Let's hear a round of applause for some of the high school students at Nitro High in Charleston, West Virginia. According to The Associated Press, a student group is vowing to sue the school board if it removes Pat Conroy's Beach Music and The Prince of Tides from school shelves, a move that could have countywide repercussions.
A couple of
possibly inbred parents complained about the books, of course. They object to the violence, suicide and rape in the novels, which have been deemed suitable for high school upperclassman. Not only do they want to protect their tender darlings from scary words on paper, they want no other student to have access to the books - at least not in school. The board, wishy washy to the end, is exploring putting advisory labels on the books warning of objectionable content.
So let me get this straight: High school kids want to read books, and a couple of adults who should know better don't want them to? I have no idea why anyone would ban 16- or 17-year-olds from reading anything they wanted to read. Frankly, I have no idea why you'd ever take a book away from a kid. Books don't hurt people, folks. Not even the really bad ones (though I admit, trying to dig my way through Donna Tartt's The Little Friend made me think about hurting someone). Books don't drive drunk or get anybody pregnant; they're addictive, but not in a life-threatening way. They're fat free. They make you think. And even the ones with sex, violence and all sorts of dark content might encourage you to read something else that just might change your life.
Listen, Mom and Dad Kettle: If your kid is in an advanced placement English course, if he or she has hopes of going on to college and getting a degree, they're going to be exposed to the big bad world in a big bad way, and that includes literature. You can't protect them from the horrors of the world forever. Trying is futile. They're going to grow up and do whatever it is they're going to do, and you need to let go and hope for the best.
And for the record, if the worst thing you have to worry about with your teenager is what he or she reads, you've got it easy. If a book offends you, don't read it. But don't think the rest of us are going to have any patience with your righteous and ignorant indignation.