A few weeks ago, I wrote a post that could be described as “thought provoking” and “handsome” by people who describe my posts (me) about censorship and book banning in schools. At the time, I was working on a banned book project. (Which, if tweaked a little bit, could have been an awesome project on band books, but I digress.)
This is a topic that I really do wish continue to explore. It fascinates me, the idea that we are so afraid of some ideas that we have to flat out ban them because… why? Is there ever a good reason to ban a book?
I’m still very much in the camp that banning books is a bad idea, and historically, it has never turned out well. Once you ban a book, you give it more power. Then you also run into that problem that you face with kids (and me) where if you tell them NOT to do something, they’re going to run out and do it. (of course in that case, maybe we SHOULD ban all books…) But someone commented on the age appropriateness of books in the classroom… I’ll give you that, but with a bit of a Shyamalanian twist. I think you have to look at the maturity of students before giving out some books, not necessarily the age. There are some fourth graders more mature than 16 year olds out there. There are some 16 year olds more mature than some television news pundits. It’s all relative, and it’s a difficult balance to try and strike. (Like getting a bear to ride a unicycle: If it’s too big, it’s not funny. If it’s too small, it’s not funny enough.)
That fourth grader may not understand the intricate history involved in the killing your enemies and baking them into a pie to serve to their parents that was Titus Andronicus. (Shakespeare was the original author of Saw. Look it up.) Does this mean that we ban this forever? No. I think it means we wait until they are mature enough to handle the material. (Sixth grade, maybe?) I joke and use an extreme example, but there was a book that we read in my class that did divide some of the students.
It was called Perfect and it featured things like date rape, eating disorders, steroid use, and other problems that we would like to pretend that kids don’t have to face today. I will level with you, it is not a happy book, and it does not have a happy ending. It is not an easy read, and I’m… well, let’s just say well over high school age. Should every high schooler be handed this book and told to read it? No. Do I think with the right students, they could get something out of this book and possibly open a dialogue about these issues? I think it could. Will I ask myself questions in every post? I don’t know… maybe. I know this book divided the class on whether or not it should be taught. In the right setting, it could be a powerful, powerful experience. But we have to give our students the opportunity to figure that out. They may read it and think it’s too much. They may read it, devour it, and seek out more books like it. I could never pull this book so that no student could find it because I was afraid it would offend or because I want to pretend someone isn’t going through this. The “la-la-la-la I can’t hear you” method of going through life rarely works.
This is your food for thought for today. And keep in mind, these are just my opinions, not binding arbitration. This is a difficult subject, and there are no easy answers, and a guy wearing a Green Lantern Ring while he types this probably won’t solve all the difficult nuances behind this subject. (But I am willing to solve the problem of the best Green Lantern: Kyle Rayner. You’re welcome, America.)
I still plan do to do more with banned books, doled out thoughtfully over the course of the next few months because it is a heavy subject, and break it up more. Head to the comments section to weigh in, or email me at email@example.com.