Monday, September 27, 2010

“They're talking about banning books again! Really subversive books, like The Wizard of Oz... the Diary of Anne Frank...” ~ Annie Kinsella in Field of Dreams

Banning books? Seriously? In my field of dreams, we as a nation, as a global community, have moved beyond such narrow-mindedness. But then, I still believe in an inherent altruism of humanity…at least most days.

This recognition - I can’t call it a celebration - of Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read (according to the American Library Association), is one of those things I dream of outgrowing, like the Tooth Fairy and a superstition of black cats.

I was telling my daughter last week about an incident from her high school days. My husband and I chaperoned the marching band spring trip to Baltimore/DC. Two charter buses of 80-some hormonally charged teenagers for four days. What were we thinking?! But I digress.

En route, to keep everyone entertained and to possibly preserve some of the chaperones’ collective sanity, the busses were equipped with DVD players and the kids watched movies. PG or PG-13 only, the band director was not a fool. But even that was not good enough for one overly-protective mom. When she discovered her precious (precocious?) teen had been exposed to the subversive Sixteen Candles, she went ballistic. The next Band Boosters meeting was taken up with a dreadfully serious discussion of how best to prevent such a travesty from reoccurring. She did not take it well when I told her she was not authorized to censor my children’s viewing habits.

Censorship at any level frightens me. When we surrender our responsibility for critical thinking and decision making to those in some perceived position of authority, whether it be a school board, a church or a government, we surrender ourselves. If you don’t like a movie, don’t go to the theater. If a book offends you, don’t read it, and tell your child why you find it offensive. Labeling anything off-limits, be it a book, or sex, or alcohol, without a reasonable explanation of why only serves to make it more alluring to a curious, growing child. Parents do a disservice to their offspring and to the world at large by denying the development of a fine-tuned discernment of crap.

These are some of the more egregious titles listed as this year’s challenged
  • Captain Underpants (offensive language, sexually explicit, anti-family)
  • Lord of the Rings (Satanic)
  • Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary (contains the term ‘oral sex’)
  • Fahrenheit 451 (about censorship)
  • Harry Potter series (occultism, Satanism, violence, anti-family - #1 on ALA’s most-challenged for 2000-2009)
  • Grapes of Wrath (obscenity, embarrassment to the region)
  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (wrong Bill Martin – long story which displays the censors’ ignorance even more tellingly)
  • James and the Giant Peach (magic, disobedience, violence)
  • American Heritage Dictionary (39 objectionable words, including ‘balls’)
  • Grimm’s Fairy Tales (violence; misuse of alcohol in Little Red Riding Hood)

…along with the usual selection of classics like Brave New World and To Kill a Mockingbird


To quote Annie Kinsella again: “Who's for burning books? Who wants to spit on the Constitution of the United States of America, anybody? Now who's for the bill of Rights? Who thinks that freedom is a pretty darn good thing? Who thinks that we have to stand up to the kind of censorship that they had under Stalin?”

I proudly join Natalie Monzyk’s list of bloggers standing up to the censors. Won’t you join us?

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