Ah Fall. Time for school, changing leaves and banning books.

Apparently the burgeoning school year often ushers in more than trips to the mall for new shoes and school supplies. It would seem it’s prime time for banning books. Read the latest installment here.

My initial reaction when I hear about anyone banning books is to be outraged.  But wait. What if there are some books I wouldn’t want my kids to read? The books aren’t being banned in general–just in school. The top reasons given for excluding books from school curriculums are “sexually explicit content, offensive language and violence.” Hmmm. Those sound like good reasons. Of course, how people define those things varies widely.

I’m torn. For example, I see no reason to fail to expose kids to Huckleberry Finn because it includes a derogatory term for black people. Within the context and taught to appropriately I suspect it could be very beneficial in today’s classroom. Especially among teens who have learned to use that word casually. On the other hand, I’d be delighted if Allen Ginsberg’s work never saw the light of day with it’s use of words and language that are pretty generally thought of as offensive. (It’s my entirely subjective opinion that his success is due to his being among the first writers to use those words. Novelty, not art.) But then again, Walt Whitman–America’s poet–got pretty raunchy, too.

So where do we draw the line? I very much enjoy Kurt Vonnegut’s work. Slaughterhouse Five, which is among the books banned for Fall 2011, includes at least one of the words I take issue with in Ginsberg’s work. Is it the context? The delivery? Should banning be based on the age or scholarship of the kids ? Should children have to get a permission slip from their parents to read certain books?

Q4U – What do you think? When would you agree to ban a book from the public school system?

 

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