Sunday, March 02, 2008

Book-Banning Controversy

This morning I was alerted to a movement by a group of University of St. Thomas parents who are trying to remove Margaret Atwood's book The Handmaid's Tale from the required reading list for freshman literature. The reasons they list on their website basically boil down to there is some (a lot of?) graphic language and imagery in the book that they believe will make some 18 or 19 year olds uncomfortable when reading.

This bothers me on so many levels. First and foremost, I am upset that this is still happening today - that a small group of people try to control what others read, that they try to insist their opinions are more valid than the teachers who assign the book. Wasn't there an episode of The Brady Bunch in the 1960s that dealt with book burning? Didn't Mike & Carol Brady teach their children - and the entire neighborhood - that burning a book is never the solution? Obviously these parents didn't watch The Brady Bunch - or at least they missed that episode. It just makes me sad that this is happening now, in 2008. Probably I am naive.

Secondly, I have read the book in question ... I probably read it the first time when I was in high school - what would these parents say about that?! And I remember the book for its themes and commentary and the futuristic genre. I do NOT recall how many times the "f" word was used (which seems to be one of the main complaints of this group.) I do not remember, much less dwell on, the scenes of violence other than to remember the grimness of society in general in the book. Which, afterall, was the whole point of the book.

I believe the parents underestimate their children's ability to read and discuss the book, and I believe they insult the integrity of the literature professors who selected the book and prepared the discussion activities.

So, as this parent group website urged me to do, I wrote to the faculty of the University of St. Thomas. Unfortunately for the parent group, I don't think my email (to the addresses they so thoughtfully provided) was what they were looking for.

1 comment:

Calandria said...

What surprised me about this is that these "children" are in college! I have no problem with the students themselves deciding that they don't want to be exposed to a certain book for whatever reason. I completely respect that. If that were the case, those students could then talk with the professors privately about their concerns and work them out like ADULTS do.

A friend of mine went to her principal about a required summer reading selection for her 7th grade son. She asked if he could read something different because the book had extreme f-word use, like 13 times in the first chapter or something. The principal said no, the book was required reading and her son would have to read it or be held accountable. When she questioned a book like that being required reading for 7th graders, his response was, "That's how they all talk. If we want to appeal to the kids we have to get down to their level." Huh?

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