Friday, July 29, 2011

Book Banning or something else

As someone outside the public school system, I'm fascinated by how curriculum is decided and what educators deem worthy of school time.

Missouri School District Bans 'Slaughterhouse-Five' and 'Twenty Boy Summer'

The school board in Republic, Mo., voted 4-0 to eliminate Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse-Five" and Sarah Ockler's "Twenty Boy Summer" from the high school curriculum and library, respectively, after a local man led an effort to deem the novels inappropriate.

Wesley Scroggins, a business professor at Missouri State University, who also pioneered a movement to reshape middle school sex-education classes in Republic's schools, wrote in a column last year that Vonnegut's classic contained enough profanity to "make a sailor blush," and warned that "Twenty Boy Summer" was similarly dangerous.

"In this book," Scroggins wrote, "drunken teens also end up on the beach, where they use their condoms to have sex."

The majority of comments that I read condemned the school board for being behind the times, prudish, and so forth. Others compare it to the censorship inflicted by totalitarian regimes. (Eye roll)

The school isn't banning a book. The school is designating this book of unworthy of school time and funding. It is not like the school is the only access a child would have to these books. Any parents or child can still easily get the books at the public library, on-line or in a dozen different book stores.

If a parent wants their kids to read about drunken sex and increase their children's vocabulary of swear words, parents can do it on their own dime at home. I imagine that many of them already do so in the form of R-rated movies and unsupervised internet access.

And, remember, this is middle school. My youngest daughter just turned 11 and will be in "middle school" this year (albeit at home). Would I want her to be forced to read these books as part of a school assignment? No. Would I want her to stumble across it in the school library? Wouldn't be my first choice. This is one of the reasons my kids don't go to public school.

Why would I want my 11 year old to be desensitized to swearing and be introduced to promiscuous sex? I don't see the benefit here.

These are what I call garbage books. They drag the reader through a garbage can theoretically on their way to some noble destination or under the guise of "reality" or "education." Garbage is still garbage. Garbage in equals garbage out.

Another problem with "adult content" for pre-adolescent children is that children beginning the physical changes of adolescence naturally see the world darker and scarier than adults. It is a physiological effect of hormones on the amygdala. Even a well written book on an adult topic, like the holocaust, still may be inappropriate for most young readers.

Simply put, children's brains aren't like adult brains. They process information differently than adults and are more negatively influenced, especially in the realm of their emerging sexuality.

There are many great books that take the readers through the hardships of life and the triumph the human spirit without an explicit description of sex and endless vulgarities. Since there are so many great books to choose from, why bother with the others?

I found this quote by the author of one of the banned books revealing:
"Not every teen who has sex outside of a relationship feels guilty, shameful, or regretful later on," Ockler wrote. "And you can ban my books from every damn district in the country -- I'm still not going to write to send messages or make teens feel guilty because they've made choices that some people want to pretend don't exist."

"That's my choice," Ockler continued. "And I'll never be ashamed of my choice to write about real issues."

It is clear that the author's intent is to normalize and glorify promiscuity. I'm perplexed that she thinks it is a noble endeavor.

I absolutely do not care if her book has any uplifting message or is artistically written. There are too many good books out there to waste educational time on garbage.

Another author added her point of view:

The award-winning children's author Judy Blume, whose books have frequently come under fire from schools, might have put it best when she wrote:

"It's not just the books under fire now that worry me. It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read. And all due to the fear of censorship.

"As always, young readers will be the real losers."

I read all the Judy Blume books as a child. I hated them. I never got why they were popular. It has been a long time, but I remember feeling "icky" and sad when I read Blume's books.

[In comparison, I don't remember that kind of response when I read books like The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas or One Red Rose for Christmas by Paul Horgan.]

Nor am I worried about censorship discouraging future writers. Recently, a friend of my mother-in-law's self-published a children's book, Pierre's War. It is a fabulous book and I loved it. It would be an ideal book to add to any library. Thanks to the changes in technology and the market place, you can order her book on Amazon with a click of a mouse (and I hope some of you do.)

In the end, does the school board have the responsibility to remove books from the school curriculum?

Since parents have so little voice about what their children learn in school, the school board does have the responsibility to take action if it represent the parents' interests.
The article included no comments from parents. I would love to know what they thought.

In addition, the school board has the responsibility to represent the community and the taxpayers' interests. If the community doesn't agree with the school board, voters can let them know in the next election.

If I lived in that district, they would get my vote.


Crimson Wife said...

Slaughterhouse Five is a great book- for college students. I don't think it ought to be taught in a middle school, not only because of the language and s*x, but also because I don't think kids that age will grasp & appreciate the satire in it. I think it does have literary merit, but definitely is an adult book.

The other one sounds dreadful.

Janine Cate said...

I think sometimes adults are focused only on how much they enjoyed a book as an adult and don't stop to realize that an pre-adolescent doesn't have the same perspective.

Virtualhse said...

Well i do not think these books should be introduces and taught in classes in middle school, this is inappropriate, there may be a big chance that these books can give a wrong impact on pre-adolescent.

Jehu said...

It's terribly amusing how a librarian deciding to purchase or not purchase a book is something almost nobody calls censorship, despite the fact that it has the same effect, but parents or the community wanting to do the same raises a hue and cry.