A MinD in MoTown

Will we be singing “Kumbaya” soon, too?
October 22, 2008, 4:43 pm
Filed under: Argh, Too liberal for the Bible belt, When I grow up

Along with the trends of bellbottoms, long straight hair and GoGo boots, the banned books of yesteryear have returned to shelves – sitting next to other “controversial” modern tales – and parents have, yet again, taken their concerns to their local school board.

In Morganton, NC – approximately one hour from where I live – a group of parents approached the Burke County Board of Education to express their troubles with books such as Kite Runner, Beloved and (I’m sure you saw this one coming) Catcher in the Rye, which have made their way into the hands of high schoolers unbeknownst to the parental units; individuals who, for religious and moral reasons, vehemently oppose this “contentious” literature.

*Note: For the full context of this story, click here and read an article out of Morganton, but posted to the Mooresville Tribune’s Web site.

With a myriad of complaints, including “such literature will warp the morals of our children” and “why are we subjecting our children to this kind of material without parental oversight,” the parents claimed reading these particular fiction selections would morally corrupt their children. And as parents, they insisted they ought to be informed about which books their kids were reading prior to putting the novel into a teenager’s hands.

Personally, I believe if parents had a voice in what their children read at school, many kids would suffer as a result. I’m fairly certain I would have, and I would lack the appreciation for literature I currently hold.

Beloved is probably one of the best works of fiction I have ever read and without its presence on my (high school) senior year reading list, it’s highly unlikely I ever would have picked it up. Those years of secondary education are pivotal for teenagers, and especially important for opening up avenues that would have otherwise remained unexplored.

Without a creative writing class, a great poet may have never surfaced. Without required chemistry classes, someone who could one day cure a disease might not have discovered a passion. And without required reading that may skim the surface of what, I’m sorry to say, is the real world – and yes, that includes “rectal bleeding” and rape scenes as found in The Kite Runner – another amazing writer or English professor may never arise.

Not only do these books depict the world, a reality that may be morally corrupt but is at the very least accurate, but they provide something different than “happily ever after” to students. This kind of literature, this kind of controversy, creates a better student. It makes that teenager think; it causes him or her to wonder and develop, outside of their parents’ jurisdiction, personal morals and ethics. Simply put, it fosters analytical thinking that may otherwise remain dormant.

And when I read that these adults want to keep their children from books … BOOKS … I cannot help but ask myself how much else these students have been shielded from in an attempt to be “protected” from the cruelty of society. Are these the same parents banning together in protest of violent video games, rated R movies and sex on 8 p.m. television? Or are they simply fighting the school district because it’s the only battle they could win?

I’m proud of the Burke County Board of Education for outright telling these parents that books will not be banned in their district; that is how it should be. And, at the same time, it is also admirable that they are willing to not just hear the parents’ concerns, but find a way to address them properly – such as notification of reading materials.

However, I cannot help but find it somewhat bothersome that parents would want to shelter their children in this manner – and unfortunately, I can’t help but wonder if these parents have even read the books they find so deplorable in the first place (my money says they haven’t).

With the number of kids foregoing things like reading/playing outside/sports for video games, shouldn’t parents simply be happy their kids are picking up a book instead? I guess for these parents, that just isn’t enough.

I know that when the day comes – MANY, MANY years from now – I will never, ever tell my children they cannot read a piece of “controversial” literature. Hell, I just might become the most hated mom on the block for insisting my children expose themselves to the worlds of Holden Caulfield, Sethe and Amir. I, for one, think my kids would be the better for doing so, as opposed to morally corrupt.

7 Comments so far
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Sometimes I really am amazed at how backwards people here are.

I remember back in my senior year, I had to get signed permission to check some books out of my high school library. My thought was why would I need permission to read a book? His Dark Materials,Catcher in the Rye, and Lord of the Flies are ones I can still remember.

That incident is why I loved Fahrenheit 451 so much.

I read the Kite Runner my junior year. The school librarian nearly had an aneurysm when I asked if they carried it.

You would think parents would just be happy that their kids are reading.

I’d be right with you for “worst parent” so don’t feel too bad.

– Kendall

Comment by Kendall

Amen. I’ll be the same way whenever I do have kids.

Some of the most controversial books were my favorites in HS. Lord of the Flies, Catcher in the Rye, etc. Beloved wasn’t one of my faves — it kind of freaked me out, but I can appreciate it now.

I’m proud of the school board, too.

Comment by stylishhandwriting

It just drives me nuts when people try to ban books. I agree with you about what a mistake it is to shelter these teenagers. In just a few years they will be out on their own and books are such a good way of getting people to think about other people and foster open minds. Empathy is such an important skill to have and sheltering kids from the “real world” or people who are different from them does nothing for that.

Comment by Megkathleen

The day they ban Superfudge is the day I move to Senegal.

Not sure why i picked Sengal but seemed about right.

Comment by rs27

P. S. You have an award waiting for you on my blog. Come by to pick it up.

Comment by Kendall

I have to say…Catcher is my favorite book of all time. Holden is probably the best character ever invented in literature hands down.

To deprive kids from reading it because he says fuck alot and thought about banging a hooker is insane.

ok, not insane but sad.

Comment by Matt

Kendall: Signed permission for books? Crazy. My mother would’ve laughed at that. P.S. Still haven’t gotten far enough to pass it along, but thank you hun!

Stylish: Lord of the Flies was good, and it’s unfortunate people view it badly. =/

Meg: Well said!

rs27: Senegal, Sengal, same difference.

Matt: Holden is amazing. In high school, I was one of many who wished he was a real individual we could be friends with. Alas, he was not, but Catcher was great simply because of that character.

Comment by amindinmotown

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