Monday, September 26, 2005

Banned Books Week

We're in the midst of the American Library Asociation Banned Books Week.

It is hard to believe that today this is still going on, but here is the list of The Most Frequently Challenged Books Written by Authors of Color 1990-2000. And I beg you to look at the date. It doesn't say 1900, it says 1990-2000. The nineties, people.
Three of the 10 books on the "Ten Most Challenged Books of 2004" were cited for homosexual themes - which is the highest number in a decade. Sexual content and offensive language remain the most frequent reasons for seeking removal of books from schools and public libraries.

Between 1990 and 2000, of the 6,364 challenges reported to or recorded by the Office for Intellectual Freedom (see The 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books)

Reasons: “sexually explicit” “offensive language” “unsuited to age group” “occult theme or promoting the occult or Satanism,” “violent” “promoting homosexuality,” “promoting a religious viewpoint.” “nudity” “sex education” “anti-family”
Seventy-one percent of the challenges were to material in schools or school libraries. Another twenty-four percent were to material in public libraries (down two percent since 1999). Sixty percent of the challenges were brought by parents, fifteen percent by patrons, and nine percent by administrators, both down one percent since 1999).
2004 Most Challenged Authors

Top Ten Challenged Authors 1990 to 2004

Book Burning

"Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings." —Heinrich Heine, from his play Almansor (1821)

Fighting the Fires of Hate

Book Burning in the 21st Century

The Canadian Freedom to Read Week will take place on February 26 to March 4, 2006.

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20 comments:

Eric Mutta said...

Such practices are really just one instance of the desire in humans to assert control over others.

However, I think it has a place, it's just that that place is not so easily defined nor can it be universally applicable. And therein lies the challenge.

Drawing the line between healthy and unhealthy moderation is hard. For example, homosexuality is becoming less and less an issue for society. In fact it even appears to be trendy given its free portrayal on TV nowadays (much to the consternation of some parents I'm sure). There have been arguments that it is normal and there's more tolerance now.

However, where and how does one draw the line between "normal" and "abnormal", "acceptable" and "unacceptable"? For example, what will we do (and this is disturbing) when a group of people start a necrophilia movement? Do we risk prejudice and suppress them, or do we just let them be and brace ourselves for whatever impact such a practice may have on society?

Cavan said...

Ah yes, book burners - now there's a group of people I'm not on friendly terms with. If you live somewhere that's backwoods enough to ban a book, why couldn't you just put the book in a restricted section that required a parent's permission to view (kind of like movies) instead of banning it altogether?

And furthermore, how is the Goosebumps series more objectionable that Madonna's sex book? I didn't even find Goosebumps scary when I was eight.

Deborah said...

Banning and/or censorship won't fix the decline in morality. Neither will it stifle children's natural curiosity. As I see it, Hollywood and the media (aside from our government) are the biggest sore spots of American culture. Should we ban them all or learn to make intelligent, informed decisions for ourselves?

Melly said...

Eric, there are books about necrophilia and there are books about pedophilia too. There are books about murder and about theft and about slavery and what not.

First, I'd never compare these books to books about homosexuality if for the simple reason that homosexuality isn't illegal, at least not in the western modern world. I wouldn't do it for other reasons as well, but I won't get into it right now.

Second, I do think that what eight-year-olds should read and what 14-year-olds should read is different. So I agree with you there and I hope that the curriculum in school usually reflects that.

Finally, every good book contains conflict. Sometimes external - good people vs. bad people, sometimes internal - personal struggle. By definition then a book will almost always contain something "bad" - from inner demons to "real" ones.

So unless the book is a non-fiction book that contains libelous content, I don't see a reason to challenge one (again, I probably wouldn't give Tropic of Cancer to an 8-year-old, I would give it to a teenager, I read it as a teenager).

Melly said...

Cavan, I didn't even know Goosebumps was on the banned or challenged list. But then again, I shouldn't be surprised since Harry Potter was on the list too.

Melly said...

"learn to make intelligent, informed decisions for ourselves" - ahh Deborah, words of wisdom. I say the same thing myself. Parents should be involved in what their kids do, read, watch and help them understand and make the right choices. Absolutely.

Eric Mutta said...

Melly:>First, I'd never compare these books to books about homosexuality...

I had a feeling someone would comment on that angle. Let it be clear that I am in no way comparing necrophilia or any of the other paraphilias you mentioned to homosexuality, since there are stark differences.

I am getting behind the idea that they are all things which certain segments of society find questionable and have wanted to exert some form of moderation over. So if one is given the go-ahead, shouldn't all be (in the interests of fairness)? My answer to this is ofcourse NO, but where is the line drawn?

It is a very difficult question, and I'd be interested in hearing other opinions.

Oh, and on the topic of book burning, those folks might as well start cinema burning, TV burning, music burning and internet burning - there's far more "dangerous" material on that media than you could ever find in a book. Ridiculous really.

Jennifer said...

My heart aches at the thought burning books.

As for the banned list...well I'm kind of split. I defintely think there are some books in schools that children shouldn't be exposed too or at least not MADE to read. Voluntary reading perhaps...

Eric has a good point. Where does the line get drawn. I know I've picked up some 'supposed' children's books and been amazed at the topic and content...

Ahh the start of a good debate.

Steve Thorn said...

Great entry, Melly! It' sort of that 'I wish I was having their problems' story.. Hey, burn my books, just BUY them first. :)

Melly said...

Eric, you said: "I am getting behind the idea that they are all things which certain segments of society find questionable."
By putting together people who find pedophilia questionable together with people who find homosexuality questionable, you give creedence to these people. You put it on the same level. It's not. Maybe if these people who find homosexuality questionable ever read a banned book on homosexuality they'd see how different and irrelevant to the argument of pedophilia it is.

If you go to the 21st century burning link, you see that they burn other media as well.

Melly said...

Jennifer, absolutely. That's why I said I wouldn't give an 8-year-old the same book I would give a 14-year-old. No argument there.
However, I doubt Harry Potter, which is on the banned list, is a problematic book in that way.

If you look at the list of reasons for banning books "unsuited to age group" is only one of many reasons. And most times, not all, but most, it's parents who are overprotective and who have no idea what the kids are exposed to. A rap video on MTV exposes the kids to a lot more sexual content, violence, offensive language, not to mention explicit misogynistic behaviour.
Trust me, most times, what the kids read in books is nothing they haven't seen or heard elsewhere. It's better they read a good book about it that deals with things better.

Melly said...

LOL Steve.
I'm right with ya there :)

easywriter said...

Choose not to read a book. Choose guidance and advice when helping a child or young person to pick out good literature. But Burn or ban? No. A variety of topics and opinions teach us to think.

I can read a book and make my own decisions as to whether or not I want to subscribe to the ideas or morals that drive it.

I never would have read Catcher in the Rye if one teacher hadn't decided that banning was not the answer.

Melly said...

Hear, hear! easywriter.

Pat Kirby said...

Contrary to what the fundie wingnuts may assert, homosexuality isn't harmful to anyone else. Someone's choice of sexual partner doesn't affect me one iota. No one is forcing me and mine to be homosexual. (If they did, that would be rape, and by definition, illegal.) Not that it's a big deal anyway. This is why some of us get a might "tetchy" about the comparison to pedophilia and the like.

As for what children should be exposed to...that's what parents are for, no? Obviously, older children will have a greater degree of freedom. But certainly, when a child is young, the parent can exert trememdous control. That's when one can try to instill the values that will guide them when they are older and the parent isn't present.

If you don't like the program on the telly, shut it off. Get involved in your child's education and monitor what they check out of the library. If you find something inappropriate, TALK TO YOUR CHILD. Use it as an opportunity to discuss values and beliefs.

And heck, most children, adolescent and older, will gravitate toward the naughty or forbidden. Reading or exposure to such material doesn't turn them into raging sex fiends, murders, or devil worshippers. (Teens are sex fiends anyway.)

Er, have a lovely day. Hug n' stuff.

Melly said...

Pat, do you think I sounded "tetchy"?
I'm so sorry. Wasn't my intention.

You put things well. For once maybe we switched places (you the diplomatic one, me, the... can't even say it, yikes. Didn't mean to).

Pat Kirby said...

Moi, diplomatic? I do protest.

Actually, I'm the one that gets "tetchy." Odd, that I came off anything but ranty.

Hee.

Melly said...

No, no. Ranty you were :)

It was probably my fears that I sounded "tetchy."

Kylie Louise said...

Wow, this is my first experience with a weblog and I want to tell you that I really enjoyed reading your comments. I had been reading a lot about this banned books stuff, but you guys nailed it on the head, and I thank you. Truly banning books is sad and each of us has a certain taste in books and should be able to read what ever we want. But when you pick up a book, or give a book to a child, it should be a high quality book. Something that will get them thinking, isn't that why we read? Parents need to monitor what their children read, but the other point that was brought up that I really loved was about Television. There is a lot more garbage on t.v. than there is in a book, yet a lot of parents don't monitor that. I loved Pat's comment that you can take these opportunities to talk to you kids about the things that they are reading. Thanks for all the new insights! Happy reading!

Melly said...

Hi there Kylie Louise and welcome.

Yes, I enjoyed the discussion here as well, obviously :)

Pat is a real smart lady and I usually agree with most things she says.

Indeed, talking to your child is primary. Even if they read or watch disturbing things the parents can change that experience with conversation. And of course monitoring is always important. Even for the simple reason of knowing what your child does, is interested in etc.