So You Want to Ban a Book

Everywhere I have been, blogwise, this week I see people talking about Banned Book Week. About a year ago, I had a “discussion” with someone about banned books and they claimed that books were no longer “banned.” It was a semantic argument and one which got my blood boiling. Books are removed from schools and curriculums all the time with differing rationales.

The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger was removed by a Dorchester District 2 school board member in  Summerville, SC  in 2001 because it “is a filthy, filthy book.” Well, I am glad that we have some firm evidence to debate the intellectual merits of reading about Holden Caulfield.*

Beloved by Toni Morrison was pulled from the senior Advanced Placement (AP) English class at Eastern High School in Louisville, KY in 2007 because two parents complained that the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about antebellum slavery depicted the inappropriate topics of bestiality, racism, and sex.  The principal ordered teachers to start over with The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne in preparation for upcoming AP exams.* Um, I think there might be sex in The Scarlet Letter. I am pretty sure that was how she got the letter in question. And, honestly, if you think your 17 year old senior has not been reading and talking about sex yet, you are living in a box.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey was challenged at the Placentia-Yorba Linda, CA Unified School District in 2000 after complaints by parents stated that teachers “can choose the best books, but they keep choosing this garbage over and over again.”* Now, here is the thing, what are the best books? And why do you get to decide? Everytime I go to GoodReads and I decide to give the comments section a go again I am reminded that people absolutely do not have my taste in books and I do not have theirs. When I see people who loathed The Magicians and loved Twilight and do not have the excuse of being 15 I am little judge-y. But that does not mean I do not want them to have access to Twilight. They can read all the sparkly, vampire** crap fluff books they want.

I would hope that my kids’ schools and their teachers and our librarians have a good idea of what good teaching, learning and reading material is. It is what we pay them for. And honestly, if my daughter came home and told me that her teacher was doing a section on Twilight I would be really interested in how they were going to make it work as a learning experience but I would trust that they would until I found out differently.

And I have a suggestion for all of you who want to ban books in my school, first, read the damn book. I have a sneaking suspicion that most of the challenges come from people who have not even read the book. And second, if you decide you do not want your kid to follow the school curriculum, don’t spoil it for the rest of us.  There is always this alternative, Zion Academy of America.

* Taken from Frequently Challenged Books

**Ok, so, I typed campire first and was very tempted to leave it there. I might indeed start referring to campy, bad vampire novels as campire.

2 thoughts on “So You Want to Ban a Book

  1. Parents need to realize that High Schools intentionally assign books that are controversial. They have heavy issues and themes that everyone may not agree with because they inspire thought, discussion and criticism. They choose books that contain something to gnaw on and (hopefully) are also beautifully written. It’s all well and good that Dick and Sally see Spot run, but just try to fill up an hour class period and think critically and discuss the themes in something that milktoast. I’m really glad I’m not a High School teacher, because my response would probably be “It’s all well and good for you to be ignorant and lacking in taste, but it doesn’t mean your children and the rest of my students have to be.”

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