Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Book Banning in Maryland

I saw that Robert Cormier's The Chocolate War was banned in Maryland over on AS IF!. Now I initially thought I had read The Chocolate War (TCW) but, after further inspection it appears my Cormier list has a hole. (I was confusing it with I am the Cheese. The AS IF! entry references a myspace blog which I can't access, but I did find this article in the Sun that provided more info. There are some interesting comments on the AS IF! blog, in particular a parent who is concerned because it is in her third grader's classroom and I want to weigh in with the following.
I am sure we all agree that third grade and ninth grade are very different, so even though I brought it up, I am putting that aspect to the side. (My blog.)
The book was being read as part of a curriculum on life as a teen, and TCW was included as it looks as forms of bullying and peer pressure. Now the parents are concerned about vulgar language including some homophobic slurs. I am unfamiliar with the associated curriculum but it would seem to me this would be a perfect opportunity to discuss the fact that it is still common for men and boys to taunt each other by calling each other gay. Just as high schoolers are capable of understanding that terms used in Huckleberry Finn are considered unacceptable today, they are able to grasp the context. (Although I would argue that taunting classmates about being gay seems to be sadly contemporary).
Now maybe the curriculum had not allowed for such discussion, and maybe the teachers were not as familiar with the book and so pulled it so they could better evaluate it's positioning. And while I am okay with that, it still gets me itchy thinking that a high schooler can't read a book and figure out what behavior in it is okay to emulate. This is not to say I think people are perfect by high school or that they can read anything they want regardless of what their parents say, but I really think this is such a small thing compared to the really subversive stuff. But on the bright side, apparently library requests for the book have shot up.