Censoring Books?

Happy Monday everyone!

Today I’m sharing an article I wrote dealing with the issue of censorship in schools. Here’s the article.

Two books on this school’s summer reading list, Prep (Curtis Sittenfeld) and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (Tom Wolfe) were contested at a school board meeting by parents who called the material “pornographic” and “inappropriate,” among other things.

It turned into a pretty big deal, and tons of national groups got involved in the issue of constitutionality of banning these books. Also, to add fuel to the fire, the conversation erupted the week before National Banned Books Week! Some of the agencies that got involved were: National Coalition Against Censorship; American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression; Comic Book Legal Defense Fund; Association of American Publishers; Independent Book Publishers Association; National Council of Teachers of English; and PEN American Center.

Now, from covering the story for many more board meetings after the initial complaint, I became interested and rented Prep from the library. Personally, I didn’t think it was that horrible, especially compared to what’s on the radio, TV, magazines, etc. But I can see how, to an unsuspecting and naive tween, the content could be a little jarring. I’ve never read Wolfe’s book, but just from the title alone, I think it’s clear that the content may be a little controversial, which should have alerted parents from the start.

The district ended up taking the books of their optional summer reading lists, but the titles are both still available in the library (story about that resolution here).

Personally, I’m against any kind of censorship of literature. It’s a slippery slope from censoring one or two books here and there to eventually becoming a Fahrenheit 451 society. But I also understand that schools are have a responsibility to parents and can’t just ignore their voices. As someone with a background in education, I think the school’s resolution is a good compromise (students can still check the books out of the library).

What do you think? Let me know in the comments.


9 thoughts on “Censoring Books?

  1. I am going to read that article right now. Thank you for sharing. Harry Potter is currently banned in my County for religious reasons and I had a parent up in arms last semester for teaching Of Mice and Men to my 9th graders. I ended up giving her child To Kill a Mockingbird just to ease the parent’s feelings.

    • Harry Potter? The series that turned a generation of kids into lifelong readers? That is so sad. Also, I love the idea of subbing Of Mice and Men with Mokcingbird, since it’s seen its fair share of controversy too! Fight fire with fire! Good for you!

      • I was shocked that the mother agreed to let her daughter read Mockingbird. Her reasoning was “she’d seen the movie.” I was shocked when I learned about Harry Potter as well and needed the whole story. Apparently, it was a mob mentality of parents. I’m VERY against censorship for books (young adult books or adult books, or any kind of books) and so I was shocked that the County I worked for had banned such a wonderful series. Just makes me teach harder! : ) Great article by the way! I read it and was inspired.

  2. I’d agree with the argument that any kind of censorship is bad. Especially if the kids aren’t required to read these books and they’re just optional books on a reading list, then I don’t see the harm. I could maybe buy into the argument that it’s inappropriate if they were required reading, but even that leads to a slippery slope, and there are plenty of “classic” English novels and texts with suggestive language and scenes.

    If you want kids to read in their spare time, you need to point them to books that they might actually want to read.

    • I agree. You can bet what happened when word got out to kids that parents were freaking out about these two books… mad rush to library to read them! Also, they were optional – just two titles on a list of maybe 10-12 titles. Sometimes I think people just like to make a big deal out of nothing.

  3. I am against censorship as well. While I prefer my kids not read things that are too grown up for them, it is my job to monitor what they read. At the same time sneaking my mom’s smut books helped me to become a better reader.

  4. Pingback: Censorship Bans Lifted in Turkey | Writing My Next Chapter

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