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The Republic school system in Missouri has decided to ban Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five and Sarah Ockler’s Twenty Boy Summer. Look, schools have a right to decide what books they use and don’t use, but schools also have the responsibility to recognize that they hold cultural and social power within their districts. If your child goes to schools that only have books that support one religion, one culture, or one of any type of thinking, that is the thinking that they will have. For a lot of people, that seems to be enough:

Wesley Scroggins, a Republic resident, challenged the use of the books and lesson plans in Republic schools, arguing they teach principles contrary to the Bible.

“I congratulate them for doing what’s right and removing the two books,” said Scroggins, who didn’t attend the board meeting. “It’s unfortunate they chose to keep the other book.”

I’m sure many people have spotted my issue with this quote. They teach principles contrary to the Bible. I’m sure that’s not much of a problem at their school (strictly speaking, their demographic is probably 90% Christian), but what about that one kid who says in third grade that Jesus isn’t his family’s savior? I don’t see a welcoming, inclusive, and educational environment for any kid who may attend their school in the future.

Why not just have a Restricted Section (a la Harry Potter’s library) where books that have been questioned can stay? Older grades can access them, or students must have a permission slip to check them out. The Missouri school district says that students can read the banned books as part of an independent study with permission from their parents, but they have to get the books themselves. The school will not supply it. Even though they have the book? Both of the banned books have been purchased by the school, but the students are no longer allowed to access those resources. I can’t even…I don’t know how to express my befuddlement.

What do you think? Is allowing the books in Independent Study (with parental permission) enough? Do public schools have a responsibility to provide every resource they can? And can they cite the Bible as a reason against a particular book?


“It is a dereliction of duty not to make distinctions in every other aspect of a young person’s life between more and less desirable options. Yet let a gatekeeper object to a book and the industry pulls up its petticoats and shrieks ‘censorship!'” -Meghan Cox Gurdon in the WSJ

“As the parent of three avid readers, I agree with Meghan Cox Gurdon’s point that what is considered “banning” in the book trade is known in the parenting world as doing our job.” – Ru Freeman in the Huffington Post

Let’s talk about book banning.

It’s been a big topic the last couple weeks, what with the above two writers and others coming out to talk about the prevalence of difficult issues in YA Literature.

I get what these two mothers are saying. To a certain extent, parents can know what age group a book is aimed at by looking at it, but there is a huge difference between a twelve-year-old and a seventeen-year-old. I understand that it is hard to look at a book in the YA section and know the difference.  So I want to make one thing clear: I am not against guidance when it comes to reading. Hello? 13/16 Test anyone?

The problem is that adults haven’t just been guiding their own children, they have been using their power and influence to make books inaccessible to large groups of people. That is what banning is. They don’t just want a rating system or an alternate book choice, they want the book gone from the community, whether it be a library, a school, or even a bookstore. When you say that my kid can’t read a certain book because you don’t agree with it, then yes, we are talking about censorship.

So please don’t make fun of me and my petticoats, when you are the one trying to censor kids who most definitively are not yours to guide.

When teachers wanted to use Looking for Alaska in their classroom, they sent home a letter seeking approval from each parent, along with an alternate book choice. But that wasn’t enough. Parents sought to have the book banned from educational use at that high school, even though they had not read it, and their kids were in no way being forced to read it.

Have you read Lord of the Flies and A Clockwork Orange? No permission slips needed for those, because they’re classics, even though crazy stuff goes down in both of those books.

But Ru Freeman argues that teens shouldn’t read books that tackle difficult issues at all. Not that they shouldn’t read them before they’re ready, not that they shouldn’t read books without a parent’s guidance, but at all. And then she goes on to say that she sought out the fairy tales of “Joyce, Blyton, Donne, Harper Lee and Shakespeare.”

Harper Lee wrote a fairy tale? To Kill a Mockingbird may possibly be the most beautiful book ever written, but there is no denying it is filled with discrimination, hate, and violence. And it is from those that it ultimately draws its beauty.

I think what book banning parents are getting at is that as long as it doesn’t hit too close to home (ie: as long as it happened during the Depression or to two teenagers 500 years ago) then it’s ok. Their kid won’t be affected, right? But if it’s something that they could actually connect with, something that these teenagers could read and for once feel like someone out there understands what it is to be a teenager today, and believes that they are human enough to be able to handle these things, well then, that book has got to go.

Fine. If you want to limit your own kid, that’s fine. But don’t you dare try and take away these powerful and challenging books away from me and my community.

If you do, you can bet that we will pull up our petticoats and shriek “censorship!” as loud as we possibly can.

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