Posts Tagged ‘banned books week’

Banned Books II: Ridiculous Reasons to Ban Books

October 10, 2011 Leave a comment

Hopefully you have noticed our earlier post and/or the library display about Banned Books Week.  Although the official week has come to an end, we are giving the week an encore.

When you hear that, in the 1950s,  Tarzan was banned by a Los Angles public library because Tarzan and Jane were “living in sin”  the idea seems quaint.  After all, something that silly hasn’t happened in least half a century, right?  We should be so lucky.  You can consult this  interactive map to see what your state has recently banned, or read on for some silly samples of why books have have been banned or challenged.

1974 – An administrator in Wild Rose, Wisconsin, stated that Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee was “slanted” and declared that “if there’s a possibility that something might be controversial, then why not ban it? ”  Great attitude for an educator.

First removed from an Illinois school library in 1977 because of “nudity to no purpose” Maurice Sendak’s  In the Night Kitchen has faced challenges well into the 1990s and, in some schools, shorts were drawn on the nude cartoon boy.

1983 – 2010 It’s one thing if you personally don’t want to read the Diary of Anne Frank, but can you imagine wanting to ban it because it is a “real downer?”  No?  In 1983, the Alabama Textbook Committee thought that this was a good reason.  Since then the book has been the subject of continuous controversy across the nation.

1984 – An Eagle Point Oregon elementary school challenged the Three Billy Goats Gruff, claiming that the book was too violent for children.  Well they could be right, given all the goat-on-troll violence we see in the news.

Did Little Red Riding Hood need AA?  California school officials were not taking any chances, and, in 1990,  banned a version of the tale that showed “Red” taking grandma a bottle of wine in the basket of goodies. Perhaps that was what the wolf was after? A  year later, in  Clay County, Florida, a parent raised the same issue, and a Bradford county teacher complained that the wolf was too violent.

Shel Silverstein’s works have been the  source of many twisted knickers in both the 1980s and 1990s. In 1985, Light in the Attic was challenged by one Wisconsin school for “encouraging children to break dishes so that they wouldn’t have to dry them.”  Apparently banning felt good because  the next year another Wisconsin school system pulled Silverstein’s  Where the Sidewalk Ends  because it “suggests drug use, the occult, suicide, death, violence disrespect for true,..authority, [and] rebellion against parents.”  Even worse (or better if you are considering the comedic value) is that the book includes the poem “Dreadful,” which in turn contains the line “someone ate the baby.”  In 1993, a school district in Pennsylvania pulled the book lest the poem “encourage cannibalism.”  Yeah, good daycare, drug use, and cannibalism, the top concerns of the modern parent.

Of course this is that state where some officials were shocked to discover that artists paint pictures of nudes!  At least THEY got educated if not their students.

Another amusing complaint comes all the way from the U.K.  The London County Council in England banned the use of Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny from London schools. Why? The stories portrayed only “middle-class rabbits.”  I’ll leave it to you to decide how one determines the social class of rabbits.

And so what is causing the most furor in 2010-2011?  Those tales of magical wizards and sparkly vampires, the Harry Potter and Twilight  series .  The latter raises a ruckus, not as as one might expect, because they are abysmally written,  but because they are sexually explicit.  Hmm, a high school student has a  crush on a guy, and is experiencing her first romantic and sexual feelings.  Yeah, I’m sure students would be shocked by that; I mean how could they relate?

In closing, consider this truly pointless action take by  a school in California.

This was removed in 2010.  What a shame; now the children can’t use an actual book to define the terms that they hear on South Park, but will have to consult the  Urban Dictionary. (See earlier post for  discussion of the Urban Dictionary).

Banned Books Week

September 28, 2011 Leave a comment

On Tuesday, April 19, 1960, parents from Edison High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma demanded the removal of an 11th grade English teacher, Mrs. Beatrice Levin, who had assigned The Catcher in the Rye for her students to read.  Published in 1951, J.D. Salinger’s book had been considered controversial from its release; however, Mrs. Levin described the book as “beautiful and moving”.  The book was banned from the required reading list for the school system.  Parents objected to the entire book but in particular to a word they termed vulgar.  Mrs. Levin conceded that it was a vulgar term, however in the way it was used, the word was very appropriate. [The Oklahoman, April 20, 1960, p. 38,]   Mrs. Levin was eventually fired by the Board of Education, but later reinstated.  This was the earliest recorded banning of The Catcher in the Rye. [Lanette MacLeod, “The Censorship History of the Catcher in the Rye,” PNLA Quarterly 39 (Summer 1975): 10.]

This week we are “celebrating” Banned Books Week in the Professional Center Library.

Banned Books Week was begun in 1982 by library activist Judith Krug as a way “to promote the right to read without censorship”.

The underlying principle of Banned Books Week is rooted in the Bill of Rights. When a society begins to control what its citizens read, it creates distrust of the authorities and fellow citizens.  Because of this restriction and control, an undercurrent of resentment and suspicion begins to break down the norms of that society.  Thus, our First Amendment rights which ensure freedom of information are vital to the health of our American culture.  Banned Books Week celebrates that freedom of information and emphasizes our need to keep a close watch on those who attempt to restrict our freedoms.

In the Professional Center Library, we are recognizing Banned Books Week with a display of “banned” (or challenged) books, along with a listing of the 100 most often challenged books in the US and the world.

We would invite you to stop by and share your personal favorite “banned book” on the wall of the Rotunda.