Monday, February 11, 2013

Let's Ban Books. You know. For the kids.

As anyone might be able to guess, I’m pretty much against censorship. I don’t know that I can make it much clearer than any of my previous posts. I don’t know that I hate much more than censorship, except for possibly the fairweather fans of Dropkick Murphys that pretend that they only rock on St. Patrick’s Day and not all year long. If you’re not blasting “Going Out In Style” every Friday Night, then you’re not living.

So, when I find out that a Fairfax woman named Laura Murphy is attempting to ban Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel Beloved from the school that I used to attend, Lake Braddock Secondary, yeah, I get annoyed. When I find out it was because her son was having nightmares, I get sympathetic and a little less annoyed. When I find out that her son was a senior in advanced placement classes, well, then the annoyance comes back and gets replaces with slight rage, along with possibly a little bit of a headache. However, the headache is from beating my head against the desk as I try to think about what I’d do if my mommy went to the school board to ban a book that was giving me nightmares. (I’d be beating my head agains the desk, probably.)

So let’s ban the books. You know. For the kids.

Now, skipping for a moment many of the quotes in the Washington Post article I read regarding Ms. Murphy and her sincere belief that she is attempting to protect her child who’s now presumably getting nightmares at the college level, I want to discuss the fact that her child was 17/18 at the time he was reading this novel. Per the article, he was reading it before bed, and it was giving him nightmares. Of course, this is why I do not watch The Walking Dead before bedtime, nor did I read the book based on the comic book series. Of course, The Walking Dead isn’t Beloved, a classic novel who’s worst crime is telling us about a time in American history when maybe we didn’t treat people as nicely as we do now. But the kid was reading at a college level. For those of you who aren’t familiar with college level classes should probably go find a college professor, and tell him that you don’t want to read a challenging book, then wait the twenty minutes it will take him to stop laughing. 

I was very fortunate in my teacher training, I had a Professor for two semesters, Zenkov. He, like me, was very much against censorship. He was against injustice. I’d like anyone to sort of talk to him about censorship for a few minutes and not get fired up. We’d do these projects where we’d think about the impact of censorship in society, but one of the things I felt we never really talked about was who is banning the books. Not for lack of consideration. But here we have a living, breathing example of someone who is making an attempt to ban a book for what I’m sure she things is a good reason. If we ignore that her son is no longer a student at the school

Look, I’m not going to sit here and pretend Beloved is a happy go lucky book that will lift up your human spirit, or that the fact that it won a Pulitzer suddenly means that it has a magic forcefield that defends it from attack. (However, the prize itself does have that forcefield, but it only extends around the author and two of their friends.) It’s a difficult book, and it can suck to read. But how about we give kids a chance to read the book. Blah, blah, blah, blah, same point I will always make. I want to go back to being outraged about the mother and son combo, since I made the obligatory attempt to be polite.

Ms. Murphy’s kid is no longer in school. When he was, he was taking an advanced class that chose to read a book that was going to be difficult. Rather than doing the “rational thing” and discussing what issues of the book may be causing nightmares, Ms. Murphy defaults to the scorched earth policy of not allowing anyone to read it again, ever, or least not in school. And she can pretend that it’s “for the kids” but her son is no longer in school. Have I said that enough? That’s on purpose. There’s a point for everyone where you have to stop going to a high school. That’s true for parents. Your kid is no longer in school? Then maybe you don’t ask to ban a book that disturbed him. 

1 comment:

  1. Having evaluated students applying to college on their high school college level work, this story makes me so angry. I get riled up about banned books anyway but it makes me even more angry since her son opted (or was made to by mom) to take an AP course that will include more advanced and difficult reading material. That's what AP is about (and IB as well). What did you expect at this level? As you point out, this should have been a teaching moment/discussion in this family about history, literature and how we treat one another. But it wasn't.

    "For the kids" is a bs argument that allows people to hide behind something that sounds positive when all it really means is that we don't want them to experience things we don't like or don't want to talk about something. Or are uncomfortable with a certain subject. Or maybe we don't want our children to fail since they're never going to fail in the real world. It's easier to ban something than to admit that you have to face difficult subjects, books or people in your life. And by the way, you can have a trophy too. Because you participated.

    Brain hurts. Must stop being angry. Look there's a kitten...