An "outraged mum" has launched an online petition calling for a book advocating a controversial and violent method of raising children to be removed from public libraries in Auckland.
It's an understandable campaign since this book "instructs parents to withhold food and whip their children with branches and belts", "to use a garden hose on children who have soiled their pants" and to "use whatever force is necessary".
To Train Up a Child, a publication containing biblical references and purporting to be based on Christian values, has reportedly been linked to child abuse cases and three deaths in the United States.
Yet the spokesperson for Auckland Libraries was unapologetic, citing commitment to the principle of "freedom of access to information".
Auckland Council confirmed that in the interests of "freedom of expression" the book would not be withdrawn.
One copy of this book, which was written by American pastors Michael and Debi Pearl in 1994, has been in our "library system" since 2012. It's been borrowed ten times. Two people are on a waiting list for it. It's not exactly flying out the door. Mind you, all the publicity it's received would have done wonders for its desirability. That waiting list could have swollen to six or even seven people by now.
Of course, I'm hoping that sheer curiosity might drive demand - rather than, say, a desire to discover how to assault a child. It is certainly an astonishing read. Some of the Pearls' pearls of wisdom include: "accompany your command with minor pain", "A newborn soon needs training", "GOD SPANKS HIS CHILDREN" and "Select your instrument according to the child's size. For the under one year old, a little, ten- to twelve-inch long, willowy branch ... is sufficient." Wow.
My initial reaction was that it's inconsistent to make a book peddling such irresponsible, not to mention unlawful, advice available through civic channels. The way we operate as a society seems to be underpinned by the principle that many parents are unfit to parent.
For this reason everyone, irrespective of whether or not they store cleaning products responsibly, must grapple to remove the stubborn tops of cleaning fluids. For this reason, everyone, irrespective of whether or not they closely supervise youngsters around water, must fence their private swimming pools to meet stringent regulations.
For this reason, everyone, regardless of whether or not they prevent youngsters from playing with kitchen appliances, must spend 15 continuous seconds pressing the pesky switch of an ultra-safe cooker just to get the gas-fuelled element going.
Personal responsibility can seem like a quaint concept when so many facets of modern life are designed to compensate for incompetent or careless parents. Surely, there is no place for such a book as To Train Up a Child in this cautious, overly protective, everyone-is-an idiot environment.
Its availability in a local library is at odds with the highly regulated, mistrustful climate that prevails. What if some unfit, unthinking parent considers this advice credible? What local authority would want to be associated with that potential parenting disaster?
But, then, considering I discovered a transcript of the book after just two minutes of trawling the internet, it's surely academic that a physical copy of it is available through Auckland libraries. If it's so readily accessible online, removing it from the library would be a merely symbolic gesture. Still, in the interests of reinforcing an anti-child-abuse message, withdrawing it just might be a sensible move.