banning books

A local special interest (called the Clean Reading Approach Project) group has lobbied to rid our school of the library.  "Searching for information in a library, students might stumble upon information that is contrary to their viewpoint," a man suggested.

"Couldn't that child simply not believe it?"

"Their minds are impressionable," the man responded.

"So, let parents make a decent first impression," I explained.

The librarian offered a new solution.  Instead of banning all information, perhaps we could create a book filtering program where we might be able to search for books that are appropriate for children.  After all, in this wild information age, we need an authority figure who can decipher what is best for children.

*     *      *

So, we get our list two weeks later from the Book Banning Committee. "You want to ban Tolstoy?" I ask the representative.

"He's offensive.  And Anna Karenina has some lewd material in it."

"What about our one American classic, The Scarlet Letter?"

"The protagonist is an adulterer and I hate to be a spoiler but the man who caused the problems is a minister."

"No Mark Twain?"

"Can you trust the guy?  He won't even use his real name.  That man is shifty, I tell you."

He hands me the codes they use for the books: occultism, nudity, violence, sexual situations, homosexuality (got Whitman right there), anti-family, unsuitable to age group, suicide.

"I have a book that has all of these characteristics.  In fact, that main character tells people to abandon their family, is brutally murdered and then his friend commits suicide.  Oh yeah, and he is friends with hookers. Should we ban it?"

"Sure, what's the title."

"Oh, it's the Bible."

*      *      * 
Oddly enough, one of the lessons he could have learned from my suggested banned book is that banning something only makes someone want it more.  I stole that argument from Paul in Romans (the dead guy and not Paul the Pre-industrial Poet).  

Some day kids will quit reading The Scarlet Letter, not because it is so boring (which it is) but because it will be mandatory school reading.  If the Book Banning Committee really wants to prevent kids from reading inappropriate texts, they should suggest them as required reading. 


  1. The Scarlett Letter boring? man's boring classic is another teenage girl's life-changing pathway to witness age-old hypocrisies and everlasting themes. Oh well.

    Here's one modern connection:

    There are hundreds more. Cheers!

  2. Postscript: But I will admit to being so bored with Anna Karinina I almost wanted to push her into the train myself.

  3. I'm sorry, but I'll have to agree with "Red Letter Day" on this one as well. Tom, it's a classic. Perhaps if it had more explosions you would like it.

  4. I'm a student at the University of South Alabama in Dr. Strange's EDM310 class. I personally think having a "Book Banning Committee" is unnecessary. Everyone is different and will be interested in different books. If a book seems "inappropriate" it should be up to the parent to make the decision whether or not it's suitable for their child. Most of the old classics are "crooked" stories, which makes them interesting. It doesn't mean reading that story is going to make the student want to become a prostitute, run away, kill someone, etc. "The Scarlet Letter" was a required book for a high school English literature class and I loved it. Books such as those would be beneficial as required reading due to the fact the information can be challenging to interpret. Otherwise, it is completely unnecessary to ban books that have been around for centuries when they apparently haven't had a bad affect on students' actions.