Things that piss me off: censorship in schools

Hmm, so this is a book blog, remember? Maybe I should blog about books every once in awhile. Um, let me see if I remember how to do this.

Oh, so this came up this week: Teacher’s Job in Jeopardy for Reading to Kids from Enders Game.

According to the mother who filed the complaint and maybe a lawsuit to go with it, Enders Game was too pornographic for her 14-year-old son (even though commonsensemedia.org recommends Enders Game by Orson Scott Card for kids 12 and up). The teacher at hand also allegedly read the class The Devil’s Paintbox, a young adult novel by Victoria McKernan and Curtain: Poiot’s Last Case by Agatha Christie. None of these books were apparently vetted by school administration, meaning the teacher was placed on leave.

What’s a little outrageous about all this is that a TV station in South Carolina (where all of this is going down) says the mom is also claiming the teacher read Internet porn to the class — all of which, as i09 states, seems a little far-fetched.

Whatever the details of this case, random controversies like these are disturbing examples of parents censoring their kids in schools. Now, I’m talking literature and English class here — we can get into biology vs. evolution vs. “intelligent design” another time. But it’s because we’re talking about English class (the one where you sit around and read, remember?) that makes this all so ludicrous. These are books we’re talking about. These are stories. And very often, the books at the center of the most controveries are some of the most critically acclaimed books in American history.

What’s at the root of these controversies? Parents say it’s the language, “pornographic material,” allusions to controversial topics such as slavery or rape. Parents say they’re doing it this in the best interests of their child. But what parents don’t realize is that they are severely underestimating their children. I’m sorry, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is not the first time your 15-year-old has seen or heard the word “nigger.” But maybe if they discuss its use in Mark Twain’s classic in their high school English class, they will have a greater appreciation of the word’s history and why it’s offensive.

But unfortunately, at the heart of all these English class controversies, is a parent or group of parents who are afraid. They don’t trust their children’s intelligence or ability to decide for themself. They’re afraid of what might possibly happen. They don’t trust that trained educators can discuss sensitve subjects with students. They’re afraid of what those teachers might say.

Every parent has the right to be concerned about their child’s welfare and whether they’re learning the right lessons in school. That’s their perogative. But they have to realize the message they’re sending: I don’t trust you or your teacher. It’s OK to promote censorship in schools.  My problem should become everyone’s problem. I’m going to sue an educator for trying to do their job. Even if something is a little sensitive or controversial, you should not be exposed to it at all. Put your hands over your ears and ignore what every other rational person is telling you. Ignorance is bliss.

I plan on having children of my own someday and I plan on letting them read whatever book they want in the house. If they have questions, they can ask me. That was the philosophy my parents used and I didn’t end up a psychopath. Sure there were books I probably read before I should have, but being young, I didn’t understand. And I probably didn’t like them either (grown up books were so boring in 6th grade; show me to YA section please!). But because I wasn’t held back or restricted, I was able to develop my tastes at my own speed and as a result, I was reading a hell of a lot more books than my peers. And isn’t that what test-driven parents want?

But that’s me ranting. To make yourself feel really dischanted with the state of American society, check out Banned or Challenged Books from the Radcliffe Publishing Course’s Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century.

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2 thoughts on “Things that piss me off: censorship in schools

  1. Thanks for your sensible thoughts. I just discovered this (crazy) controversy a few days ago and don’t know what to make of it. Victoria McKernan, author, The Devil’s Paintbox.

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