Posted by: Trisha Leigh | September 20, 2010

Apologies to Teddy R., but Today Let’s Speak Loudly

I had planned a post on book banning for a few weeks from now, but after the news surrounding the potential banning of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (by a yahoo in my very own state), I decided the time is now.

The time to speak up, speak loudly, and drown out the voices that think it’s their right to silence others is today.

Let me start off by stating I’m not a parent.  I don’t think this disqualifies me from writing or speaking about literature for young adults.

As someone on the outside looking in, here’s my take. The only reason to lead a charge to ban books from school libraries is a lack of interest in parenting your children.

Some great books have become the subject of controversy over the past several years. One of the most high-profile is the Harry Potter series, singled out by Christian conservatives as promoting witchcraft.

Witchcraft. First of all, what happened to encouraging children to use their imaginations, to enjoy reading? Second, what happened to teaching children the difference between reality and make-believe? You can’t make sure your children are never exposed to the concept of spells and witches, no matter how many books you hide from them. You can, with one or two simple conversations, ensure they know it’s not real.

Don’t want your high schooler to read about sex, drugs, rape, drinking, parties, or any other number of behaviors parents would rather their kids not participate in? Fine. I think its ridiculous, considering they most likely are already curious and/or knowledgeable about these subjects – far more so than you realize.

What’s not your business? What other people’s children read.

That’s right. As a parent it’s your right to keep books addressing certain topics from your children. It’s your decision to pretend all the hard choices, real atrocities, and filth in this world don’t exist. It’s up to you if you think the best way to parent is to avoid the hard conversations that might impact your children when they are faced with these situations in real life.

It is not up to you what all children read. You have no idea what your children’s classmates are going through; whether they’ve been abused at home, raped at a party, or are struggling with addiction. They might need those words to find their voices and the courage to speak out. Likewise, emotionally healthy teens deserve to know what the real world is like in case they get a wild hair and (gasp) try to change it one day. Or, God forbid, they are one day confronted with a situation that threatens to destroy them.

Books are sometimes an escape into a fun, fantastic place. Other times they act as an anchor to reality for readers who desperately need to feel they aren’t alone in their experiences. If I ever do have children, I hope I’ll be the sort of parent who reads the books my children read, then discusses the hard topics with them. I pray we’ll trust one another, that I’ll have raised them with good values so that when they discover a book in the library and read it without me, they’ll be able to handle whatever subject matter it contains.

There’s that old adage that hiding information is the same as outright lying. I don’t want to lie to my kids or anyone else’s about the state of the big, bad world. I want to equip them to deal with it.

I’ve linked to some other fantastic posts regarding Speak, including the authors. Do what your heart says is right for you – but don’t for one second think it’s your job to tell other people what’s right for them.

http://writingfinally.blogspot.com/2010/09/speak-loudly-in-defense-of-laurie-halse.html

http://madwomanintheforest.com/this-guy-thinks-speak-is-pornography/

http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/2010/09/i-believe-this-with-all-my-heart.html

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Responses

  1. *cheers*

    OOO, I am furious over this debate. Banning books? What century is this??

    Well said. For the record, I agree – just because you’re not a parent does NOT mean you aren’t qualified to weigh in on this debate. It’s a personal decision…. no one better DARE tell me what I am allowed to read. If you find a book offensive, I’m sorry for you, but you don’t have the right to pull it off library shelves because of it.

    I AM a parent. When my boys were little, Power Rangers was forbidden programming in my house. It was too violent. They kept practicing on each other and there was too much blood and tears so I turned it off.

    I never wrote to the TV studios suggesting it be abolished.

    Dan Brown’s DaVinci Code was released. The Catholic Church called it heresy.

    That’s why I bought it. (I am Catholic, BTW.)

    I love this country dearly but it really burns me that so many Americans do not understand the concept of freedom so many have died to give us.

    • Yes. Freedom of speech is a double edged sword, I suppose. It’s nice to have but painful when it forces you to listen to people who want to use it but not respect it. Sigh. What would Thomas Jefferson think?!?

  2. Amen! I AM a parent, and I couldn’t have said it better myself. It is extremely annoying when somebody else tries to make parenting decisions for me.

    • I’m glad my thoughts aren’t totally in left field. My mother delights in saying “I can’t wait until YOU have kids” when I criticize other people’s parenting. Maybe that’s why I don’t have kids. 🙂

  3. Good stuff. The conservative movements in America seem to be more focused on making sure no one has the opportunity to think or choose for themselves. It does well to keep the movement going when people buy into the idea that they have no need for critical thinking. It just blows my mind that in 2010 this is still a consistent and growing way of life.

    • The power/infection of the mob mentality really does blow my mind sometimes. Thinking for ourselves is a great gift, and not nearly enough people use it.

  4. You aren’t a parent, but you are a taxpayer, and these are the public schools. Someday the kid from one of these limited school systems–who didn’t read widely, who thinks that rape is titillating or women ask for it–will be your doctor/lawyer/gas station attendant. As my brother the former teacher says, “Count your change.”

    • Heh, I like that. Cynical, but warranted. My mother taught behavior disordered elementary school kids for 30 years. She always said, “Sometimes I’d wonder what in the world was wrong with a kid. Then I’d meet his parents. Mystery solved.”


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