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Parents gone wild

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.

0102274213 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.


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I wish my parents would have fought to get Deliverance out of the school curriculum...I would have appreciated it later.


I don't disagree that censorship, in general, is a bad thing -- but I don't think you want to go down the road that argues "books aren't dangerous; they're just books." Books are some of the most profoundly dangerous things out there, because they often set people to thinking, and that's always a dangerous thing. The answer, of course, is to teach people to think critically, not to ban books.

And I'm not so sure that reading anything is better than reading nothing, either. I haven't seen much evidence that Danielle Steele fans progress to loftier things ... but I'm willing to be proven wrong.

Connie Ogle

Well, my theory is this: Reading as much as possible - even if you're reading Danielle Steel or something equally lightweight - gets you in the habit of reading. It helps you to learn to think critically, to discern what has real quality and what might be a perfectly enjoyable though not thought-provoking experience. Reading anything is an active state, unlike, say, watching TV (and no, I am not one of those people who bashes TV; I like TV and will argue that some of the writing on TV has been as good in its way as the writing in many of the books I've reviewed).

One of the things I remember from working with some of the high school kids at the Herald was that most (though not all) of them, when they'd review movies. They just enjoyed the whole aspect of going to a movie; they hadn't yet learned to think critically about what they were thinking. But I suspect once they had seen more movies and spent more time discussing movies with their friends, they were able to say, you know, such-and-such was really ridiculous because....etc.

Good point, though, about teaching students to think critically...I'm just not sure how you do that if you severely limit the sort of things they read.

Phoebe Flowers

AS someone who received a personal letter from Danielle Steel at the age of 11 after she (meaning I) wrote Steel a letter because she (I) was just sooooo moved by her Titanic-themed novel ("No Greater Love," I believe) and had to tell her all about it, and said reception of this letter (in which Steel told me she had a son my age but that she didn't believe he could possibly write SUCH A BRILLIANTLY ARTICULATE LETTER) was chronicled in Ron Ishoy's erstwhile Miami Herald column ... uh, actually I'm not sure what this proves. Possibly the opposite of what I'd like it to.

However: People, especially 11-year-old people, can read trash and go on to reading authors whom they can pretentiously name-drop at cocktail parties (Do people still have cocktail parties? It doesn't seem they do, and why the hell not?) or, more to the point, in the comments section of blogs. (I was also very fond, as an adolescent, of the outright pornography provided by Jackie Collins and Judith Kranz. In fact, there's an argument to be made that the demystification of sex via books might satisfy kids' interest in it enough to keep them from having it QUITE so early; certainly, a Kranz novel that began with the heroine reflecting on the odor of her lover's testicles was not exactly titillating.) I am just choosing not to do so -- the name-dropping, I mean.

Also, think of just how different Fred Grimm might be now if he had been prohibited from reading the overwrought "Prince of Tides" as a West Virginia youngster. (A book, naturally, that I thought was complete and utter genius when I devoured it at 13 during a road trip to Asheville, N.C.) I shudder to imagine what other kind of man might have emerged.


Censorship is Bull****


Censorship is Bull****

Connie Ogle

There is only one Patrick that can be, and I think his last name might just be "Ogle."

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