Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Conclusion of Banned Books Week.

I decided to opt out of writing another book entry on this last day of Banned Books to throw out my opinion of the whole situation. This is all a touchy area that is neither black nor white. There is so much gray that I can hardly see.

On one hand... if we are to ban books or censor them then that is taking away our right for free speech and freedom of the press. And yet... not being able to speak up and share our opinion- even if it's to say that you don't want a book at your child's library- would be a crime too.

I think some people feel that they can get books banned from the world entirely. That they can set out make sure no one ever speaks of or reads that book again. That's where I feel they are wrong. That's where I feel you need to take an entirely different course of action.

Let's take The Sleeping Beauty Trilogy as an example. I chose not to go into too much detail about what exactly happens in the book on my blog. That was my choice. It's an adult book about adult concepts. But these adult concepts are also something you need to have a certain taste for and not many people do. If I were a parent and found out this book was on my child's bookshelf in school I would be furious because I simply do not feel it would be appropriate for a school environment. However, can I control what's at the library? No. I shouldn't be worrying about that. Why spend my energy on something like that when I could spend it on something so much more positive?

Can I control what ads are in magazines, what provocative clothing is worn around my (if I had) children, what billboards are up on the road. Can I control what ghastly upsetting negative story is the headline of today's news? No. So why would I, or anyone for that matter, feel that they can control what goes on a bookshelf at a library?

If it is not up to your taste, if it is something you do not agree with, then do not read it. Tell your children not to read it. If they disobey then you obviously have something else to work on and you shouldn't be worrying about a book. So I feel that no one has any right to say 'this book can not be allowed on my local library and/or school libraries shelf.'

Libraries are collections of books catering to any ones tastes and pleasures. Just because you do not like something does not mean that someone else doesn't like it either. In fact, it might be just what they are looking for.

So. That is one way of looking at the censorship's and bannings. Another is when schools decide to include a certain book into their curriculum which parents feel their children should not read. This is one of the bigger gray areas for me.

I went to a High School where I read so many novels that covered every issue in life it's hard for me to believe that there are high schools that do not allow that kind of reading. I went to a bookstore with a friend who went to High School in a different district then me. Not just a different school district but a different state entirely. There was a table of 'summer readings' and I became immensely nostalgic over it. All the books I had read in one grade or another and I could remember my feelings for each one. My friend? She had not read a single one of those books because her school hadn't felt it right to read works that were primarily about African-American history. They didn't support reading of Holocaust studies. They didn't try to get their students to read about the history of other cities. This girl knew more about the ways of the Amish then she knew of our own country all due to what she had been taught in school.

I recall a few times when I was in school that my teachers presented us with permission forms to watch certain movies and read certain books. They didn't want to step on any ones toes and if someone disagreed with what we were about to see or read they were given a separate assignment. But that also meant they didn't partake in the class and were sent elsewhere. Instead of sitting with all of their peers learning about this interesting and raw read or watching a heartbreakingly accurate movie they were elsewhere with some assignment that was less 'controversial'.

I can tell you right now, there was only one time in my memory that we had any students not receive the permission form to partake in one of these assignments. It was the first time we had ever been giving a permission slip and it was so that we could watch Schindler's List in 8th grade. For those of us who did get the permission from our parents we were left crying in our seats by the end of the movie; passing around tissues to each other and suddenly we had a much more clearer idea of the Holocaust. The kids who didn't see the movie heard what it was about, they saw how it affected us, never again did a kid not get permission from their parents to see or read something in school.

I feel schools that intend on placing something on their curriculum that could be controversial should enlist a permission form type of program. Give alternative options for children who are not yet mature enough to read the material given to them (or whatever reason they might not be able to read the books). But don't, please don't, deny other people the chance to read something that could be awe inspiring and life changing simply because of your prejudice towards it. You might have the right to control what goes into your household but you haven't the right to control what others can and cannot have access to.

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