This article is all about a school district wanting to ban books that are, in their view, controversial. This particular book by the great Maya Angelou details a rape scene and the school board finds it unsuitable for their students. It doesn’t mention whether this is on the high school list or in the high school library or not. This censorship is nothing new to me. For years the books that my kids have been bringing home from school have been censored, albeit on a different scale. A Berenstein Bear book, that has one of the bears on the beach in a bathing suit, has had one of the teachers or staff, take a coloured marker and draw a shirt and skirt on her. Words in these books such as Christmas and Halloween have been blacked out to make them not exist.
I wish my kids would be able to read Maya Angelou’s books in school, I wish they didn’t have to be ashamed to say they read all the Harry Potter books – like a lot of kids in their school. But Harry Potter is about magic, and that’s just not PC in a religious school. My kids have read Twilight – they are not going out and biting people. My oldest reads Ludlum and Clancy – he isn’t out spying on people and blowing them up. He understands that it is just fiction. These books encourage my kids to ask me so many varied questions and have led to some awesome discussions. But don’t tell the school, ok?
How does censoring what they read make them better people? It doesn’t. Reading all different kinds of books as I was growing up helped round out my education. Helped me understand so much about the world that I live in. If I read about a love scene – it didn’t make me want to go out there and re-enact it. If I read about treife food, it didn’t make me want to eat it. It just added to my education.
Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is banned in many religious schools – and it shouldn’t be. Star crossed lovers who have to die to be together. It could be used as a metaphor for so many situations. We could learn that life doesn’t have to be like this in our day and age. In our high school I would have loved to have studied it – every girl loves a good love story, no matter how badly it ends. I am sure we would have all done so much better on our English Lit exams. Instead we learned Coriolanus, of which I remember nothing.
At the meeting referenced in the above article, the “offensive” paragraph was read out. How can you just excerpt one scene from a book that has a much broader scope, a book that is an autobiography of an icon? A book in which, according to Wikipedia , rape is used as a metaphor for the suffering of her race. How can we not use this to teach our kids lessons about history? But their question is do we want our children knowing and reading about rape? It’s not a simple answer. After recent events (the gang rape of a high schooler) I would say that kids need to understand what it is and that it is wrong. How are they going to learn that if no one tells them, if they aren’t exposed to the messages that are sent through literature? Teachers don’t talk about it in class, and parents aren’t listened to. Books are a tremendous way of getting a message across.
We should be encouraging our youngsters to read. Today the young folk are plugged into every device available, they know they latest video games and music, and the idea of opening a book and sitting down to read is anathema to some.
Banning and censorship like this go a long way to turning people away from great works of literature.
Please share your thoughts with me.