Tuesday, October 10, 2006


So, did you hear the one about the parent who tried to ban the book about book-banning, DURING Banned Book Week?

No, I'm not telling a stupid joke. It really happened, and not fifty miles away from my own school district. The book in question is Fahrenheit 451, written over fifty years ago, and still a part of public school reading lists. (No, I never read it, because it wasn't part of my school's criteria, and I'd never heard of it until this past year. Rest assured, it will be next on my list from the local public library.)

See, this kind of crap just pisses me off. Because one or two people got their feathers ruffled by the first FOUR PAGES of a book (I kid you not), a parent saw fit to try to ban the whole thing from all the kids in school.
I cannot begin to imagine how many things are wrong with this whole scenario, but I'll certainly try:
  1. We live in a country that guarantees free speech (including what is written in books). It seems incredibly stupid to ban a book about what happens when society puts a ban on free speech. Unless you think free speech shouldn't be part of a free society, in which case you should just leave the country.
  2. The parent in this case sited "taking of the Lord's name in vain" and swearing as part of the reason nobody should have to read this book. Excuse me, if you don't want your child exposed to swearing and shouts of "Oh my God," then you should take him/her out of public school, forego private school altogether, and just home school the kid. That's the only way you're going to escape that kind of language. Even the teachers and principals say "Oh God," especially when listening to senseless bull.
  3. The young lady who so objected to this book (after those four pages) was upset about the depicted burning of the Bible. Yeah, honey, no kidding. It's a book about WHY BURNING BOOKS IS A BAD THING, and how warped society becomes without those books. Using the Bible as part of the imagery should serve to prove the author's point, and make you think about why censorship should not be allowed to go too far.
  4. "Downgrading Christians???" I'm not even sure what you mean by that, Mr. Irate Parent. But if you want to ban a book that makes Christians look bad, why not petition to ban The Scarlet Letter by Hawthorne. You could argue it makes Christians look overly judgemental, unforgiving, and hypocritical. I don't know that any of that is true, but I'm sure there are plenty of students who'd LOVE to have that book banned.
  5. While we're on the subject, why is it that required books can bag on any other group EXCEPT non-denominational Christians? My school was always assigning books that basically talked trash about the French, or Catholics, or French Catholics, but you didn't hear anyone complaining (and we had a lot of Catholics). And when we read Chaucer and other English fiction from that era, did the Muslim students complain about the depiction of Moors and try to get it banned? No, they did not. Why weren't the crazy kids rioting about Catcher In The Rye depicting them as unstable? Did any of the black students bitch and moan about Tennessee Williams using the term "darkies" in his play The Glass Menagerie, or Faulkner's use of the N word in his novels? If they did, it certainly didn't do any good, because we had to read them anyway. But paint some white Christians in anything other than a positive light, or even write in such a way that someone might misconstrue the book in such a way, and it's uproar!
  6. The book was "talking about our firemen," was it? Did you READ the book, or even a review of the book? A quick synopsis from amazon.com or Wikipedia explains what the term "fireman" means in the context of this book: a book burner, not a fire fighter. So you need to just put it in reverse, dude. Clearly you don't even know what you're talking about.
  7. One of the societal problems pointed out in this book is how television consumes people and discourages things like literature and (gasp!) ideas. Surely a man so concerned about his daughter's education would want her to understand the dangers of too much TV.
  8. Dollars to doughnuts, the daughter was just trying to get out of an assignment, and hoping she'd get some easy busywork to do instead of having to think about what she was asked to read, and (heaven help her) write a paper. I hope the instructor did assign Hawthorne. Maybe she'll learn something. I'm not saying this girl doesn't have the right to request a different assignment if the book she's reading truly bothers her, and leaves dark feelings on her soul. I'm saying her discomfort should not translate to the complete banning of a book for all her classmates who obviously don't have the problem with it that she has.
  9. What I notice about books that do tend to expose Christians in negative ways is that these books usually don't condem Christianity itself. It's the people who don't seem to know how to follow the teachings of Christ that get mocked. Like I said, I haven't read this book yet, so I don't know what it says that "downgrades" Christians, but I have a feeling it's not what Irate Parent thinks.
  10. If you know what's best for everyone's kids, why aren't you on the school board or an editor for a parenting magazine? What makes YOU, Mr. Irate Parent, the foremost authority on which books are Not Good For Teenagers? Are all of them books you haven't read yet, or just this one? Do you have a degree in American Literature, or Secondary Education, or any type of certification that makes you qualified to tell other people what kind of books they should make their nearly-grown kids read? And please, while we're at it, tell me why "God's name in vain being in there" is "the number one reason" why the book should be banned, and not the suicides, murders, or destruction of property? Destruction of property? Killin'? Well heck, that's not ban-worthy, that's just good entertainment...
  11. The child, Diana Verm, said: "The book had a bunch of very bad language in it. It shouldn't be in there because it's offending people. ... If they can't find a book that uses clean words, they shouldn't have a book at all." I just...don't even know where to start with this girl. Let's take away all the books because I don't like the curse words in this book about what happens when they take away all the books. Do she and her father say the same thing to the local movie theater whenever they play PG-13- and R-rated movies? Or radio stations that play songs with the word "damn" in them? I know. How about if we have all the history books banned because they're offensive to whoever lost the wars described? It won't be hard to learn anything without books, I'm sure. Ban all the Spanish texts, because those are certainly offensive to anti-immigration policy makers. And while we're at it, let's ban the algebra books, because the word problems are offensive to railway superintendants who insist that their trains most certainly travel in opposite directions at much greater speeds than 45 mph, resulting in fewer delays and cheaper fares. Let me tell you something, sweet cheeks: if my algebra books had contained a few dirty words, you can just be sure I'd have been paying WAY more attention in math class. Shouldn't have a book at all, indeed...you really should have read this one, hon. Maybe you'd be able to appreciate the irony of your own statement.

I'm sending a link to the original article to my old sociology professor. The good doctor will be absolutely beside himself with simultaneous disgust (at the audacity of the parent) and glee (at the assignments he can now generate from this event).


Anonymous said...

We have a whole valley full of them here in Utah... We call the place "Provo".

Damn. Oops... (Cowboy being chased and assaulted by book-burning, free-speech-stifling self-righteous screaming ninnies)

You just learn to tune most of these types out; it's like throwing snowballs at an aircraft carrier - it makes them feel good, but doesn't do a damn thing to the boat. They have their 15 seconds of fame and then melt back into the woodwork.

I don't think white Christians are above being put in a bad light, or having fun poked at them... for exactly the reasons you listed.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

A great sense of irony in trying to ban a book about book banning in banned book week!

Kingfisher said...

It is not the best book ever written, but Fahreheit 451 invites independent thought, critical reasoning, exchange of ideas through dialogue and debate, and a smashing of one's preconceptions. It is a work that transcends its simple storytelling style, and is an example of why humans have such large brains: that is, to be used. The fact that it continues to be on a hot seat is a testament (term used on purpose) to the staying power of its message. Required reading for anyone over 10.

As is this post.

Fundamentalists of any type keep us from evolving.