Wow; that's a lead-in that grabs the eye. My friend Luke used it to open the post he wrote yesterday on his blog. It was a good hook that pulled me in quickly.
After he explained the situation more fully, it didn't appear as dire to me as I first guessed and, in fact, whether you agree with the reasons why the Turkish government took such Draconian measures, those reasons are interesting. I'll quote from Luke's blog:
"Apparently the Turkish Government has deemed pre-loved books unsanitary, after some kind of uproar from parents of school children, and as such they have pulled all used books from their Free Class Books Project, which as far as I can determine is an initiative that has been running for the last six years and was designed to make textbooks more affordable for Turkish families."
Unsanitary books? I’ve never heard of a public health reason for banning used books but if we realize the ban only concerns school books and kids are well known germ factories… well, I can envision that there might be a powerful virus making the rounds in the schools; maybe some flesh-eating bacteria is eating little fingers off the hands of 5th graders. Damn.
I think it’s noteworthy that the ban is a response to parental demands. Without evidence to the contrary, I’ll take that as factual and since I have a tendency to want to believe parents are the best people to know what’s in the interest of their own kids, let’s move on…
But hey – let’s not.
This may be a great place to spin off into a discussion about a problem a lot closer to home… like maybe a discussion about a different kind of ban, one that is totally predicated on the prejudices of others and, in my opinion, represents a complete cluelessness about how the teaching of accurate history and the reading of powerful literature are vital to our national well being.
Let me start with what’s been going on in the teaching of history – no books are being banned, per se, they’re just being bastardized:
What’s happened in Texas is most instructive and has huge consequences for the entire country because the decisions by the Texas School Board actually drive what school books are used all around the country.
I know that’s incredible but it’s true. You can check it out.
I’ve been really peeved about the Texas School Board’s idiotic rewriting of history and how it will negatively impact the education of our children all across the nation. Among other insanities, Thomas Jefferson has been put back stage in favor or Calvin. The reasoning behind this is so convoluted and historically false that I can’t address it without bringing myself close to fits. I’ve already written about it elsewhere and will leave more unsaid (for now anyway). However, I’d like to also mention that Texas is not alone in the Stupid Department; the state of Virginia just made national news when it was discovered one of its elementary school textbooks was full of egregious errors. The book wasn’t written by anyone with bona fides as a historian. Joy Masoff, the textbook’s author, is a professional writer but has no qualification to write historical educational material. She defended her work by saying she found it on the “internet.” What more can be said?
Now let’s look at literature:
I’ve never taught literature but I believe it is a profoundly important discipline; it is surely as integral to the education of a child as math, science, and history. There are profound truths that are captured in literature that transcend space and time and speak to the meaning and purpose of the human condition in a way no other discipline can.
Luke’s article in his blog pushed me into researching what we ban in our schools. Already knowing that it’s a struggle to teach accurate history from the lower grades through the 12th grade, I wondered what’s being taught – more accurately, not taught -- on the literature side of things.
I found this list of the top ten most banned books (at different school boards throughout the country):
1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
This book by Mark Twain has been challenged and banned in numerous locations and times because of its incessant use of racial slurs including the "n" word.
This book by J. D. Salinger uses profanity throughout along with the portrayal of events like prostitution, depression, and alienation.
This novel by Harper Lee has been challenged over the years for its use of profanity and racial slurs.
This book by Katherine Paterson was recently turned into a movie by Disney. It has been challenged or banned because of the disrespect the children show to adults, the confusion of combining fantasy with reality, and profanity.
This novel by William Golding has been challenged and in many cases banned because of its use of profanity, sexuality, racial slurs, and excessive violence.
This novel by John Steinbeck has been banned because of its use of profanity. Often cited are the use of the Lord's name in vain along with the use of racial slurs.
This Pulitzer prize winning novel by Alice Walker has been challenged and banned over the years because of its explicit sexuality, profanity, violence, and use of drugs.
These books by J.K. Rowling have become a frequent target as they are often challenged and sometimes banned. The most common reason cited is its use of witchcraft and the fear that fantasy and reality could become confused for children. However, some challenges have arisen over the violence it portrays.
Kurt Vonnegut's novel has been challenged and banned because of its profanity, violence, and explicit sexuality.
10. The Bluest Eye
This novel by Toni Morrison was one of the most challenged in 2006 for its profanity, sexual references, and unsuitability for students.
Of course, science has been under attack in the classrooms for almost thirty years and the fact that America no longer leads the world in advances in technology and medicine comes as no surprise to me. There is a clear connection but I’ll save that for another post. Right now this is about all I can stomach.
I can’t get my mind around what could eventually happen to a country that downplays Thomas Jefferson in favor of Calvin and bans the likes of Twain and Steinbeck.
Oh how I sometimes weep for us. Especially for our grandchildren.
Wouldn’t it be easier if we just had to worry about germ-eating bacteria on our used books and not mind eating educational policies in our classrooms?
BTW: here’s Luke’s blog URL: http://allyourstarsareout.com/2011/01/27/banned-books-used-books-and-bringing-e-readers-to-the-children/
As to the Confederacy of Dunces and the Virginia history book scandal, here’s that link: http://mhpbooks.com/mobylives/?p=19297
There’s a plethora of info on the Texas School Board policies and the impact on education. The good news, however, is digital technologies may circumvent some of these problems.
I’ll look at that next.
Have a safe weekend!