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In November of 1973, just days after his birthday, in fact, Kurt Vonnegut wrote what was then a private letter to the Drake, North Dakota, school board. This letter, reproduced in Vonnegut’s masterful collection of nonfiction, Palm Sunday, addressed a particularly disturbing event—the banning and then burning of Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five.

Vonnegut’s letter offers an impassioned and personal plea for the school board of Drake to consider Vonnegut as a person and as a writer, a writer whose messages have always called for human dignity, human decency, and, despite Vonnegut’s own quasi-agnostic/atheistic humanism, human compassion built on the teachings of Jesus. At one point in the letter, Vonnegut admits that in America the board had the right to admonish his book and monitor what children were reading, but he also exercises his right to speak freely about the board’s action—notably the burning of the novel in a furnace—which he labels “un-American.”

And here is where I step into a place I find uncomfortable—as a person, teacher, scholar of Vonnegut’s work (a book on teaching Vonnegut and a critical analysis of Cat’s Cradle), and deep admirer/reader of everything Kurt Vonnegut has penned: I have to respectfully disagree because banning books (and meticulously controlling and assigning which books children read and what children write) is, in fact, the American Way.

I taught high school English for 18 years in rural upstate South Carolina, in the high school of my hometown. My experiences during those years taught me to disagree with Vonnegut on this point.

Adults—administrators, teachers, librarians, and parents—were convinced that children should have their reading selected for them and monitored closely. My department members persisted, as they always had, to assigned three or four novels and plays to each grade level, often linked as well to ability levels within those grade levels—despite the very real and obvious fact that students overwhelmingly did not read assigned books. Students learned to use support materials (such as Cliff’s Notes) or simply to listen in class for what the teacher told the students to know and say about each assigned work.

For Whom the Bell Tolls was handed out and collected weeks later, but few things happened with those Perma-bound copies that could pass for reading.

But two moments remain with me to this day that suggest that most Americans remain unfit for freedom or democracy—a point raised by Henry David Thoreau in “Civil Disobedience”:

"‘That government is best which governs not at all’; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.”

One year, I had parents of a senior in Advanced Placement Literature and Composition request a meeting with me, a meeting attended by the principal as well. These parents were educators themselves, and I had asked their son to move to a more advanced English after meeting him in my homeroom during his tenth grade. I wasn’t sure why the meeting was needed, but once we were settled into the principal’s office, the student’s mother essentially railed at me about the books I assigned and allowed students to read in the advanced classes. She was challenging my use of Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth and wanted me to use instead works by C. S. Lewis.

At its essence, this complaint was a charge that I was indoctrinating my students with Campbell (who work I used to help them understand a Jungian/mythological approach to literature and to examine their own questions instead of simply accepting what anyone tells them), but this parent was not upset about indoctrination, instead of education; it was that she wanted me to use my class to perpetuate the belief system she and her family endorsed.

As well, also related to my senior Advanced Placement course, I had a confrontation with our school librarian who was deeply concerned that I assigned Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, which she felt was sub-par literature. I calmly suggested that she read from the shelves of the library over which she monitored the number of critical works addressing the high quality of Walker’s novel. Despite her reservations—and her repeated comments about leading a move to ban the book from my class (yes, the librarian of the school was considering banning a book from my class)—she left our conversation contemplating simply removing her children from the advanced program.

These, I believe, are not mere anecdotal outliers of a few parents (all of whom were educators as well). The American Way is not about truth and justice, it is not about freedom, free speech, or academic freedom.

The American Way is banning books, masking the world from children, and perpetuating under the guise of “education” mere indoctrination through the universal public school system.

And now we sit in 2011, and Kurt Vonnegut is assailed once again:

Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five and young adult novel Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler have both been banned from a school curriculum and library in a Missouri school following complaints from a local professor about children being exposed to ‘shocking material’.

“Ockler's novel, which tells of a girl's summer romance as she attempts to get over the death of her first love a year earlier, is being removed from the school curriculum and library in Republic, Missouri, along with Kurt Vonnegut's classic novel Slaughterhouse-Five. The ban follows a complaint from Wesley Scroggins, a professor at Missouri State University, who wrote in a column for a local paper last year claiming that Vonnegut's novel ‘contains so much profane language, it would make a sailor blush with shame’.”

Yes, in 2011, a professor leads the banning of Vonnegut’s classic:

“In English, children are also required to read a book called "Slaughterhouse Five." This is a book that contains so much profane language, it would make a sailor blush with shame. The ‘f word’ is plastered on almost every other page. The content ranges from naked men and women in cages together so that others can watch them having sex to God telling people that they better not mess with his loser, bum of a son, named Jesus Christ.”

I suspect no words can contradict these misguided claims better than what Vonnegut wrote in 1973 when his same novel was being tossed in an oven, an act that can be seen only as a horrifying irony:

“If you were to bother to read my books, to behave as educated persons would, you would learn that they are not sexy, and do not argue in favor of wildness of any kind. They beg that people be kinder and more responsible than they often are. It is true that some of the characters speak coarsely. That is because people speak coarsely in real life. Especially soldiers and hardworking men speak coarsely, and even most sheltered children know that. And we all know, too, that those words really don’t damage children much. They didn’t damage us when we were young. It was evil deeds and lying that hurt us.”

And it is with this that I agree with Vonnegut—although I remain, like Thoreau, skeptical that we deserve the freedom we claim to cherish.

No, we are not freedom loving and kind people, we Americans. Writers are rightfully admonished to avoid clichés like the plague, but actions do speak louder than words: Each time we ban a book, pull from the shelves any work in order to cleanse the world a child might encounter, we are admitting that banning books is the American Way.

So it goes. . .

Originally posted to plthomasEdD on Wed Aug 10, 2011 at 08:17 AM PDT.

Also republished by Progressive Friends of the Library Newsletter, Education Alternatives, Community Spotlight, and Readers and Book Lovers.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I am hoping this diary gets wider (7+ / 0-)


    Some may call this cynical, but its we cynics who often have the best view on what actually is reality.

    "I don't want to live on this planet anymore" -Prof. Farnsworth

    by terrypinder on Wed Aug 10, 2011 at 08:38:23 AM PDT

  •  Thouroughly enjoyable (10+ / 0-)

    And depressingly accurate analysis of the ignorance that passes for teaching in way too many schools.

    I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
    but I fear we will remain Democrats.

    by twigg on Wed Aug 10, 2011 at 08:48:02 AM PDT

  •  I look at it this way. (9+ / 0-)

    There are places in the US - mostly in rural areas or other places where religious fervor runs high - in which people are ignorant. Their parents were ignorant, as were their parents before them, and so on. And these people like being ignorant, and choose policies based on ignorance and that further the cause of ignorance to carry over to the next generation. And I have no way of influencing these people, at all. So that's that; there's going to be a segment of our society that chooses to believe in the Bible over reality, and they don't want to read anything even approaching Kurt Vonnegut. And 1,000 years from now, there will still be people like that, and there's nothing we can do about it.

    I'm in the I-fucking-love-this-guy wing of the Democratic Party!

    by doc2 on Wed Aug 10, 2011 at 08:58:23 AM PDT

    •  My lefty parents came at me in the opposite (4+ / 0-)

      direction. I was an avid reader as an adolescent, and before I could finish it, I found my copy of "The Cross and the Switchblade" (a popular Christian book in the '60's) half-burnt in our backyard burning barrel.

      I knew my mom did it. And I confronted her with this act. I feel that I scored major points by pointing out "that's what the Nazis did in Germany, geez".

      I was reading everything from James Bond spy novels to "The Autobiography of Malcolm X". At 13, my world view was set already, and some book I picked up wasn't going to change that.  I made my mother apologize.

      Kids are the same everywhere: Me and my cohorts in the 2nd grade used language that would make the characters on "South Park" blush. Parents live in a dream world.

  •  Unfortunately... (4+ / 0-)

    We have a tendency to be closed to alternative POV's. Having debated others at length on other web sites I find that often opposites were "talking past each other" instead of listening to each other.

    All we can do is keep offering a vision of what can be instead of what isn't. RFK's point of asking "why not" is as valid today as it was in 1968.

    Frankly if you want to stir up a fecal storm assign and teach "Time enough for love" by RAH. Add in multiple alternative relationships and sexuality and you could really see the hypocrisy. As you may recall RAH was a fairly fervent libertarian....

  •  as a once and never educator and once and never (7+ / 0-)

    author, I find you are stating the obvious because I have had similar experiences and could provide an astounding list of authors whom parents or colleagues felt were inappropriate, having landed in hot water for teaching Shakespeare and also for teaching the Bible (as literature) and left teaching altogether over a dispute with parents over the The Name of the Rose.

    My only hope finally came to be that if they did burn the book and did burn the author, they might at least not burn the teacher who introduced the book to the community as well (as a variant on The Devil's Advocate)

    •  I keep a quote from Areopagitica handy (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      catleigh, Oh Mary Oh, Translator

      Where Milton says, "I cannot praise a close and cloistered virtue." I tell 'em, as a Christian, I figure that we grow by learning, and the first thing to learn is that other people are 1) not stupid, 2) not evil. We can think they're wrong, but figuring out why they are makes us stronger.

      We do not flourish, but we persist.

      by The Geogre on Wed Aug 10, 2011 at 05:55:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I disagree (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        alizard, Translator, The Geogre

        that "other people ... are not evil"  There are plenty of evil people out there, and there are plenty of good people out there.  But there are ALWAYS both.

        We have no desire to offend you -- unless you are a twit!

        by ScrewySquirrel on Wed Aug 10, 2011 at 11:04:05 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Let us just hope that there (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          are more of the latter than of the former.

          Warmest regards,


          "...and I get on my knees and pray we don't get fooled again!"

          by Translator on Thu Aug 11, 2011 at 01:31:01 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Vonnegut would disagree, I think (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          The Geogre

          He always said that he didn't write with deliberate literary intent, but it seems to me that a common theme in his books is that people are people (Or was that Depeche Mode?), and that good and evil are not clear or useful labels.

          Hitler, Glenn Beck, and Ghandi all wanted the same thing.  They wanted to help "their" people thrive in relation to another group of people.  We can obviously diagnose mental illnesses, or critique the outcomes of tactics, but to label these people as good or evil is juvenile.  

          The ability to judge the actions and intent of characters (fictional or otherwise) without boiling it down to good or evil is the difference between seventh graders, to whom I teach literature, and people with developed senses of literary analysis.   Books are put into the literary canon because of the ability of their authors to communicate this with their readers.  Reread Breakfast of Champions.  Then watch Transformers II: Revenge of the Fallen.  One of these works of fiction has "good" guys and "evil" guys.  The other - not so much.  

          When you present a seventh grade class with a modern geopolitical problem and allow them to speak their minds, someone will suggest using nuclear weapons.  They try to solve problems by getting rid of the "evil" people.  If you listen to the preaching of the New Apostolic Reformation movement, you will hear that their fear is of a coming age of "a religion of affirmation, toleration, no absolutes."  They fear nuance in the same way immature readers do.  Ask the teabaggers about taxes, guns, Obama, and medicare, and they will be likely to tell you, "Evil. Good. Evil. Good (ironically)."  They will not apply a nuanced approach.  

          I would argue that the main reason conservative Americans often have the hypocritical governance and self-defeating policies endemic in the viewpoint of absolutism is because they were not adequately taught an ability to see gradations around them through literary analysis education.

          •  Self delusion is a human trait... (0+ / 0-)
            Hitler, Glenn Beck, and Ghandi all wanted the same thing.

            Yes, and each saw what they are doing as "Good" -- but actions mean things. Who's actions were actually good?

            There's a HUGE gap between recognizing some people do evil things/are evil, and lack of nuance.

            We have no desire to offend you -- unless you are a twit!

            by ScrewySquirrel on Thu Aug 11, 2011 at 01:01:48 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Whoa! There is a distinction here (0+ / 0-)

            To say that Vonnegut did not write with intent because he said so is a bit credulous. He certainly has themes, and, as you say, one of his themes is a moral skepticism that has (believe it or not) a long tradition. Jonathan Swift wrote that every hero should, upon defeating the monster, hang himself, for he will become a tyrant or monster himself otherwise. The radical moral skeptic view presupposes a core 'right' against which the critique may be launched.

            Additionally, skeptics may not offer normative values, but they sure can disagree with b.s. when it comes along. I like teaching "Harrison Bergeron." A man who fought Hitler writes a story where the 'liberal state' is evil and the hero has a triumph of the will? Hmm. Is it possible, I ask my students, that Harrison Bergeron's Nazi excess is a result of the state excess, that both are wrong and call forth one another, and neither offers human freedom or justice?  (This is for college students. They hate, like, and hate H.B., as the narrative signals for identification shift.)

            We do not flourish, but we persist.

            by The Geogre on Fri Aug 12, 2011 at 06:34:19 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  I have always been happy (12+ / 0-)

    that the school board in my district trusts the teachers' judgement on book selections.  Almost every book our students read is on the banned book list.  The school board has never turned down a book that a teacher has wanted to assign.  We do have certain parental objections to books, but we try to offer an alternate selection.  This is not always easy because it seems that there is more and more "objectionable" material than ever.

    I will be sharing this diary with my colleagues!

  •  In Retrospect, I Had An Interesting ... (5+ / 0-)

    eighth grade English class experience.  My teacher probably  could not have assigned us the reading of Salinger's short stories, so he read them to us in scattered sessions.  That exposure, along with heavy doses of science fiction, probably made me the twisted person I am today.

    "Facts are meaningless. You could use facts to prove anything even remotely true." -- H. Simpson

    by midnight lurker on Wed Aug 10, 2011 at 05:32:13 PM PDT

  •  Not the parents (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    alizard, Translator, Oh Mary Oh

    The school board is bowing to the wishes of an upper class white man rather than the wishes of the community. None of the parents complained about either of these books.

  •  It is the American way, but there are two ways (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hmi, catleigh, alizard, worldlotus, Oh Mary Oh

    You cover Way #1: The in loco parentis book banner.

    This is when a parent or a teacher or an outside moral or intellectual expert acts as parent for the child and decides that the child's soul may not be exposed to a corrupting influence. This can be used for anything from the genuinely awful Last Exit to Brooklyn to the benign Slaughterhouse Five.

    Your concerned parent's fear over Campbell was misguided, although I would have agreed with her. I loathe Campbell. Jung was, as we know, a Christian. He thought those archetypes got there for a reason and not through genetics. Campbell is reductive. That's neither here nor there, though. (And C.S. Lewis is pretty kick-ass as a literary scholar. His scholarship of the 17th c. is a little dull, but it's solid. He did not propose a literary theory, though. An informed Christian seeking a theory should have reached for Northrop Frye.)

    2. The banning by social action
    This is what happens most often, to tell the truth, and it's where folks get most appropriately angry. The people objecting to Slaughterhouse Five don't object to the "profanity," but to the "black people" profanity (motherf*cker). It is a darkening of our white children, you see. Just as Mark Twain sullies white pride, Vonnegut glorifies the Black culture. Now, racists do not appear before libraries in their natural faces. Instead, they speak in code to one another, hint to one another, pass "concerns" to one another, and societies publish newsletters and watchlists and alerts about the moral disintegration of Christian/white/moral/conservative America.

    The group that does this is not, in fact, attempting to protect children. It isn't being parental. It is, instead, trying to form children. It is active in its own vision, and its acts of banning are warfare.

    Some evangelical groups have "professional mothers." These are real women who have actual children who "bear the cross" of moving from school district to school district every year to lodge complaints about the licentious literature, and the children are scripted in their offense. The umbrage is deep, and schools, which like silence best, move to quiet them. In Atlanta, they came for Judy Bloom books, for example.

    So, banning books and burning them is American, and the agitated parental impulse is irritating, but the cultural warriors are a political toxin.

    We do not flourish, but we persist.

    by The Geogre on Wed Aug 10, 2011 at 05:52:16 PM PDT

  •  We ban certain books.... (6+ / 0-)

    1. make us question our religion or beliefs.
    2. make us uncomfortable to think our children might read this.
    3. make us question how others are treated.
    4. books that don't uphold and strengthen local community values.
    5. books that minorities really like.
    6. books that teenagers really like.
    7. books the local minister really hates.

    and most important...

    books that can't be taught with rote learning and memorization.


  •  Until the very end, it was such a lovely diary (0+ / 0-)

    well-written, thoughtful, just the right amount of outrage... and then you went careening into the weeds, broad brush waving wildly. PLEASE, in the future, use the singular personal pronoun, and don't try to drag the rest of "we" Americans along with you.

    I'm surprised you consider yourself "not freedom loving and kind," and that you embrace that sort of ilk among our population. I am not like you. I am pretty darned freedom-loving, I think; and I am fairly often (tho not uniformly) kind. And I have a goodly number of American friends and acquaintances who are freedom-loving, some who are kind, and some who are both. And Vonnegut has remained readily available across America lo these many decades precisely because of freedom-loving Americans (kind or not) who could have chosen to rid the Constitution of its First Amendment, but so far have not.

    Each generation breeds people who are afraid of or otherwise averse to free thinking; who, because their own sense of weakness, limitation, and/or evil frightens them and eludes their control, assume everyone else shares those weaknesses, limitations, and/or evils, and must be controlled.

    IMNSHO it's not the worst thing in the world for them to periodically unzip their mental fly in public by challenging current notions of intellectual freedom. And I consider it very healthy for the fearful and especially the young and impressionable to see such attempts at censorship knocked down.

  •  Actually, I was most interested in this part: (5+ / 0-)
    ...[D]espite the very real and obvious fact that students overwhelmingly did not read assigned books. Students learned to use support materials (such as Cliff’s Notes) or simply to listen in class for what the teacher told the students to know and say about each assigned work.

    For Whom the Bell Tolls was handed out and collected weeks later, but few things happened with those Perma-bound copies that could pass for reading.

    ...seeing as I am only a few years removed from high school myself. I'll freely admit that in my AP English classes throughout high school I let far too many assigned books go unread. Why? I was lazy. I found it difficult to focus on some of the older classics (like, say, Wuthering Heights), and even though I had always considered myself a reader, it was hard to delve into the classics when there were fun, easy-to-read books lying around (like, say, the Harry Potter series). Plus, as a teenager, I had so many more important things to worry about (...right).

    But I certainly wasn't doing anything different than anyone else in my classes. Maybe one or two students actually read the books--the rest of us sort of played along.

    It wasn't until in the middle of college that, on a whim, I started picking up some of the books I had ignored before and really tried to work through them. To my surprise, I enjoyed them, even the more difficult ones. And then I started feeling really guilty. To this day, I regret not reading them the first time around.

    I now worry that there are so many students like me--and who would have predicted that a straight-A student who graduated second in his high school class would have flat-out ignored so many reading assignments? If students to get used to reading books in school, all this talk of censorship is for naught. Actually, it'll probably be even worse when they grow up, have kids, and sit by passively as other parents ban their kids' reading assignments. How are they supposed to know if the books are good or bad? They never read them.

    Perhaps I'm getting in to shaky territory here. But not all the kids I went to high school with were like me. Not all of them took a second chance at what they foolishly ignored in school.

    Shameless plug (for all readers): Check out my new fiction blog at

    by angryreader18 on Wed Aug 10, 2011 at 07:09:43 PM PDT

    •  As a HS teacher I always made sure the whole (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      worldlotus, Oh Mary Oh, ybruti

      book got read out loud during class time, knowing that many would not read it.  :.)

      I am the fellow citizen of every being that thinks; my country is Truth. ~Alphonse de Lamartine, "Marseillaise of Peace," 1841

      by notdarkyet on Wed Aug 10, 2011 at 07:44:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I guess I'm a long way removed (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      alizard, Oh Mary Oh

      from high school, but there was no way that anyone who didn't read the assigned books would be an "A" student in our classes.  Even if you used Cliff Notes, the teacher always threw in questions that required you to analyze and give opinions on details, not just overall themes/summaries.  Maybe I never appreciated what a good job our teacher did--probably helped that we were a small school with small classes...

      "Going to church does not make us Christians any more than stepping into our garage makes us a car." --Rev R. Neville

      by catleigh on Wed Aug 10, 2011 at 09:07:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  As a one time librarian, I never let a book (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lorikeet, Translator, Oh Mary Oh, ArkDem14

    become banned in any library I worked in.  There are ways to successfully fight any challenge.  Parents can control their children's reading, but that doesn't mean they should control everyones.  I am a firm believer in self censorship.  I do believe children, YA and grownups will not read books they are not ready for or willing to.  I was lucky to have parents that never controlled what I read, even though I went way beyond my age level.  I never controlled my children's reading.  My children, me and my parents are all avid readers.

    Part of the process of any banned book challenge is having a process.  Everyone must read the book in its entirety including the parent.  Then people must point out exact parts they find objectionable and why.  It goes on from there.  But just the reading of the book is usually enough to end the process.

    I am the fellow citizen of every being that thinks; my country is Truth. ~Alphonse de Lamartine, "Marseillaise of Peace," 1841

    by notdarkyet on Wed Aug 10, 2011 at 07:40:03 PM PDT

    •  You, of all folks should know better (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Oh Mary Oh

      than to do this:

      There are ways to successfully fight

      Your credibility is just gone.  No one should split an infinitive whilst attempting to make a point.


      "...and I get on my knees and pray we don't get fooled again!"

      by Translator on Thu Aug 11, 2011 at 01:37:01 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That grammar rule (0+ / 0-)

        is on par with ending sentences in a preposition. Utterly pointless and followed by almost no one.

        "If people doled out nutkickings where they are deserved, the world would be a better place." -Marcel Inhoff

        by ArkDem14 on Thu Aug 11, 2011 at 08:01:58 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I break that rule, too. I don't much like rules, (0+ / 0-)

          grammar or otherwise.

          I am the fellow citizen of every being that thinks; my country is Truth. ~Alphonse de Lamartine, "Marseillaise of Peace," 1841

          by notdarkyet on Thu Aug 11, 2011 at 10:57:57 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Grammar (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Read STYLE by Joseph Williams

          The "do not split an infinitive" is one of the most egregious fabricated "rules" of English, based erroneously on Latin (which has a one word infinitive). . .

          Most of the problematic "rules" of English were extrapolated from Latin and logic/math ("don't use double negatives") and not from the inherent evolution of a language. . .

          Note Shakespeare uses double comparatives and double superlatives such as "more better" and "most best". . .and read some Hawthorne who piles dashes on top of commas!

      •  Maybe so, but I like the way it sounds, so (0+ / 0-)

        that's all I care about.

        I am the fellow citizen of every being that thinks; my country is Truth. ~Alphonse de Lamartine, "Marseillaise of Peace," 1841

        by notdarkyet on Thu Aug 11, 2011 at 10:57:05 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Americans love (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    catleigh, prfb, Translator, Oh Mary Oh

    the word "freedom"  but really can't abide living by its definition.

    •  From an old movie I saw once: (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Translator, worldlotus, Oh Mary Oh
      "'s real hard to be free when you are bought and sold in the marketplace. Of course, don't ever tell anybody that they're not free, 'cause then they're gonna get real busy killin' and maimin' to prove to you that they are. Oh, yeah, they're gonna talk to you, and talk to you, and talk to you about individual freedom. But they see a free individual, it's gonna scare 'em. "     Easy Rider (1969)
    •  James Kilpatrick, of all people: (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Translator, Oh Mary Oh

      "Apparently Americans want freedom for themselves but not for the other guy."

      I guess enough people to make the difference will accept curbs on their own freedom if it means they won't have to encounter stuff they don't like.  It's a pity that they'd care so little...

      The '60s were simply an attempt to get the 21st Century started early....Well, what are we waiting for? There's no deadline on a dream!

      by Panurge on Wed Aug 10, 2011 at 09:53:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I can assure you that the librarian (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    catleigh, Oh Mary Oh

    in my neck of the woods would NEVER advocate ANY book be banned.

    I live in one of the most conservatives areas in the country and the libraries here are notably liberal.

    As far as reading by students (having been one for a total of 20 years), only one time did I not read an assigned book (Gone With the Wind, of all things, and I was in high school).  I had just seen the movie and just wasn't into it.

    I took classes in college in Vonnegut and Faulkner (my VERY favorite American author), Hemingway and many other American period authors and other classes in various European categories though I was a science major.  Why?  Because while I adore science, I also adore literature.

    My eyes are not so great anymore to do a lot of reading, though I hope to get some large print books to help out.

    Book banning is the most immediate indication of a small mind.

    866-338-1015 toll-free to Congress in D.C. USE it! You can tell how big a person is by what it takes to discourage them.

    by cany on Wed Aug 10, 2011 at 08:16:53 PM PDT

  •  I just want to check (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Oh Mary Oh

    if I, as a high school literature teacher (which once I was), decide to assign my AP class to read Pride and Prejudice, some Rudyard Kipling, Huck Finn, Road to Wiggin Pier and Atlas Shrugged, will that be OK?

    •  Atlas Shrugged should be banned and burned (0+ / 0-)

      Was that the reply you were looking for?

      Also, it's Wigan Pier.

      •  two novels... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        alizard, Oh Mary Oh

        “Two novels can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other involves orcs.”

        We have no desire to offend you -- unless you are a twit!

        by ScrewySquirrel on Wed Aug 10, 2011 at 11:11:10 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Cute joke (0+ / 0-)

          but neither response deals seriously with the issue. Is it simply the case that we believe all books are equally good for all people at all times? Do we believe that books influence the development of character? Of ideas?

          If not, why read them? If they are influential, aren't we concerned that our kids read books that we think will be good for them, and save the others for when they are fully grown? I don't see how flying the flag of free speech relieves us of the necessity to make certain kinds of choices.

          And, indeed, there's a steady drumbeat for censorship from left and right. We know what the right wants. But the left wants children to be fed books that don't show women in traditional, subservient roles, that does not show blacks or hispanics as maids and gardeners, etc. This, too, is a form of censorship.

          •  Don't confuse two different issues (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Va1kyrie, ArkDem14

            (1) Removing a book from a library (or never allowing it there in the first place)

            is different from

            (2) Who decides and how we decide which books to assign, in regards to developmental readiness, etc

            I am a strong advocate for students choosing their own books BUT no one would suggest allowing a 3rd grader read Joyce's ULYSSES. . .

            Censorship is removing a book from the library or asking that a book be removed from ALL people because one person of agent finds it "offensive". . .The offended party has every right to avoid the work, just not to decide that for others

          •  You misread the "censorship" from the left (0+ / 0-)

            Here are the novels we read as a class in my seventh grade classroom:

            Out of the Dust (subservient and oppressed women/girls)
            Crispin (women so subservient they're invisible and a society so repressive that it's almost as bad on the poor as the U.S. today /hyperbole.)
            Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (Ha!)

            Now look at the spectrum of books you suggested.  Which ones of those have women in non-tradional roles and racial minorities in positions of power?  

      •  Thanks (0+ / 0-)

        for correcting the misspelling—I read, and last spelled it, in college 43 years ago.

  •  My father was in Dresden (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    worldlotus, Oh Mary Oh, ybruti

    along with Kurt Vonnegut and Billy Pilgrim (and Kilgore Trout, if I recall correctly).  He'd normally rather read self-help books than literature, but I had him read Slaughterhouse 5 because of his personal history (He was in a train car, in lieu of a slaughterhouse).

    His comments, "Yes, that is exactly what it was like.  But I didn't like the swearing."  

    What I never understand about the people that want to ban books is why they always go for the good stuff.  They seem to want to get rid of anything that says something really important about the human condition in clear and understandable terms.  Are they afraid of reality?

  •  So so glad I did not take the job at MO State (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Oh Mary Oh, ArkDem14

    Springfield, Missouri is at the heart of right-wing, end-times wackiness.  I believe it's the headquarters of the Assemblies of God (Pentecostals) and it is the first place I saw an intersection that actually had churches on all four corners (at least I think the fourth was a church).  

    So it is not exactly shocking to me that a faculty member there would take this tack.  Saddening, but not shocking.

  •  Nicely put! (0+ / 0-)

    Now, why does anyone really believe that we have freedom here?

    What we have is just the best that can be had, but it is not freedom.

    Warmest regards,


    "...and I get on my knees and pray we don't get fooled again!"

    by Translator on Thu Aug 11, 2011 at 01:27:01 AM PDT

  •  Though Horace Mann might not admit it... (0+ / 0-)

    I think his actions in launch the standardized public school system that continues today in the U.S. would not be inconsistent with your statement...

    The American Way is banning books, masking the world from children, and perpetuating under the guise of “education” mere indoctrination through the universal public school system.

    We are still in the early stages of relearning that power can be used to facilitate rather than direct!

    Cooper Zale Los Angeles

    by leftyparent on Thu Aug 11, 2011 at 08:01:24 AM PDT

  •  Hiroshima (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I got called into the principal's office one morning to explain to an irate parent why we were teaching the classic by John Hersey, and particularly why we were suggesting to the students that the horror it describes should never happen again.

    The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right. -- Judge Learned Hand, May 21, 1944

    by ybruti on Thu Aug 11, 2011 at 08:05:41 AM PDT

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