professornana (professornana) wrote,

random thoughts on narrow thinking

Several items have been chasing one another around in my brain of late. The first is the story of Kentucky teacher Risha Mullins. I had the chance to meet her at NCTE and she attended our Standing Committee Against Censorship meeting there as well. She had a few books challenged by some vocal parents (1 or 2). Said books by some of our LJ friends including Jo Knowles and Laurie Halse Anderson. Said books were subjected to the process already in place for reconsideration. Committee decision was to retain the books. Decision was ultimately overruled by the superintendent. Censorship? You bet. Despite all sorts of letters and blogs and news articles, the decision of the superintendent is final. What this entire thing has devolved into, though, is some nasty name calling. Folks siding with the superintendent are using words like "pornography" to desribe books they have not read. And, of course, ALA and NCAC and other organizations that work to keep books alive and well and in the hands of students are being labeled as purveyors of porn and worse. Fearmongering at its worst is what this has become. Now the books are being labeled as not worthy of study in an AP English class. Huh? When I read the books being challenged (and I have actually read them all, every last word on every page), I seem to recall plots, characters, settings, themes, and the like. The censors are attacking the low readability levels (Huck Finn is 4th grade just so you have a reference point for the readability for the "classics"). It's like they are throwing everything out there so there is never time to fashion a coherent answer to their accusations. Where have I seen that before? Maybe during political races???

BTW, for something interesting to add to this discussion of which books are "worthy" of study, check out the top ten books college kids are reading:

1. The Lost Symbol
by Dan Brown
2. Where the Wild Things Are
by Maurice Sendak
3. The Time Traveler's Wife
by Audrey Niffenegger
4. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
5. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
6. The Wild Things
by Dave Eggers
7. Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters
by Jane Austen and Ben H. Winters
8. The Last Song
by Nicholas Sparks
9. Push
by Sapphire
10. World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War
by Max Brooks

Now, there is a brouhaha over the SLJ cover from last month featuring some of the prominent bloggers in the YA world. They were photographed in a NYC bar holding (fake) drinks. Apparently, they did not wear sensible shoes and hair twisted into a bun. Letters to the editor at SLJ are decrying the poor role models on the cover. I would have killed to have been among them. Censorship? Not quite. Narrow thinking? You bet.

It's rather depressing, this narrowness. I think that is what connects these two stories for me. If we could just broaden our view (and I am including me here not using the royal we), maybe we could expend more energy creating readers and welcoming new technologies and ways of talking about boos and reading. Instead. some seem hell-bent on wearing blinders.
Tags: censorship, narrow thinking
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