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Turning Over New Leaf

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Banned and Challenged Books








Banned and Challenged Books







Throughout many centuries, attacks emanating from a variety of sources resulted in banned or challenged books that many of us enjoy immensely. Religious groups, school boards, library associations, and governments are just some of the organizations that traditionally involve themselves in the book banning frenzy.

 
I can understand banning one of my favorite literary works, Candide by Voltaire - in 1759! I am hard pressed to rationalize more modern attacks on some classics. For example, here are a few of the more recent literary victims:

 
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein - banned at the behest of arborists as being sexist and offensive to the foresting industry.

 
Newbery Award winner Lois Lowry's The Giver - banned by libraries for references to euthanasia.

 
Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter - banned as too frank, with undesirable content.

 
And one of my favorite literary victims - George Orwell's Animal Farm, banned as pro-Communist! I have taught this book to literally thousands of students as one of the most compelling anti-Stalinist/Anti-Communist satires of all time.

 
Someone is dropping the ball at the expense of our students' education. I fail to see the necessity to expose our youngest children to smut. There should be greater emphasis on literature proven to expand critical thinking skills. However, I certainly do not wish to live in a society where our youth is brainwashed by politicians.

 
Recently, I encountered an active movement to ban The Diary of Anne Frank. Proponents of the ban argue it is too depressing!

 
Critics, please climb into your time machines and beam yourselves back to the seventh century. Not too many parents would favor distributing pornography to fourth graders, but shielding ninth graders from Anne Frank's nightmare is denying them the education needed to negotiate life in the real world - and that is depressing!

In his 1821 play entiled Almansor, Heinrich Heine, journalist, essayist, literary critic, playwright, and one of the most significant German poets of the 19th century said it best: Dort, wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen. (Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings).

 We already know he was right.



16 comments:

  1. My mind is circling round. Not quite sure where to start. That ending was right on target. Banning books is only the beginning of a society going to a really bad place. I think that we all need good internal censors. And parents need to be aware of what their kids are reading. If your kid is reading something that is inappropriate for them at their age, well be on top of that. It isn't up to the school or government to do it for you. Your ten year old shouldn't be reading smutty romance novels, but that doesn't mean they need to be banned. It means the parent needs to be paying attention. I think a little bit of common sense goes a long way. In terms of adults, if you are reading something and you find it offensive: stop reading it. That's it. It is the same theory I have about television programming. If you don't like it, stop watching it. That is what the remote is for people! And don't dictate your preferences to others. Blog away. Let the whole world know what you think. Have at it. Tell the whole world you think reality TV sucks if that is what you think. I think it sucks and will say so if you ask me, but a lot of people disagree with me, because they are tuning in. And they can have it! I will read my blogs and books and watch what I want. To each his own! I think I have now written as much as you on this subject, so I am done. Over and out.

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  2. Robin: There is no one as real as you. Your mind should not be circling because you have strong feelings. You are very well-grounded. I am quite fortunate to blog with you. I learn a great deal.

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  3. The funny thing is that I probably had to read almost every single one of these books when i was in middle schoo; (not high school, MIDDLE school!) Yep, I read the giver, animal farm, the scarlet letter, and the diary of Anne Frank.

    Another funny thing, is that we also had a banned book section (again in middle school) where we each had to read one banned book off of a list. I ended up with The Handmaid's Tale by Margret Atwood. It was originally banned for explicit sexual content.

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  4. When I learned The Giving Tree was banned that's when I knew they were just disliked/or were angry with the author. My funny comment on banded books, my daughter's 5th grade teacher read The Giver to their class, he pushed their own reading but he also read to them quite often....I even sat in on one of his readings...very mezmerizing! Very interesting post JJ!

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  5. I was always great with educators who assigned many different books with all different viewpoints and lessons to be learned. Fortunately that's mostly what I got. A few times it became obvious that a certain agenda was being pushed. I was that student that would sometimes give a teacher a real run for their money.
    Of all the books you mentioned, The Scarlet Letter is the most meaningful to me. I have been to the place where the author was living when he wrote the book. It was more controvertial than ever back when it was published. Also, the whole thing with 'Pearl' is big for me. I think of that aspect of the story often. I am a 'Pearl'.

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  6. I have strong feelings against censorship. My heart almost literally bleeds for the horrible tales in history that need to be remembered. My mother lived in Germany for a couple of years during the 1960's and she told me that many of the people that she knew there at that time (normal, nice, people who aren't haters), either had no idea what the holocaust was or didn't believe it ever really happened. That's right, propaganda and censorship! Ignorance has never helped anyone. People should seriously think about that before they start taking away materials that could educate.

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  7. O My goodness banning Anne Franks? are they completely mad? the world is really lossing the plot. I visited the room behind the bookshelf in Amsterdam where she hid and i can tell you it was one of the most hard hitting life lessons as a young women i ever felt, there was an exhibit here a few years ago all the schools went and it was a huge lesson for all and it really moved my son and brought up a load of questions about human life, emotions etc. Another interesting post JJ, thank you, gets you thinking, dee

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  8. I don't think Forever Amber was banned but it was controversial. I was young and my Mother hid her copy in her dresser. I found it and would read it while she was busy nursing my little brother. I remember it because it was the first book of it's kind I ever read. I don't think it scared me any. Ha

    Your last line about burning books, how true that was.

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  9. JJ, Just wanted to know I left you something on my blog "For Those Who Have Heart." ((Hugs))

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  10. I seriously thought you were joking about The Giving Tree. I mean...seriously?! And anything by Orwell getting banned is just downright ironic.

    The second that society starts to find truth offensive, whether it's in books or media, you can bet we're moving backwards in time to an incredibly frightening place.

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  11. Aubrie: It would be funny, if it were not so sad.

    Karen S: It's all politics.

    'Yellow Rose' Jasmine: Fortunate indeed.

    Miriam: Great comment: "Ignorance has never helped anyone."

    Dee: I rest my case!

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  12. Manzi: Yes, sad, but true.

    Robin: Thank you. I'll check it out.

    Phoenix: I agree completely. The joke is in believing that intelligent people will buy censorship. I equate it to loss of freedom.

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  13. I have Huckleberry Fi on my reading list. I want to see how it reads without the Ns.

    As explicit as television is these days, and movies as well, I am shocked that ANY book would be banned.

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  14. Oh, and I also have not one, but three golf courses here!!

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  15. I used to tell my students that they never really graduated from college if they never read Huck Finn. Many of them took the book to graduation to show me they actually read it. I'm not sure any rational person can read the book and conclude that racism is a good thing. Censorship denies future generations the insight into just how evil concepts like racism and slavery were in American society.

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  16. Taking away a person's choice to read or not to read is not something I agree with.

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