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Volume 71, Issue 136, Thursday, April 27, 2006

Opinion

Banning books bad for young students

Christian Ochoa
Opinion Columnist 

Like many of you who read The Daily Cougar -- or just read Five Minutes of Fame, half of the Opinion section, Robbie and Bobby and the crossword puzzle instead of writing that last paper -- I am one stressed-out student. I've been living off coffee and cigarettes the past week, and it's only going to get worse.

Everyone says your college years are supposed to be the best years of your education career, but they're wrong. College is fun and exciting, but the best years of my education were the days of elementary school. Nap time, celery with peanut butter, baking soda volcanoes, nap time, times tables and the RAB DAR GAB program; because of those small things, elementary school should have the best days of everyone's life. Unfortunately, the innocent days of Girl Scout cookies and lemonade are threatened by a greater evil than pedophilia and Tom Cruise combined: risque literature. 

In Lexington, Mass., a group of conservative parents has threatened to take a public school into court after one of its teachers read King & King, a story about a prince who searches for a love and finds it in a fellow prince, to a group of children for a lesson on different types of weddings. It seems that this gay fairy tale -- no pun intended -- has caused too much drama in the Boston suburb.

The rhetoric surrounding the "controversy" of this book shouldn't be new to any college student. Most high school students moaned and groaned during English when they read classic literature, but in retrospect, weren't those pieces of literature some of the best material you have ever read? 

Here in Texas, a San Antonio suburban school board superintendent banned The Handmaid's Tale on grounds of explicit sexual content and the offensive nature toward Christians, but luckily, the school board recently overturned the superintendent's decision. The Handmaid's Tale is set in a United States in a future where a Christian theocracy overturns women's rights and gathers all the remaining fertile women for sexual slavery. After the school board's decision to reinstate the book to Advanced Placement English classes, the superintendent was reported saying that the "book doesn't meet community standards" and that he wouldn't "want (his) children to read the novel." I guess that crazy Canadian Margaret Atwood must have insulted this shrewd and enlightened superintendent. 

But even before King & King made its colorful debut in the publishing world and vexed conservatives, there were many literary classics that raised some concerns and were censored, if not banned, by school districts. For Holden's latent homosexuality -- in my opinion, creepy old guy Mr. Antolini is worse -- and "offensive language," The Catcher in the Rye became one of the most frequently challenged books in the 1990s and was still challenged in 2005. In the same year, Toni Morison, author of Beloved, became one of the most frequently challenged authors, according to the American Library Association. I guess some people didn't enjoy the scene in Beloved when the black men were supposed to be milking the cows.

In 1999, Hamlet, which has murder, suicidal thoughts and a girl who goes insane and drowns, was pulled from a class curriculum, according to the Savannah Morning News. And let's face it, the play sounds more like an existentialistic daytime soap opera, and, of course, was written by a man in tights who might have had man crushes. In the end, if a reader looked closely at every book that touched and inspired him or her, then he or she could find something "negative" about it.

Same-sex marriage is a sensitive issue that has brought conservative voters to the political spotlight and will be used as a wedge to further divide the country. To those cautious parents in Lexington, Mass.: Pick your arenas to fight the issue of same-sex marriage. Don't use the excuse of "children's protection" as a shield when trying to censor a children's picture book about family. 

Social conservatives have tried for years to ban certain books that have been deemed "too controversial." These social conservatives win an occasional battle here and there in some godforsaken school district, but in the end, conscientious individuals have risen from the shadows and have protected the rights for everyone and his or her momma to read anything under the sun. 

Usually, these battles were only limited to secondary schools, but now it seems social conservatives are trying to "save and protect" a younger generation. If younger children are barred from reading certain pieces of work, then in the end, they will be the only losers for missing out. Lives of children are getting more complicated everyday, but reading can ease this complication and helps children find themselves. 

Ochoa, an opinion columnist for The Daily Cougar, 
can be reached at thecochoa@gmail.com.
 

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