Monday, May 3, 2010

Farenheit 451. Or something like that.

It's been so long since I hit the "New Post" button that I forgot where it was!

Hey, guess what?

I ask rhetorical questions because I think my blog can talk back to me.

Okay, no, really. Guess what?

First of all, "guess what" isn't really a question so much as a command and probably shouldn't have a question mark after it. But I always see it written that way and don't want to be cut from the lemming herd . Annette, I'm not linking because I'm so tired, but what's your take on "guess what"?

Secondly, that wasn't my real first of all. My real first of all is that I'm going to warn you that I'm blogging on very little sleep.

You couldn't tell, huh?

Anyway, me blogging on very little sleep is similar to (reaches down into bag of overblown analogies) me operating a giant backhoe while under the influence of Oxycontin.

Hm. That's not true. It's just like me operating a backhoe, period, because I've never operated a backhoe. Couldn't even pick one out of a line-up if said line-up included any heavy machinery besides a forklift. I know what forklifts are. I stole one once. (No, I didn't. I only thought about it.) Anyway, me driving a backhoe would be a total train wreck.

Um, no, it wouldn't. It would be a backhoe wreck.

All right. Now that I've warned you, I'm going to announce why I'm blogging today. I'm going to announce it because the mere fact that I found twenty minutes to spew this garbage out is on par with a miracle like the invention of rainbows. That Roy G. Biv was a freaking genius. I really hoped he patented his little invention because I bet the merchandising rights are INSANE.

Anyway, I'm blogging today because I am bugged. I have no right to be bugged. But I am. So tell me what to think. I mean, what you think.

Here's the situation. A father I know prohibits his daughter from reading the assigned novels in her high school English class. So far that I know of, I think that's included Grapes of Wrath and if I wasn't so danged tired, I could think of the other one but I think it was maybe Lord of the Flies. But the titles aren't the point. (Although it's utterly ridiculous to ban The Grapes of Wrath. That book has amazing things to say.)

I am trying to figure out why this bothers me. He's her dad and I'm sure he's got good reasons.

Actually, I don't. But I'm not going to speculate here on my theories about why he does this. Not with so little sleep, because the one tiny grain of common sense I have left is telling me not to.

However, it's a pretty small grain so I am going to throw out my opinion. Mind you, I'm an English teacher and run out to buy and read books as soon as they get banned. So there's a little context for you. But here's my opinion: I will read every single book my kids are assigned if I'm not familiar with them, and then I'm going to use the opportunity to discuss anything that worries me with them in a gospel context. But I'm not going to exempt them from reading the novel so that they have to sit in the library for three weeks while the novel unit is going on and do the lame alternative assignment that the very annoyed teacher is going to give them involving worksheets printed from the Internet. I'd  much rather send them into the classroom armed with gospel insight and a reaffirmation of our values and let iron (the Controversial Book) sharpen steel (my kid). 

What say you?


Anonymous said...


Susan said...

Totally agree. If I had to read Lord of the Flies in high school, my kids should also have to suffer through. HATE THAT BOOK!

On a completely different note--I had to drive a bobcat when I was an egg picker upper at BYU's now demolished chicken coop. They made me drive it on the street! I though I was going to die. Literally. I bumped my way, like an idiot, all the way across University avenue. Cars were honking at me and people laughing. But seriously, I was scared for my life.
It's super funny now, but back then, not so much.

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

Like many of you, I was an avid reader as a teenager. My parents were very conservative, and I still am. But I read whatever I wanted. I remember my mom asking me a few times if I read books w/ smut in them, to which the answer was (truthfully) no. But I did read books about every kind of topic, and many of them were very open about sex and drugs and every controversial subject.

My parents never censored me. I am so grateful for that. I got to choose what I wanted to read, I formed my own opinions about what I liked and didn't like, and just b/c I read about a high schooler having sex didn't mean I was going to. I hope I can have the same openness with my own children.

Charlotte said...

I'm pretty open about when my kids read, and read their books and talk with them about it, but I have to say there are some I would rather wait till they're older to read.

My daughter is in 7th grade and they are learning about the Middle East and wanted to the kids to read a novel centered in that area. They recommended the Kite Runner or a Thousand Splendid Suns. Now I don't mind her reading those when she is older, but 13 seems a bit young to read about rape, graphic violence, pedophilia, etc. So I'm getting her the Cup of Tea book (which was on my to read list).

I also asked her to wait a few years to read the Lovely Bones. I have no problem with her reading Lord of the Flies or Mice and Men or even the Book Thief, I read those sort of books at her age, but there are some themes (usually sexual) I think she needs to be a little older to completely understand.

Happy Mom said...

I agree, except it's not what we did with my one daughter.

The book list for the sophomore english curriculum where we live was full of books based on depravity and immorality. After reading a few, (which we talked about extensively) my daughter just couldn't take it anymore! We talked to her teacher told her our frustrations and asked if there were some books on the curriculum that were not so dark. Her teacher couldn't come up with any. I was astounded! With so much wonderful literature out there! (We actually helped to get Potok's The Chosen added to the list--a small victory). I finally asked the teacher if she would like some suggestions, which she jumped at, so I gave her a list. She let my daughter read some of those and recommended that she have me home school her! (HUGE eye roll!) REALLY! It's smutt city or teach 'em at home!??!!!?

Needless to say, it was a frustrating year for teacher, student, and parent!

Kazzy said...

I think you have a good plan. Reading does not equal "becoming". I don't really know why parents flip out over this. I know someone that paper clipped pages of Harry Potter she didn't allow her kids to read. Like that wouldn't have made it much more enticing.

Kristina P. said...

Blanca is so wise!

I agree. I find this really unfortunate. It makes me so sad when I hear about parent movements to get books banned from high school.

It seems to me that this kind of self censoring just creates a very narrowminded view of the world, and it does her no favors. We aren't talking about Flowers in the Attic, I assume?

Annette Lyon said...

My gut reaction is yours--that this father hasn't read the books and just assumes that because they appear on some banned lists, that there's a good reason for it.

Either that, or he doesn't have enough brain cells to read them and get them.

I love reading and discussing books with my kids, and I plan to keep doing that. There might be a book here or there I'd steer them away from--but I'd need a really good reason for it.

I'm amazed at Happy Mom's experience--that the ENGLISH TEACHER didn't know enough literature to find decent stuff. She didn't know about The Chosen, for crying out loud? Sheesh.

(And yes, Melanie. "Guess what" technically needs a period, not a question mark. Not that you really cared, but I had to answer because I'm crazy like that. :D)

Carolyn V. said...

Okay Melanie, I have a few things to say about this. First, I heard terrible things about Harry Potter when it first came out. I was worried about my kids reading it, so I picked it up at the store and I read it. It was great! What was all the fuss for?

It's great that a parent wants to protect their children - I'm all for that - but they need to be educated in the process to make sure they are not doing a disservice.

NIKOL said...

I'm very surprised that the father in question has his daughter in public school at all. You'd think with such firm opinions, he'd choose to homeschool instead. I think that by attempting to shelter his daughter, what he's really doing is taking away the opportunity to use her own judgement. It's taking away her choices, in a way. That's not going to make her a better, stronger person, nor is it helping prepare her for an independent adulthood. It's a shame.

Andrew & Sarah Clawson said...


After reading the comments- I LOVED reading all the assigned books- including Lord of the Flies. I LOVED reading the many variety of books and no one had to force me to read # pages per day. I probably read the whole book in a day! I remember a friend of mine who was a member, and her family would not let her read A Clockwork Orange. Yes, that is a gruesome book, but I learned so much from it! I loved reading books by Steinbeck and Shakespeare. I am grateful that my teacher encouraged us to open our minds and expose us to different things to have a better perspective of who we are as a reader and where we stand in the world. Yes, there might be inappropriate issues in the books- but that is something that both parent and child can talk about. Thanks for letting me share my two cents!

becca said...

Once I heard Elder Faust say that the only true control is self control. We need to let our kids learn stuff, and then decide how to internalize it. I recently taught those honors kids at my daughter's school, and talked to the teacher about having then read The Book Thief instead of Anne Frank. Parents have already complained (it's been a week, and nothing has even been assigned yet). Come see my post on Rat Poison - thanks for a good prompt.

Karen said...

First of all, that whole exhausted blogging thing works for you. I had to stop giggling so that I could be sufficiently irritated by the main point you were here to talk about.

The very notion of banning books has always bothered me. Okay, so there might be some books that are inappropriate to teach from (and The Grapes of Wrath and Lord of the Flies are most certainly NOT on that list in MY mind...) I think the bigger point is that anyone and everyone should be allowed to read any book they want and decide for themselves (with the careful guidance of goodly parents) what is worthy and what is not.

Erin said...

I wrote a blog post once about parents not allowing their kids to read certain books, but your post is MUCH more entertaining. I definitely feel it is much more important to expose our children to material such as this and talk to them about it, rather than just forbid them to read it.

On a side note, will I be beaten over the head if I admit that I can't stand to read Steinbeck, and that he bores me to tears?

Maureen@IslandRoar said...

Great topic. I'm a writer who now works in a library so let's just say I'm biased. My mother started letting me read whatever I liked when I was 12. yes I went thru some trash, but it didn't take much to get it out of my system. I've pretty much followed that rule with my kids from about that age. They make amazing choices and often recommend books to me. One must be pretty insecure with one's values and opinions to think reading someone else's that they disagree with is going to sway them that easily.

Alyson (New England Living) said...

Couldn't agree more! Nothing good comes from sheltering your child. You just have to arm them with good information and good values.

nano*ink said...

I started reading what Allen 3 was reading in Jr. High. I found some great books that way. I am reading a book of poems right now, thinking of giving it to Jane for her birthday...but one of them was too erotic for me and I think perhaps too erotic for a young teen I will probably pick something else. But if she picked it up for herself, I would just tell her my feelings.

Lara said...

I agree with you. Not allowing our children to read books just makes them want to read it more! I like reading it with them, discussing it with them and learning with them.

My parents neither censored what I read, nor involved themselves in it (neither of them are readers). Consequently i read whatever I could get my hands on. And sometimes it was something I probably shouldn't have read, or wasn't mature enough to read. That is the only reason I say that we should at least be reading along with them. Even though, I think all my reading has made me a better person, not worse.

Sarah M Eden said...

My parents were always very involved in my schooling and what I was reading. They never "banned" any books and were always open to discussing what we were reading. One book I was assigned to read in AP English I got a couple chapters into and was so uncomfortable with the content that I asked the teacher if there was something else I could read and explained my objections. My parents supported me in this decision, but didn't force it one way or another. The book I read instead was certainly not a light read and it had some pretty heavy stuff in it, but I was more comfortable with it than the original assignment.
My teacher didn't have a problem with it because I was very clear about what I objected to, not a blanket "I don't approve of this book because I heard it is inappropriate" and was willing to read something else (which was 3xs as long).

DeNae said...

Hmmm...I'm just curious: If you had written that the school was insisting that kids read a story that had graphic sex or vulgar language, and that you were taking a stand against those kinds of books being promoted in our schools, how many of these commenters would still have said, "Sheltering your kids does no good. You should let them read whatever they want; in fact, read it with them and then have cozy little heart to hearts about the subject matter."

Surely we don't REALLY believe that parents should never run interference for their kids. We don't REALLY believe that it's inappropriate to provide an environment that is in keeping with our values, thereby "forcing" our values on our children.

As always, it's about moderation, education, information, and balance. And while I, too, am uncomfortable with someone seeking to ban a book that I feel is appropriate, I have to admit I'd rather have someone - anyone - still willing to fight that battle once in a while than to try to raise kids in a world where any boundaries at all were considered stifling and irresponsible.

Let the guy have his say, let him live with the consequences, and let him do for his children what every one of us, in our own way, do for ours.

(Having said that, you should probably know I have never kept my kids - ages 14-23 - from reading anything assigned to them by the school.)

peewee said...

yah! Reading Judy Blume's "Forever" did not in ANY WAY screw me up. And well let's put it this way....not a single book I ever read growing up made me go to therapy for 2 yrs. My mom did that all by herself!

DeNae said...

BTW, you may want to know, "BLANCA" is advertising adult videos, chat rooms, and web sites. In Chinese.

The Crash Test Dummy said...

I say you are right on all accounts!!

I WILL PICKET arm in arm with you, girlfriend!

Your verifier says pukerse, which pretty much speaks for itself. Censoring books is pukerse. A mix between nauseating and perverse. Your verifier is as smart as you!

And THANK YOU for bringing up the guess what question. OMGOSH! I never add the ???? because it's not a question. But I always ALMOST add the ??? because it feels like a question. I better scroll down and see what Annette says.

Braden said...

I think that these books are wonderful and important to read. My very conservative parents always encouraged me to read widely and I did.

I also agree that the best thing to do is to discuss this with your children and to be part of the conversation.

I guess I depart a little, though, in being critical of this father. Not knowing what he is thinking and why he is doing it, I'm hesitant to say he's wrong even though I disagree with him.

Now that I have teenagers, I am super conscious of the fact that they can make serious mistakes of a life-changing variety. Poppa Bear is starting to come out and I want to protect them. Dads are assigned the provider/protector role for a reason and there is something primal that kicks in when you perceive your family being threatened in any way--even morally/spiritually.

I'm glad to hear about a father who is that engaged and involved in his children's life.

Kris said...

I used to think that I was against banning books...then I read the Twilight series.

In all seriousness though, Shakespeare is mandatory reading in high school, and all his stuff has the same themes: murder, incest, suicide, childhood sexuality, etc. I don't see anyone getting irate about kids reading Shakespeare. Seems like a double standard to me.

And I would have marched straight to the library to read a banned book, just out of spite.

The Novelist said...

I blogged about this very thing. You can read what I said here:

charrette said...

I agree wholeheartedly. If they were going to be exposed to something completely damaging or pornagraphic I might object. But so far I've just read things that invite healthy discussion. Which is (this is me commenting on too little sleep) healthy.

Thanks for stopping by today.


crissy said...

I would never ban my kids from reading a certain book in school. but I never thought about reading it when they were assigned to, and then discussing anything that worried me (and you know what you said, so I shan't repeat it..)
Anyway, I think that is a great idea, and I'll be putting that one in my mental storage for the future.

Dedee said...

I'm with DeNae.

I'm also hopeful that I will read with my kids, and if they are uncomfortable, then they can talk about it. That's one of the reasons I read as much as I do.