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January 16, 2012

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"Speaking of honesty," as you say, I see you provide three "Related" links, all three to the American Library Association. How about some balance, some honesty, so people can think for themselves:

"School Superintendents May Remove Explicit Books Immediately; Waterland by Graham Swift Removed from Salem High School, Canton, MI"

http://safelibraries.blogspot.com/2011/12/school-superintendents-may-remove.html

Thank you Dan Kleinman - up until your worthless link, I was incapable of thinking for myself.

I had Mr. Read for two classes (10th grade American Lit and 12th grade Zen and Emerson). He was, and likely still is, an excellent teacher. In fact, despite a rather run-of-the-mill high school experience at PCEP, the English department there was full of passionate, vital, epiphany-inducing teachers who treated the students with maturity and trust. It's probably what made me want to be an English teacher myself.

While these parents are clearly in a state of arrested development, tittering like a nervous adolescent over anything sexual, I will say that I find it to be a little left-wing-fetishistic to sound the 'ban' and 'censorship' alarm when restrictions on content in popular culture, libraries, and especially public school curricula, are routine and usually unspoken. Even beyond the usual 'child porn' exemption, most supporters of the 1st amendment - including Mr. Read and other responsible teachers - have a threshold at which they would rule out using a text before it even got in the hands of some over-caffeinated parent. Whether this threshold is based upon their anticipation of how parents, administration, or their colleagues would perceive a text's usage - or even their own political/ethical pieties - many many texts are DOA when it comes to incorporation into a public school curriculum. In fact, the idea of a state-approved curriculum itself is de facto censorship.

So if the students are permitted to buy their own copies and have a book club, I wouldn't call it censorship or banning. But, if such politically-charged language actually gets a few more 17-year-olds to perk up and read the book, perhaps the words still have a utilitarian purpose.

@Matt Erickson, um, if I read that right, we basically agree on the underlying issue of false cries of censorship. By the way, I still remember the poems my English teacher made me learn.

@Matt Erickson: What makes it a ban isn't that the library doesn't carry the book, per se. It's that the library is forbidden to carry. Another thing that (independently) makes it a ban is that the teacher is not allowed to discuss it in class. Those two things make it very different than a department simply not approving the book for its reading list due to time constraints or the demands of academic rigor.

@Dan Kleinman: Were any of those poems one of Shakespeare's sonnets, by chance?

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