Monday, September 28, 2009

Banned Books Week, 2009

It's that time of year again -- the American Library Association holds its annual "Banned Books Week" to draw attention to the issue of censorship by the most dangerous special interest group of all: Narrow minded and bigoted parents. The ALA says last year of 2008 wasn't actually that bad, only 513 "challenges" were registered, one of the lowest in years -- but the issue is still very much there.

This isn't child pornography we're talking about. We don't prohibit people from reading Mein Kampf or The Anarchist's Cookbook -- so what is it the big hangup with so many books out there? Don't we want to instill in children the ability to think?

Here's the "Top Ten List" for last year of 2008 -- and you won't believe the reasons listed. Actually, these are the kinds of books I think children should be reading.

10. Flashcards of My Life, by Charise Mericle Harper

Reasons: sexually explicit and unsuited to age group

9. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini

Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group

8. Uncle Bobby's Wedding, by Sarah S. Brannen

Reasons: homosexuality and unsuited to age group

7. Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily von Ziegesar

Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group

6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

Reasons: drugs, hmosexuality, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, suicide, and unsuited to age group

5. Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya

Reasons: occult/satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, and violence

4. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz

Reasons: occult/satanism, religious viewpoint, and violence

3. TTYL; TTFN; L8R, G8R (series), by Lauren Myracle

Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group

2. His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman

Reasons: political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, and violence

And the most challenged library book of 2008 is:

1. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell

Reasons: anti-ethnic, anti-family, homosexuality, religious viewpoint, and unsuited to age group

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Anonymous said...

let your OWN kids read about homosexuality, sexually explicit material, violence, satanism, suicide, and drug use.

some of us would like to raise our kids properly.

BlastFurnace said...

Two points:

1. Parents should of course be mindful of what their children are reading, but they should read the material themselves first and not rely on the so-called "opinions" of others.

2. Parents should not impose their views of censorship on those parents who might WANT their children to read the books.

Anonymous said...

Have to agree with your rebuttle. My mature-for-their-age kids have been reading well beyond their classmates since the third grade. When we go to the library, I help my kids choose what they read, not the parents of the kids who tell my kids on a weekly basis that they're going to hell because they're atheists..... Literature is the best way to introduce kids to the complex issues that are found in society.

rabbit said...

Sorry, but parents trying to have a say in what their children read - even if approached ham-handedly - is not the most dangerous type of censorship. Indeed I have sympathy for a parent's right to do so.

The most dangerous type of censorship is when government institutions control adults. State-run universities are a fine example - far too many have speech codes and other limitations on behaviour that approach political indoctrination.

abbee lee said...

Wow, this is not good...

BlastFurnace said...

No, it's not good.

I also note while they didn't make the Top Ten list, many US states, especially in the South, still ban the writings of Marx and Engels, including the Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital .

As Eisenhower pointed out more than fifty years ago, it is important to fight against the ideology they and other books represent but it's also important to know what you're against. I support parental choice -- but that's the key word, choice. Some parents may want to let their children (or themselves) read the books so they should have that choice.

Knowledge is power. Ignorance is not bliss, it's a danger to democracy. As the Czech playwright and later President Vaclav Havel wrote, "Western civilization is far more threatened by itself than by SS-20 rockets."