Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association
The last week of September each year is marked as Banned Book Week. Banning books continues to be a controversial subject among book lovers, book professionals, and those who support the bans. I do not agree with banning books entirely because they do not fit into someone’s ideal point of view. This kind of banning infringes on our First Amendment right to freedom of speech and freedom of press.
For instance: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie is one of the many books which have been banned from schools. I can maybe try to understand why parents would want it to not be a required book to read; maybe it could be more of an option and have an alternative choice. Really though, it isn’t as bad as everyone seems to think. I read the story about this book being banned from a school in Idaho in which a teenage student was able to get 350 signatures on a petition to keep on the curriculum. The book ended up being banned though, but a local book store bought enough of these books that it was able to hold an event in which the store and the student passed out a book to every student who wished to have a copy. When the publisher found out about this happening they sent a free copy of the book for every one given away to the book store.
When I first read this article I had never heard of the book. I went to my local library and talked to one of the librarians and she said that there is some pretty bad language throughout the book and a reference to masturbation. I, being a parent, immediately though, “Oh my God! They had that as required reading in a school?” I should have picked up the book right then and read it for myself, but being a book blogger I keep a constant full reading schedule and didn’t have time to read it. So, naturally, I Googled it. Immediately all kinds of articles popped up about parents bringing scanned copies of certain pages to school boards and shocked adults talking about how crude and vulgar this book is. I looked for the excerpt about masturbation in particular as I thought this would be especially too explicit for young eyes to read. Here is the worst passages I found directly from the book:
“I spend hours in the bathroom with a magazine that has one thousand pictures of naked movie stars. Naked woman + right hand = happy happy joy joy Yep, that’s right, I admit that I masturbate
I’m proud of it.
I’m good at it.
If there were a Professional Masterbutors league, I’d get drafted number one and make millions of dollars.”
“And if God hadn’t wanted us to masturbate, then God wouldn’t have given us thumbs.
So I thank God for my thumbs.”
So yeah, that’s it. I would say that it may not be appropriate for middle school students, but high school students see, hear, and do worse things every day. I think they can handle it if they are allowed to watch South Park, Vampire Diaries, MTV’s Awkward, or almost any made for teen movie or television show. The real question is, how long are we as parents going to try to shield our kids from the world. Also, how long are we going to delude ourselves to think they are as innocent as we try to keep them. Is a realistic approach better than sheltering?
I remember being a teenager. My parents sheltered my to a certain extent, mainly my dad was just pretty strict about following his rules (which were a little overboard sometimes). Another thing I remember is the kids who were over sheltered coming into the world. They tended to be the ones to go crazy and jump head first into any new experience they could. This didn’t always go well for them and they tended to end up hurt or hurting others.
As a parent, what is that line for you? How long are you, as a parent, going to protect your kids from the world and to what end? Are books a part of that? Are they any different from television and movies?