Saturday, April 2, 2011

Banned Books -- Seriously?

Here is my second, and overly heated, blog post for the A to Z challange.  I apologize in advace for the tone, but I was peeved when I wrote it.

B is for banned . . . as in books.

I have blogged about this issue before, but yet again it seems to keep popping back up.  My teenage daughter goes to a small parochial school that prides itself on academic excellence.  There classes are structured, the expectations clearly laid out, and the teaching staff is highly credentialed.  My only complaint – they censor what the kids can read.

They kids are required to carry with them a pleasure reading book at all times, a useful tool to keep the them occupied while waiting for other students to finish assignments.  Without fail, I get a phone call at least twice a month questioning my daughter’s reading choices.   Funny, of all the parents in the school, it is me who always gets tagged.  Perhaps if I told them I was a writer . . . that half the books they have pulled out of my daughter’s hands I had beta read before they were sold, they would change their tune.  Then again, probably not.

Yesterday I got a call from the front office requesting I pick up my daughter’s book.  The literary offender – a popular, best-selling YA Shape Shifter novel that has a tiny bit of sex in it.  So I put on a smile, walked into the office, and asked for the book back.  Then I handed it back to my daughter and told her to go back to class.  I then, not so eloquently, told he administration that I . . . I, not they, would determine what was appropriate reading material for my daughter.  

Smart man he was slapped down what appeared to be a print out from the authors website indicating that the content (sex and language included) was geared towards the teenage audience.  Fantastic, because my daughter is fourteen . . . FOURTEEN!  She is a teenager.  He didn’t take to kindly to my comments so I was forced to remind him that To Kill a Mockingbird (a book that I love and think all teenagers should read) was required summer reading this past year.  This same book, incidentally, which has been the source of much controversy and has been banned form several school reading lists.  Hmm . .  ban a multi-million dollar author but give them to "To Kill a Mockingbird."  Good choice!

So where do we stand . . . not sure, but you better believe I am loading my daughter up with “inappropriate” YA Vampire books for school next week!


  1. I can't believe it! I've been fortunate that every book my daughter brings to school isn't monitored in such a way.

  2. Ooh, good B! :-)

    This is simply ridiculous. You're the parent, it should be your call what age appropriate reading for your child should be. Was she reading passages aloud to the entire school at lunch and making kids and teacher uncomfortable? I highly doubt it. So long as she was keeping it to herself, it should totally be the parent's call.

    I think the problem with some of this is that most of us agree that there is no place for 'pornographic' material at a school, unfortunately some folks have a very small view of what is pornographic. I know adults who think teens holding hands is 'naughty'! I'm like, "Oh brother, what do you think they might get up to when no one is watching? Hand holding is probably the best case scenario."

    I'm always saying this (to groans from many), but I think we need a ratings system for YA books. The book you're talking about doesn't sound like anything over PG-13. Your kid is over 13, and if she weren't she could read it with your blessing. No calls from angry administrators needed. I think objective ratings would take a leg away from these yahoos banning books based upon their own sensitive ideologies.

    Anyway, I wouldn't let me kid attend a school that had banned To Kill a Mockingbird.

  3. I hate when books are banned. Just hate it! Haven't we all learned that books are subjective, that they do not fit into cookie-cutter categories that will appease the masses? It is the parents job to teach right from wrong. Good for you!

    BTW - great topic for B.

  4. LOL my only comment here is that I would have given anything to be in that office when this went down!

  5. I think book bans are ridiculous. And what the school did to your daughter is even more ridiculous! A book with a little sexual content isn't "pornographic" at all.

    I remember having to read Ethan Frome and that book is all about the phallus.

    Good job doing what you did.

  6. Good for you! That burns me up too and I'm so happy you spoke up. I would be so ticked if a school administrator/ educator tried to tell me what my son should read too.

    Great A to Z post!

  7. I can't believe that. Banning books still surprises and enrages me.

  8. Good for you! I went to a Catholic school all my life, and they were lenient about books; mostly they just wanted kids to read! There were some books in the library that required a permission note from a parent to read (like Judy Blume books). But that wasn't a big deal.

    Your daughter is lucky to have a mom who encourages her to read!

  9. Ugh...the control that the school has over parenting is obscene sometimes. I have my own struggles with this and my daughter's PUBLIC school. I'm going to sound like an old geezer for a moment, but with the internet and computers and Nintendo DS and television, etc etc I find it inspiring when a child reads a book. Any book. If we choose the books they are allowed to read and take away what they want to read, won't they eventually decide not to read?

    My daughter is 7 and reads at a 5th/6th grade level. I recently had to check myself for harassing her about picking "baby" books. In the end, I think it's best to let the kids decide (within reason, of course) and be glad that they have an interest in reading in the first place.

    Awesome choice for B, btw.

  10. It's pretty amazing the sorts of books that end up on the banned list!

  11. Kudos to you for standing up to the school administrators-if there is a banned book list, it ought to be up to the parents to set it.

    Our schools spend too much taxpayer money and provide too little benefit.

    Maybe if they, I don't know, TAUGHT instead of worry about the Twilight books (or whatever the vampire book of the day is), our youth would leave the school system prepared for something more than video game proficiency.

    OK, end of rant. Good to see some parents still get involved.


  12. I've always hated banned books, and was fortunate to have parents who encouraged me to read a variety of books (my mom bought me a Harlequin subscription when I was 17 or 18).

    I'm glad you stood up to the principal. I think it is important for parents to be the say in their children's choices (not school districts!)

  13. Ah yes, banned books. It is nice that they encourage leisure reading when students have fee time but very unfortunate that they would be so closed off towards certain books. I mean, 14 and told not to read the book? I can understand certain topics for certain ages. I question a MG book for 8 year olds because of the torture in the chapter but I was reading VC Andrews at 14, which had brother/sister and such. Then again, I bet if I get published my books will be banned from schools like this. Not only is there slight intimacy but it's boy/boy. One of these days... maybe send Fahrenheit 451.

  14. I love that you got called to the office to "pick up the book." Seriously?

  15. Go get 'em! Damn, you could have a lot of fun with that.

  16. Your child - your call! Good move on going to school, handing your daughter the book back and sending her back to class. Nicely done. We as parents determine what our own children are capable of understanding and reading. Visiting from the A to Z blog challenge... :)

  17. Go Mom; Good for you! Yeah, I don't understand the guidelines here. Age appropriate..time to back off school guidelines~

  18. I kinda get flip-out enraged at that sort of thing. "Here's a print out of why what you're doing is bad parenting."

    Even after the satisfaction of explaining what's what to someone like that, it still burns my arse that they're sitting there judging...

    My first confrontation with the school was when my daughter was in pre-school, and they sent home a permission slip for her to go on a field trip. The freakin thing was a waiver of ALL accountability should anything happen to my daughter while on this trip OR IN THE FUTURE as a result of any injuries or trauma experienced while on the trip.

    I spoke to a lawyer, and he said to just write in notes, where it said "Any and all physical and mental damage" and add "Due to non-negligent care".

    Obviously if the kid trips and scrapes her knee, such is life, I'm certainly not going to sue over that, but a permission slip that lets the teachers off the hook for losing the kid or causing injuries? I think not.

    Another place you can do that, write in your own terms on a contract is when you're going to the hospital, you can write on the paperwork, no experimental drugs, no residents, not student doctors, etc...

    OK, sorry for hijacking the comments... :P

    Matt Conlon dot com
    Matt's Brew Log

  19. I must take the other side of the aisle if I may. I humbly submit this not intending on usurping your position as parent nor passing judgement.

    You said this was a "small parochial school." If this means it is a private school that charges tuition and has rules and regulations for conduct, et. cetera., then they have every right to establish what their standards are and every student must abide by those standards if they desire to attend.

    Having been a principal once of a small private school I respect your rights 100%. However, attending a small private school is a privilege and not a right, therefore one can not expect a child to attend and at the same time have the parents determine standards.

    You are right of course, at home you certainly are the only one qualified to set standards that you determine are acceptable.

    Hopefully all comments are welcome and please accept this comment in the spirit in which it is given, just conversation.

    Gregg Metcalf
    Colossians 1:28-29

    Gospel-driven Disciples

  20. No worries Gregg, differing opinions are always welcome here!

  21. I am completely with you Trisha. I went to a public school where the Bible was kept out in regular roation but you had to get a permission slip to read the Qua'ran. As a teenager I understood on some level that this wasn't right, but as an adult it bothers me.

    I applaud you for both being a good parent and minding what your child reads, encouraging your child to read, and for improving your daughter's world view by showing her that sometimes people's opinions may differ, and its okay to disagree.

  22. Banned books is source of constant frustration and anger for me. I'm so happy to read that you stood your ground and handed your daughter her book back. How do they expect our kids to function in the real world if they keep trying to censor everything they read? Great post for C.