A parent complained about her 13 year old reading PAPER TOWNS as one of the books on the middle school's suggested list for summer reading. The complaint arose after her child asked her what the word masturbation meant. The parent called the book misogynistic and labeled it as soft porn. She asked that there be some sort of warning about content. The school district instead, in violation of its won reconsideration policy, removed the book from the list.
What is wrong here? When I posted the link to FB, some agreed that the book was too mature for 8th grade. I am not going to argue the merits of that at all. The book was one choice among many. The reader opted for the book. If it was too mature (the child had been homeschooled before this last year), she did not know she could simply get another. But, in this case, she went to her mother to ask a question. Instead go answering the question, the mother took the book and complained. This is the loss of a teachable moment, but that is still not the central issue here.
The issue is that the district failed to follow policy. Instead, one of the board members gave it the "grandmother test."
"The book may be appropriate for older kids. But I would find it very questionable for eighth grade," she said. "I have a granddaughter going into the eighth grade. I would probably have the same reaction as this parent, had my granddaughter brought home this book. I'm giving it the grandmother test, and it didn't pass."
OK, if your kid or grandkid brought the book home, you have the right and the responsibility to remove it. But YOU DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO REMOVE THE BOOK FROM OTHER KIDS. Why do people believe that, if we simply remove the book, we remove the problematic content. Does removing PAPER TOWNS mean we never have to have the discussion about language, sex, drugs, etc? Seems these folks seem to think so.
The article does bring up one issue we need to deal with, however. How are the books for summer reading lists determined? How does that information get communicated to kids and parents and others involved in SRP?
I do not at all recommend noting problematic content since that is a can of worms that, once let loose, can never be cleaned up. But is there a policy similar to that of a classroom or school library collection? Might not a policy be a good thing? Of course in this instance, policy or no, the grandmother test would have won out after all. Sad.