveal the chilling reality that serves as the book’s foundation; that is, a total disregard for the preservation of the innocence, dignity, and safety of our children. Sadly, the reach of It’s Perfectly Normal is not limited to FL public schools; to date, the book has been translated into 27 different languages, and NPR has termed it “one of the most banned books of the past two decades.” This assault on good, decent education in the United States, while saddening, need not serve as a discouragement against our continued pursuit of a better reality for our children. Instead, It’s Perfectly Normal should serve as an emboldening reminder to remain vigilant in championing our children’s safety and innocence―no matter how large or great the obstacle may seem.