Thursday, February 17, 2005

Citizens For A Whitebread World

Michael Schaub at Bookslut directs us to this little gem of a site, whose purpose is:
To inform parents and the community about poor quality literature and vulgar subject matter (profanity, sex, occultism) in graded reading assignments in the Blue Valley school district in Overland Park, KS.
And what books do the Citizens for Literary Standards in Schools not like? Well, thankfully, they've compiled a detailed list, complete with samples of the bad words and the number of times they're used (That's the sort of job every aspiring young librarian wants, counting the number of damns and hells in Catcher in the Rye). Nice of them to be so detailed about all these naughty books. I bet they didn't enjoy reading any of it all. Of course, their choices for good, wholesome books leave something to be desired, namely something contemporary, relevant and interesting. I think the newest title I saw there was Kon Tiki. Now, it's not to say that these books don't have their interesting points and aren't worth reading. But given how notoriously difficult it is to get young students interested in books, you'd think they might try finding something a little more relavant and modern than The Pilgrim's Progress or Bugles in the Afternoon. Kids these days (and all days) want to read something that relates to them and their life. Somehow, I don't think the kids of the Blue Valley School District will be all that interested in reading about some goofy Swede on raft or a schmaltzy Christian parable. But that's not really the point, is it?

Citizens for Literary Standards in Schools isn't about teaching children about the world they live in, or how to appreciate literature. And it's especially not about developing critical thinking skills by reading challenging books. It's about indoctrination. It's about forcing children to think the way their uptight, unworldly Red State parents want them to think, forcing them to look at the world through a skewed prism of Family Values and Christian Forthrightness. Never mind that the world is a wider place, full of wild and unruly ideas and people who think differently. They don't want Bobby and Suzy Whitebread to think differently. More importantly, they don't really want Bobby or Suzy or you or me, really, to read those dirty books and think those unrestrained thoughts. As Ray Bradbury said, there's more than one way to burn a book. Or stifle a mind.

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