WARNING: Contains mature subject matter
I thought this would be an easier piece to construct. After all, I’m nothing if not a loud speaker, but when the question of banning books in this day and age arose, I found myself speechless. Don’t get me wrong – I have an opinion on it, and it might surprise some of you, but I couldn’t wrap my head around the motivation of Mr. Scroggins. I am a conservative person by default (*gasp* surprised ya, huh?), but even I understand the importance of honestly educating our children about all of the information he was shocked to find being taught to 8th graders…homosexuality, oral sex, etc…
I asked my husband, who is in his forties, when he lost his virginity (I knew it was in high school, but I wasn’t sure when), and he told me it was in 9th grade. 9th grade!!! I wasn’t surprised because it was similar for me too. Not only was it familiar to me, but I recall that in 6th grade there were girls getting pregnant and boys talking about sex to girls. In fact, I lied to all my friends and said I had done “it” years before I actually did just to be left alone. Doesn’t make it right, and by no means am I saying it’s OK, but my point is that the more things change, the more they stay the same. It’s still going on 25-30 years after the time we grew up, the BIG difference is that NOW we have the internet!
Back in the day, an issue like this might have been brought up at a PTA meeting, or school board. Nowadays, the web has given a platform to just about anyone that wants to take the podium. Often times they are well-intentioned, but sometimes, like in this instance, their actions, rather than helping the group they claim to want to protect, are instead hurting writers who simply used their voice to write a book. A book, ladies and gentlemen, that is their story to tell and, like Mr. Scroggins’ post, most likely has the author’s opinions woven into the text.
As a conservative with Christian beliefs, I understand better than some the importance of discernment and not being a stumbling block to others around me, heck just about every bible study I’d ever been party to drills that point into every single lesson. But, I also am not sheltered and live in the real world where bad things happen everyday, and a lot of times our children are the victims of those bad things. When my daughter was in second grade, there was a girl that lived close by that was brutally raped and murdered by a neighbor. It was all over the news…you may remember the case. One sick son of a gun blogger by the name of Kevin Underwood, who lured 10-year-old Jamie Bolin to his abode, only to kill her using a chopping board, thwapping her comedically around the head with it over and over and over with her crying and screaming all the time. After that he was planning to decapitate, rape, cook and eat the body. This story was everywhere. Everyone at my daughter’s elementary school (grades K-6) was discussing the case and it was all over the news and papers. My second grader, MY babygirl wanted to know exactly what rape was and why that man would do that. Believe me, that’s a tough conversation to have with your child.
I won’t begin to go into detail on how soon after that our family dentist, and husband to a dear friend, was discovered to have been a serial killer! Seriously. I wish I made this stuff up, but that is the real world, folks. It is the world our kids are growing up in. Tell me now, are books to blame for these crimes or the rise in others,? Doubtful. Crime and sex are as old as creation and human exsistance. If you want me to get biblical, it is the oldest story in the book, literally. And, if you want me to bring in God, let me tell you that my religion teaches that we have free will, and that God wants us to have free will. Meaning we are free to choose what we believe, what we read, and how we want to live our lives and that we each have consequences for what we choose.
I am not going to use my podium to do anything but share from my heart that these books are not the problem. If you choose to allow your children to read them, that is your choice. I actually applaud Mr. Scroggins on reading the books himself and forming his own opinions on them (I assume that’s what they are, because it would be very wrong to draw conclusions based on a few paragraphs from these books). I read everything my kids do. It is very hard and time consuming, but I think it’s important to know what they are into so that we can discuss it together. But, I believe his view to be very legalistic and he is judging them as black and white. They are more complex than that, and given the subject matter, why is that surprising? The society we live in isn’t black and white, and neither are people. There are various shades of gray between them and that’s what makes it awesome even when it’s awful.
If you don’t want your children knowing about certain things or reading certain books, that is your own personal battle, and good luck! I don’t see how you will be able to protect them from the world, but it is your fight to be had and your right to raise them as you see fit. The same way it is my right to allow my daughter (now in Jr High) to read Speak. You don’t have to agree with the subject matter or writing style, although, based on my previous statements, I find the book to be closer to the truth than not. But banning books today? What’s next? Let’s keep religion out of it and focus on the constitutional FREEDOM that is at stake? Freedom of Speech. Just as Mr. Scroggins has a right to speak his mind and do so loudly, so do these authors… only their voices are on paper.
In my opinion the problems are not with the reading material available to our youth, but the lack of parental involvement in our children’s lives. Pay attention to what your kids are doing and talk to them about things…it’s your duty. Not the school, not the church, and not a book in the library, but every parents duty to be an active participant in their child’s life. I encourage all of you to find out for yourself. Don’t take my word on it. Buy your own copy of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson and form your own conclusions.
“Dort wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man auch am Ende Menschen.” ~Heinrich Heine, Almansor, 1821
“Where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people also.”
I really must congratulate Dr. Scroggins. I have seldom read anything that pushed more of my buttons more effectively than what he saw fit to share with the Internet community on September 18th. I have so many different objections, on so many different levels, that I hardly know where to begin with my planned annihilation of his position. I will try anyway, and hopefully avoid the written version of spluttering.
Book banning is fascist. I’m sorry, but it is. This is not a word that I use lightly. But it seems to be the only one that fits. Well, it’s not the only one. Here’s some more. A medieval reaction born of fear and prejudice, and an inability to tolerate ideas contrary to one’s own. How’s that?
However, despite the fact that Dr. Scroggins’ article is supposedly solely concerned with “filthy books,” he can’t seem to pass up the opportunity to use the first two paragraphs to jab at sexual education. How that is related to books, I’m not quite sure, but since he brought it up, here we go. No matter what your personal stand on premarital sexual activity, I find it ludicrous to suggest that sheltering young people from the facts will be beneficial to them in any way. The ONLY inoculation we can give our children against wrong choices is INFORMATION. Information, information, information. About everything. Even the bad stuff in this world (particularly given the fact that definitions of “the bad stuff” vary so widely), because suppressing something, refusing to engage in discussion about something, does NOT make it go away. What with pregnancy, disease, hatred, and bigotry running rampant out there, this is NOT the time to play ostrich with our children. If you want to protect the younger generation, and what parent doesn’t, then TALK to them about the things that worry/scare/upset you. Don’t hide behind your own hang-ups and insecurities. Explain your point of view. Children are much more intelligent than most grown-ups like to give them credit for, and engaging them on the topics you feel strongly about is the surest way you have of having the slightest chance of influencing their opinion. And the younger the better, before they’ve gotten old enough to realize that their parents are as full of it as anybody else, and quit listening. Do not abdicate your responsibility as a parent by sweeping all uncomfortable topics under the rug and declaring them unfit for your children’s ears.
And I guess that is where the tie between sexual education and book banning comes into play. Banning books is one of the worst forms of intellectual dishonesty and cowardice. It is just another side of the coin of the head-in-the-sand attitude that believes that forbidding discussion of/writing on/reading about controversial, difficult, or even dangerous ideas will eradicate them. Yes, ideas can be dangerous. Sometime ideas are even very dangerous. But they only become dangerous in the absence of intellectual inoculation. Equipping the next generation with the critical thinking skills and information necessary to combat pernicious, viral ideas is the only way to protect them. And how can they learn to think critically about ideas if all controversial ideas and books, and their discussion, are banned from our schools?
Attempting to ban books and ideas is the intellectual equivalent of Prohibition. It doesn’t work, and drives the forbidden underground. When books are being banned, it’s a sure sign of the Thought Police at work. Oh, wait, there have been numerous attempts to ban 1984. How ironic.
Celebrate the sacred right to freedom of speech by refusing to silence speech on difficult topics. Join the debate, but do not silence it! I will leave you with a closing thought:
HOW CAN IDEAS BE MORE DANGEROUS THAN IGNORANCE?
“Where they burn books they will ultimately also burn people” …
As Elvie already mentioned, Heinrich Heine, German journalist, playwright and literary critic wrote the above in his play from 1821 “Almansor”. The sentence referred to the burning of the Quran by the inquisition, and events that followed, but most people remember the saying for its connection to the May 1933 burning of books in Berlin’s “Babelplatz”. Ah, how right Heine was.
These days, we think the days of book burning are behind us. Are we not enlightened? Us with our forward thinking ideas? Who would never think to burn a book simply because we do not believe or agree with what is written between the pages? Oh, wait…
In Jewish tradition, one still kept by the more orthodox sects, on the day a child turns three years old, he is taken to nursery school led by a parade of singing children, and there he is met with a board of Hebrew letters, each letter coated in honey. The child then names each letter in the correct order and as he does so, licks the honey off the letter. This is so that as the child learns to read – he or she will have the sweet taste of honey in their mouths.
These past few days, reading about one man’s efforts to ban a book, the taste in my mouth has gone sour. When someone mentions the words “ban” and “books” I can’t help but imagine piles and piles of burning books. I realize, the two are not the same, but to me it seems that like dominoes, one event leads to the next.
Who has the right to decide what books we “should” read? Who gets to light the match? Is a book what leads us to make good or bad decisions? Yes, books inspire, they educate, or infuriate, but it is the reader who has the power to question or accept what he/she reads, and in the case of youth, it is parents and educators who have the power to teach about what we read.
My parents are great lovers of books, and while they are quite traditional when it comes to religion, when it came to education, they were truly the people of the book. Our library was one big open book. My mother a firm believer in – ‘what they understand, they have a right to read, and what they don’t understand, they will ask about and we can explain’. When I wanted to read a romance, my mother helped me choose one and answered each question that followed as I was introduced to the enjoyable world of “she saw stars as they climbed the peak together yada yada yada”. In fact, it was my mother who explained why the word oral had more than one meaning… 😉 Later, when I wanted to read Mein Kampf (not the usual reading material for a granddaughter of holocaust survivors) my mother was not shocked, she simply said go get it from the library, and sat with me as I tried to read Hitler’s literary work. I never made it past the second chapter (, but it meant a lot to me that she was there at my side.
Should that book not be burned off the face of the earth? No! Nor should any book. Should it be banned? No! It is a book that shows us what mankind was capable of and still is capable of and if we wish for the events its author envisioned and implemented to never happen again, we need to always remember how it started.
Look at some of the books on the banned list, and you will see that behind each banned book is an attempt to hide, withhold and ignore. Be the subject matter religion, politics, race or history, the truth is, ignorance is what lies behind book banning.
In her diary Anne Frank wrote – “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
How right she was, and how sad that her diary is among the books that have, at some point in time been banned. This week, banned book week, I won’t review one of the banned books, I will simply ask you all to look at the list and read one. This week, we should all Speak Loudly! Lets not wait a single moment more.