Letters of Mass Construction

Censorship In America


So some associate professor wanted to get his name in the paper this week and went after Missouri Public School District’s reading list. He proclaimed three books in particular as soft pornography. The porn list was made up of two I have read (Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five and Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak) and one I haven’t read (Sarah Ockler’s Twenty Boy Summer). This comes on the heels of several school districts pulling Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian (an award winning young adult novel).

I hate censorship. I particularly hate censorship when it is based on someone else’s so called moral compass. The silly associate professor wants the books pulled. He thinks parents should be outraged. He, of course, feels that his opinion should matter more than anyone else’s. Which is of course the point of any book banning. A few people deciding what all children get to read.

Their wrong of course. They don’t get to decide what everyone reads, only their children. I encourage parents to be involved in their children’s education. I think it is absolutely their right to decide what they want their children to be exposed to. Most of the time they don’t even bother to read the book that is causing all of the stir. Inevitably, some friend or newspaper report told them the book was bad and they swallowed it hook line and sinker.

I once had a parent tell me his son couldn’t read Harry Potter. I knew that his son really wanted to read them and asked the parent if he had read the books. He said no but he saw a report on the news about people having a book burning because they had witchcraft in them. I said I understood but asked him if maybe he would be willing to read the book with his son and then decide. In this case he agreed and ultimately didn’t have a problem. It hasn’t always gone that way in my classroom.

Which brings me back to the ill informed idiot associate professor. I admit I liked Slaughterhouse Five but it was his calling out of the book Speak which really fired me up. Using the words soft pornography infuriated me because the book is about the rape of a young girl (it was handled as well as I have ever seen rape handled in a book). Rape is not pornography. As someone who was molested as a child I can assure you nothing about it was soft-core pornography.

The book Speak is one girl’s incredible struggle to overcome a devastating act of violence. It is heart wrenching. There is a very good chance you will cry. There is no part of it which will excite or titillate you. I can see where some parents might want their children to wait a few years to read it. I can certainly see where some parents would want to talk about it with their children. I can understand that some parents just don’t want to deal with it. The bottom line is you don’t get to make that decision for all parents.

Stupid associate professor getting his name into the paper will almost certainly start some sort of banning of the book because some parents will see the headlines and that will be enough for them to want the book off the shelf. It’s sad really because honestly I don’t even believe “put my name in the paper” professor read the book or he wouldn’t have called it porn (either that or he is a giant douche bag. Too close to call right now).

If there was one positive thing to come out of this I have a new book to read. I am going to have to put Twenty Boy Summer on my list. I hope it is as good as the other so called porn books he listed. I know books get banned from libraries all the time but it will never get any easier to stomach. Censorship hurts my head almost as bad as migraines do.

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One Response to “Censorship In America”

  1. Merri says:

    >When I was younger, I was allowed to read any books in the children/ya section, but once I had read all of those (we had a small library) my mother was supposed to check them first. But I read way faster than she does, so she gave up and just let me read whatever. I'll admit, I learned a lot of things early on that she probably would have been shocked to know I was reading. And a lot would be considered not even so soft porn. But that guy calling a rape porn makes no sense… I think if I ever had a kid (which im not but in what if land) id let them read whatever they wanted and if they had questions, they could come to me. If theyre not old enough to understand it, itll go right over their heads.

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