Tuesday, November 19, 2013

To Train Up a Child - Should it Be Removed from Amazon?

It’s all over Facebook – another child has been killed as an apparent result of her parents clinging to the methods found within To Train Up a Child by Michael and Debi Pearl.

Hana Williams, the adopted daughter of Larry and Carri Williams (their names rhyme, please note), was found naked in her backyard. She died from hypothermia and starvation with marks on her body indicating that she had been beaten with plastic tubing the day of her death. Whipping a child with plastic tubing is, apparently, a method of punishment endorsed by the Pearls in their book.

Having not actually read the book, I’m not going to further elaborate on what is or isn’t endorsed by the Pearls. If you’re interested in that sort of thing, there are a billion websites out there where you can find quotes from the book and read about other instances of child abuse that may be related to their advice. I am more interested in the controversy surrounding the book staying available for purchase on Amazon.com

Over 30,000 people have signed this petition online begging Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, to take down the listing for To Train Up a Child, along with listings for Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Trip and Don’t Make Me Count to Three by Ginger Plowman – none of which I’ve read and cannot comment on. The petition claims that the content found within these books is “offensive” and “contrary to [Amazon’s] Content Guidelines.”

Though I do not agree with its religious teachings, abusive or not, and wish that this book would disappear from the face of the earth, I think that removing this book from Amazon will open a can of worms – a scary one. It is published by No Greater Joy Ministries, owned by the Pearls themselves. So, this is technically an independent book listed on Amazon by the Pearls. You, as an independent author, also have the ability to self-publish your books on Amazon. What do we do if a self-published novel mentions that maybe the main character doesn’t believe in God, and that offends Christians? It’s offensive to someone, right? So do we remove it thanks to the Content Guidelines? I don’t know. Most books, fiction included, will contain something that’s offensive to someone somewhere. Do we really want to give Jeff Bezos that much power?

The only real way to get people to stop reading this book and taking its message to heart is not to get it torn down from online retailers, but through education. The problem does not lie in the book itself – it lies in the reasoning abilities of the people who take messages spewed from the likes of the Pearls seriously. If people were better educated in science and health issues, mental and physical, we wouldn’t have people blindly following the words of the Pearls or abusing their children verbally and physically in “the name of the Lord.” I think the time and energy spent focusing on removing the book from shelves could be better spent in educating the masses in more constructive, scientific ways.

All of this negative publicity about this book is, after all, publicity.
See the below graph of interest in the search term “To Train Up a Child” as reported by Google Trends:

I’m sure some of those Google searches resulted in purchases, and, therefore, funding for the Pearls.

It will be interesting to see how Amazon responds to these requests, if at all.
My prediction is that, to avoid scandal, they will quietly remove it.

But what does that solve?
The No Greater Joy website offers To Train Up a Child on its own for $7.95, or in a “four book special” for $25. They also offer the book in Spanish, on audiobook, and as an eBook. 
Most disturbingly, you can buy the book by the case for $438.84.
I doubt they’ll be removing it any time soon.

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