September 13, 2007
This tactic is a new one on me…
Lysa Harding, 15, couldn’t believe the sexually charged prose of the novel she checked out from the library at Brookwood High School. Her grandmother was offended, too.
Again, this is nothing new. What caught me by surprise was what they decided to do about it:
Now they’re refusing to return the book, “Sandpiper” by Ellen Wittlinger, saying other teens shouldn’t be exposed to it.
Okay, that deserves something I’ve been pondering for a while now: the Skeptic’s Eyebrow (inspired by the People’s Eyebrow):
(Perhaps not as obviously skeptical without the rest of my face, but until I have a full-time job (someday…), I think I’d like to stay relatively anonymous. May change my mind later. Who knows.)
Anyway, generally people want to get things that offend them out of their homes. It’d be one thing to return it but demand that it not be put back on the shelves. But they don’t want any other teens to be exposed to it… so they’re keeping it. Hmm. But of course, there’s even more to the story:
Lysa, who checked the book out at random last week for a book report, said it goes into too much graphic detail for high school students.
“I honestly believe that it should not be at school, because at my school they teach abstinence and no sex before marriage, but then all the book is teaching is how to do those things,” she said.
Okay, so teaching abstinence (and no sex before marriage? Goodness, their curriculum does run the gamut!) in public schools is an issue I’m not going to get into at present. (But there’s some grinding of teeth going on here.) I have not read the book, but from various descriptions it sounds like the book is not at all teaching kids how to do “those things” (oral sex is an issue the book touches on). It is, instead, pointing out the problems with the behaviors the primary character indulges in. The school system’s library media specialist calls it “a cautionary tale,” and an Amazon.com reviewer (the review in question is roughly halfway down the page, written by Norah Piehl) states that the author “explores the current widespread belief that oral sex is not ‘real sex.'” It seems, then, that the problem here is one that seems common in cases of attempted censorship: being offended affects reading comprehension. Nothing to see here, then. Move along.
One last odd bit, though — a quote from the grandmother mentioned in the first paragraph:
“This book is sick,” said Pennington. “I’m 50 years old, and I’ve raised 11 sets of kids and been through many a library, and I’ve never seen a book like this in a school library before.”
Okay, so PZ Myers, who gets the hat tip, takes that to mean that she had 11 kids. But… 11 sets? What does that mean, exactly? Maybe she’s done some fostering? And then there’s the fact that she’s 50, and her granddaughter is 15… again I say, hmm.