“The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.” ― Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
What we read tends to influence who we are and how we think. Books can change the way our minds work depending greatly on the type of books we read. No matter the book however, all literature, similar to other forms of art, is written with a purpose, and all works of literature have something to contribute to society, even if that contribution may purely be how not to write a book **glares menacingly at the 50 Shades Trilogy**
The big question here is who should accept these messages? And who should decide who should read them? While we’re all allowed our own opinions regarding whether a book is of quality content, the content itself should be judged in terms of the context of the book as a whole.
Let’s look at this in terms of the award winning book “Looking for Alaska” by John Green, a story of the spiritual and sexual awakening of protagonist Miles Halter, as he deals with his own concepts of the “great perhaps” of life, love and death, and teen obsession. Certain events of the book itself are even taken from Mr Green’s own experiences at a boarding school (yep, that career day actually happened). Among the many titles it has been awarded, one stands out among the rest: The American Library Associations Most Challenged Book of 2015 with the reasons disclosed as “offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group”. Yes, despite the international acclaim this book has achieved, there is a ridiculous proportion of parents who believe that this book is not for the eyes of the audience it is aimed at: teenagers. The most recent case was last August when parents of students at Marion County High School in Kentuky, USA labelled the book “filth” and requested that it be removed from the school curriculum for it promoted student experimentation with “pornography, sex, drugs, alcohol and profanity”.
If you’re wondering what has scandalized parents to such an extent, it is an awkward sex scene in which the protagonist has a sexual encounter with a girl at his school with whom he is not particularly enamoured. It in itself is hardly something to get the cheeks flushed, written in a clumsy and oftentimes uncomfortable manner, and acts as a comparison to a later scene in which Miles gets a few magical moments with the girl of his dreams, during which nothing all that scandalous occurs. The point of it is clear: meaningless sex is nothing compared to a few moments where a real human connection is present. It should be noted that this conclusion was drawn by a young person, the intended audience, and a member of the age group that parents have deemed incapable of coming to rational decisions based off of written material.
This is hardly the first case of its kind. Classics such as “Of Mice and Men”, “One Flew Over the Cookoo’s Nest”, “Catcher in the Rye” and even the Holy Bible have been frequently challenged by parents and other groups, who have begged for their removal. Just read the ALA’s list of frequently challenged books, it’s almost amusing. In truth, the problem should not be in the content of the book, but rather in the method of teaching it. Books that push boundaries are important, particularly because they act as a means of seeing a certain subject from an alternative view, and it is the responsibility of the staff teaching the book to ensure that students are viewing it as such: a learning opportunity.
On the whole, the real point I’m trying to get across here is that, no matter what your leaning as a parent, whether more conservative or more liberal, I don’t really think that any parent has a right to enforce their own opinions on others. If you have an issue with a particular book, then it’s unfair to try and force it out of schools specifically because you don’t want your child to read it. It’s better to be respectful to other parent’s decisions and ask for your child to be provided with alternative reading material. Getting a book removed from schools and libraries purely out of personal vendetta goes against the writer’s freedom of speech, as well as the other parent’s freedom to decide for their own children. There are better ways of getting your way without being a spoilsport for others.
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