You’ve heard that term before, right? Any time someone says anything contrary to the established beliefs of small vocal radical conservative groups, and they are on the East coast–heck, even if they’re in downtown Chicago–the perception these people give is that any one who disagrees with them are “elitists.” I doubt most understand what the word means, let alone could point one out in a crowd. And ‘elitist’ seems to only apply to so-called liberals. Never libertarians, undecideds, or, eek! conservatives. And it’s used in the context that some how to live on the east coast and think, makes one out of touch with reality, and immoral, whatever that is to whomever is doing the name calling.
The reason I bring this term up? The latest in the banning of books–this time in Missouri, hence, my gratefulness at being from an area where this kind of stupidity and interference of religious views in high school curriculum doesn’t happen, or at least, not that I’ve heard. And, I’m assuming, that means in their eyes, I’m an east coast elitist.
I’m old. Well, relatively old. When I was in high school, little children, Slaughterhouse Five was not just taught, it was required reading, and necessary reading. We were at war, nothing new there, right, and the war was unpopular, nothing new there either, but this war was being fought by the kid sitting next to you–in a year–the draft was on and everyone was vulnerable–well everyone who wasn’t a politician’s son or who had the bucks for a fake doctor’s report, or went to college or Oxford. And Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut explored those themes, not in present day terms, but through a look at the way our country handled a part of WWII in Germany. The book is meant to be offensive, to be hard to take, to be thought-provoking. Isn’t that what life is? And isn’t that what schooling is supposed to do–prepare you for life?
Then why, oh people in the school district of Republic, MO, do you allow one, let me repeat the same old mantra, one, just one man to dictate that this book and another, be removed from the school library? Are your children too tender to read about the destruction war brings? Are they too stupid to be able to understand what the book is about, you don’t want their brains taxed? Or it is something worse, something that shouldn’t be allowed under our constitution, but always is- religion- in particular, this one man’s beliefs, that has dictated Slaughterhouse Five as teaching values contrary to the bible. That’s right, the bible would never expose its readers to the ravages of war, the consequences of hatred.
Oh, and did I mention this man, uh, has no children?
Ok, that’s not really a major point, in a way, because if one has no children one can still want kids to get an education, like I do, but it does tend to make his argument a little weirder.
So. Slaughterhouse and Twenty Boy Summer, by Sarah Ockler (never heard of it, now it’s a must read) were removed from the library’s shelves. But hey, apparently not all of the citizens of Republic agreed with this course of action, so, forget about my earlier depictions of their children. A brouhaha was raised, and the result? Were the books returned to the shelves, yes!
Are the students able to read them at their leisure or study hall or whatever? No. No, you may query, but how can that be–the books are in the school library again, why can’t young Billy grab his library card and borrow the title?
They’re back, yes. Can students themselves check them out? No. NO! A teacher or guardian must do it for them!!
No, the poor students aren’t the problem here. They want to read and learn, just like I did, and supposedly their parents also did. But unless those parents feel that certain books will help their children learn, they are not allowed access to them in their own library.
Is this what NOT being an east coast elitist is like? Hiding, afraid of words, sentences, paragraphs, because one extreme religious fanatic decides certain books are teaching values contrary to his personal religious tome? Are Jewish, Wiccan, Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist and any other non-Christian high schooler supposed to just take this arbitrary religious decision in stride? So, now that the books are locked away, someone who doesn’t even read the bible, has no dictates emanating from it must first ask his PARENT if he can read a perfectly acceptable book before Mr. Self Righteous took offense?
How is this not imposing a specific religion upon a government-run school system?
And even more nauseating, the school board has praised this entire episode with creating a ‘standard’ for choosing books for the school from now on.
“Any books that fail to meet the standards will be removed from the curriculum and will not be assigned as required readings or read aloud by a teacher. They will be available for independent reading. Parents will be allowed to refuse to have their children read certain books.”
That’s right–the book is not allowed to be READ ALOUD. Yes, let’s keep education in the hands of the parents, and them alone. Hey, isn’t there something called home schooling that already does that?
I keep believing that no new story about censorship or banning of certain books can be more outrageous than what came before, and I keep being proved wrong.
So, what do we all learn from this new episode, girls and boys? That 40 years ago the school systems didn’t listen to every Tom, Harry, and dick as to what should or shouldn’t be in the school’s library? That Republic MO isn’t a school district for those who want their children to get an education? Oh, if it were only just one town in one area of the country that is Censorship Land. But this area is spreading–tentacles are reaching far and wide–Oregon- then New Hampshire, which last I looked, is pretty much on the East Coast–and Virginia–definitely East Coastish, I could go on, but why depress myself. The fact is, Censorship Land is a thriving metropolis eager to find new locations in which to conquer. I can only hope that some of the ‘east coast elitism’ will repel this movement from encompassing this part of the country.
Thank you, Mr. Oberparleiter, for assigning and teaching books like Slaughterhouse Five. We who were taught, are better for it.
Thanks to Banned Books Week for the link to this story.