Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hi. Hope it's all okay.
I don't have a whole lot going on. Last night Mandy had Kate and I over for ziti. The food was really good, and it was nice to hang out with Mandy and Kate.
After dinner I messed around on the computer and played my guitar way too loud (given the time of night).
I couldn't sleep, which is kind of frustrating, given how tired I was this morning.

Looks like the Round Rock School District is back to banning books. Of course, I'm not a parent, but when I was in high school at Westwood (also a Round Rock school), I remember a bunch of parents approaching the school board and demanding that they take a handful of books out of the high school library, including Invisible Man by Ralph Waldo Ellison, mostly because the parents thought some of the sexual content in the books was inappropriate (for some reason, these outraged parents never seem to care about excessive or extremely graphic violence- they just get bunged up when it comes to talking about sex). I remember going to a school board meeting where they discussed the removal of the books, and there were a whole bunch of high school students who showed up to speak out against the book banning. In the end, the books were allowed to remain, but that decision was only made after several of the books in question, including Invisible Man, were placed on that year's Advanced Placement reading list for college credit in English literature. That meant that while the parents of Round Rock were trembling in fear for the minds of their impressionable, young children, people around the rest of the country had come to recognize that same material as classic art- fiction which carried profound and meaningful messages about American society and the people living within it. The parents, faced with the fact that banning these books also meant that they would be depriving their children of the chance to study college material and to gain college credit (the AP reading list was set by a national collegiate organization which they had no influence over), withdrew their protest of the books.
The books mentioned in the current situation in Round Rock sound like they might have a little less literary merit, but the whole idea of banning books continues to alarm me. I don't like the idea of one set of parents deciding what is appropriate for all students to read or appreciate. Personally, I still have the same opinion that I did in high school- it's up to parents to instill their values and morals in their kids and to encourage them not to read trash (and kids are, of course, ultimately going to make up their own minds about what kind of materials they're going to seek out). Trying to control what kids are exposed to by way of banning books seems almost quaint in an age when people can surf the internet from their cell phones.
And obviously this book wasn't so obscene that it offended everyone, because both a nine member panel and, later on, another six member panel both reviewed the book and decided it was appropriate to keep the book in the library before the Round Rock Superintendent bowed to pressure and removed it anyway. Good thing the children were protected from reading. Now they can go back to watching South Park, listening to gangster rap, and playing Grand Theft Auto.

8 comments:

The League said...

or watching Gossip Girl, or One Tree Hill, or Paris Hilton's My New BFF, The Hills, The Real Life, or whatever else the kids are into these days who mighta lso check out a book that's got text speak in the title.

Steanso said...

OMG!!! LMAO!!!!!

But seriously, you can't just oppose censorship to "good" art, because then who gets to decide what's good? Did 2 Live Crew teach us nothing?

Queenie said...

Or Milli Vanilli....?

The League said...

2 Live Crew taught me all kinds of stuff I guess I was going to learn sooner or later. In a way, I think I am a better man for it.

Thanks, Luke Skyywalker!

the pope said...

I think the bigger question is:
why are they letting this crap (a book based on high school text messages?!?!?) into the middle school libraries?
I get the "who decides what qualifies as art?" argument.
But shouldn't the RRISD be pushing for a little more quality in their libraries? There is plenty of controversial literature to place on shelves. Personally, I think Tropic Of Cancer and Clockwork Orange should be on every 6th grade reading list.

"You see, me and my homies like to play this game..."

Steanso said...

True dat. The book in question sounds like a piece o' crap, for sure, but, sadly, I think that just getting most kids to read anything these days is probably a major victory.
I can't really remember what I was reading in junior high, but I remember good ol' Bruce Palka pulling a copy of Silence of the Lambs down off his shelf during high school and recommending that I give it a read. I didn't sleep for a week.

The Pope said...

Bruce sure could pick 'em.
At least it was a solid book (as compared to Hannibal...)

Which books did they try to ban when we were there? I Know Why The Caged Bird and Huckleberry Finn??

Steanso said...

Well, the only one I can clearly remember them trying to ban was Invisible Man (mostly because Brittany's mom was one of the people leading the charge to have them stop teaching that book), but I know there were others that they were trying to get pulled from the school library.

And I still think Silence of the Lambs is a scary ass book. I read a whole lot of Stephen King in junior high, but none of that stuff came close...