The Banned Books Challenge

Watson

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I was browsing the net and I came across this. A library in Ontario challenges it's patrons to read as many banned or challenged books as they can within about a 4 month period, and then provide thier input. The 2008 list can be found here http://www.pelhamlibrary.on.ca/pdfs/banned_book_list_2008.pdf. The old standby banned books are there-Clockwork Orange, Golden Compass, Animal Farm, etc. There are also some odd ones, such as Watchmen (I understand why, but had never heard of it being banned), The Princess Diaries, and quite a few by Roald Dahl.

The list raises an interesting question though. Are there books that you think should be banned? Can we justify the banning of any books? For example, for many years Indigo (the Barnes and Noble of Canada) refused to sell Mein Kampf at thier stores on the basis of content. While Mein Kampf may be extremely problematic (to say the very least), its publication is an important part of history. Should it not be available to study? Or it will only inspire future neo-Nazi's into action?

What about stopping children from reading some books? Should some books be "banned" for certain age groups? I know there are some books that are pretty shocking and may not be appropriate for a younger audience. Yet other books such as Gone with the Wind, Huckleberry Finn, and Catcher in the Rye deal with issues like race, gender, and sexuality in diverse ways, yet these books are pretty freely available for kids to read. They may not even understand what they are reading and what the actual point of the literature is.

So...what do you think?
 
And of course, this morning I run across this article

Atwood novel too brutal, sexist for school: parent

Committee reviews 'fictional drivel' alleged to violate board policy on respect, profanity

January 16, 2009
Comments on this story
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(73)
Kristin Rushowy
EDUCATION REPORTER
Robert Edwards says if students repeated some of the words from Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale in the school halls, they'd be suspended, so he questions why it is okay in the classroom.


And what about the foul language, the anti-Christian overtones, the violence and sexual degradation, asks the parent who launched a formal complaint about the Canadian novel. Don't they violate the Toronto board's policies of respect and tolerance?

"If you look at the board's policies, it goes to these great lengths to talk about respect and not using profane language, and in fact so do the policies at Lawrence Park Collegiate," where Edwards' 17-year-old son was studying the book in his Grade 12 English class.
"The board is adamant about those policies, but then puts books like this in place."


Edwards, the father of three sons, said he hasn't complained to the school about a book before. He only read The Handmaid's Tale after seeing his middle son with it.


He considers himself religious, and believes religion should be discussed, but if one faith is going to be "cast in a critical light, then the board ought to open it up" to others.


"I'm not looking to ban books," he said. "I'm just looking for justification as to why this is an appropriate book ... if the board can declare to me that in their view it fits within their policy, I'd like them to explain how."
A spokesperson for Atwood said the author has already said a lot on the topic and her opinions are widely available on the Internet.


Edwards filed a formal compliant with the Toronto District School Board before the Christmas holidays, arguing that while the futuristic theme of the book is acceptable, its focus on "sex, brutal situations, murder, prostitution" is not.


The book "is rife with brutality towards and mistreatment of women (and men at times), sexual scenes, and bleak depression," Edwards said in a letter to the school's principal. "I can't really understand what it is my son is supposed to be learning from this fictional drivel.


"I have a major problem with a curriculum book that cannot be fully read out loud in class, in front of an assembly, directly to a teacher, a parent, or, for that matter, contains attitudes and words that cannot be used by students in class discussion or hallway conversation. Let alone a description of situations that must be embarrassing and uncomfortable to any young woman in that class – and probably the young men, too."


He said if the book was anti-Islam, it wouldn't be allowed.
According to board policy, any complaint that can't be solved at the school level goes to a review committee.



Such a committee is now reviewing The Handmaid's Tale, which was first published in 1985. It met yesterday at Lawrence Park and will eventually make a recommendation to the director of education.
If Edwards still isn't satisfied, he can appeal to trustees.


The novel centres on a futuristic, theocratic world where women are used as breeders.
After Edwards complained, his son was assigned another book, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, and will step out of class during any discussions on The Handmaid's Tale.


Russell Morton Brown, a retired University of Toronto English professor, said The Handmaid's Tale wasn't likely written for 17-year-olds, "but neither are a lot of things we teach in high school, like Shakespeare.
"And they are all the better for reading it. They are on the edge of adulthood already, and there's no point in coddling them," he said, adding, "they aren't coddled in terms of mass media today anyway."
He said the book has been accused of being anti-Christian and, more recently, anti-Islamic because the women are veiled and polygamy is allowed.



But that "misses the point," said Brown. "It's really antifundamentalism."
At one time, Brown taught a graduate course to high school teachers on Canadian fiction, which included The Handmaid's Tale.
"It's the most taught Canadian novel at the high school level," he said. "I think it provides a lot to talk about, and generally speaking it does engage students."


Join the conversation on the parentcentral.ca editor's blog.

Complaint spurs review of Atwood novel.

http://www.parentcentral.ca/parent/article/571999
 
Are you kidding me? I read Handmaid's Tale during my senior year. We spent weeks dissecting that thing. We covered everything from sexism to religious tolerance. We even tried figuring out what order each of the chapters should've been in.

I think it's important to read that book. For all of its foul language and brutality, the end of the book makes it very clear that the path society took following the terrorist attacks led to a full-on collapse of the United States.
 
^It is an incredible book. And the prof quoted in the article is right, Atwood was warning against fundamentalism and what can happen if people follow it.
 
Why the hell is "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time" on that list?
 
I wish I could find the copy of "Little Black Sambo" I had as a kid. I loved that book. :csad:
 
Who is banning these books? What are they banned from? I live in a small town in rural Minnesota, in the only county that votes republican in the entire state, and continues to vote down bills making it legal to sell alcohol on Sunday, and I read the Satanic Bible in High School, and even did a student/teacher conference on it for points. Is there actually a first world country that's still banning books? Did I fall in a timewarp and get transported to some alternate version of the 50's where the internet exists?
 
Could someone please kindly explain to me how Alice in Wonderland could be banned? Anyone? Anyone?
 
Could someone please kindly explain to me how Alice in Wonderland could be banned? Anyone? Anyone?

Thinley veiled drug refferences and the fact that Lewis Carrol was most likely a pedophile?
 
Could someone please kindly explain to me how Alice in Wonderland could be banned? Anyone? Anyone?

Witchcraft could be argued against this book I suppose.

Who is banning these books? What are they banned from? I live in a small town in rural Minnesota, in the only county that votes republican in the entire state, and continues to vote down bills making it legal to sell alcohol on Sunday, and I read the Satanic Bible in High School, and even did a student/teacher conference on it for points. Is there actually a first world country that's still banning books? Did I fall in a timewarp and get transported to some alternate version of the 50's where the internet exists?

I think it depends on the body. School boards probably have the power to take certain books out of the curriculum, bookstores don't have to sell things they don't want to. For example I think you would be hard pressed to find a store that would sell you the Anarchist Cookbook. Most modern literature wil find its defenders in academics these days so it would be truly hard to get it banned. However, where the issue gets sticky is with issues surronding hate speech, etc. Check this out:

E for Ecstasy, a book on the drug MDMA, was seized by Australian customs in 1994, and may still be banned today. (You can see what kinds of books are banned in Australia, and search the database of banned or restricted materials, at the Australia Classification Board website. The database currently lacks decisions prior to 1995, and does not currently contain any information about the book. Previous searches in 2000 did note the ban.) In the 1999-2000 session, the US Congress quietly slipped similar bans for "dangerous" information on drugs and explosives into various bills. The Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act of 1999 (S. 1428) had a section 9 outlawing certain dissemination of information on drug use, patterned after a law outlawing certain dissemination on information on explosives that was signed in 1999. Given that conspiracy or solicitation to commit federal crimes was already illegal, it's hard to see what practical effect is intended by these bills other than to censor the open dissemination of information deemed too dangerous for the public to learn. Anti-drug-information bills have not made it to a full vote in Congress, as far as I'm aware, so E For Ecstasy is still legal in the US, for now.



A number of democratic countries, including Austria, France, Germany, and Canada, have criminalized various forms of "hate speech", including books judged to disparage minority groups. In the 1980s, Ernst Zündel was convicted twice under Canada's "false news" laws for publishing Did Six Million Really Die?, a 1974 book denying the Holocaust. On appeal, the Canadian Supreme Court found the "false news" law unconstitutional in 1992, but Zündel is now being prosecuted under Canada's "Human Rights Act" for publishing this book and other material on his Zundelsite. Even so, Deborah Lipstadt and some other prominent critics of Holocaust deniers have gone on record as opposing laws that would censor such speech. On the other hand, Zündel is quite happy to call for bans for works he doesn't like, though, as seen in this leaflet calling for a ban of Schindler's List. And denier David Irving's attempt to stop publication of Lipstadt's book on Holocaust denial failed when a UK court ruled that Lipstadt's statements about Irving were, in fact, justified. With courts upholding both the decision and the bankruptcy of Irving that followed, the fight continues on the Web, with sites from both Irving and Lipstadt providing commentary, transcripts, and exhibits from the trial.

I definitely think Holocaust deniers are cracked, but maybe it's important to have access to what they want to say so that we can try to have meaningful dialogue with people who would support these ideas and try to change thier mindsets, rather than suppressing them. And does free speech trump hate speech? I don't really have the answer to that. Definitely a very thorny issue surronding censorship.
 
^I didn't know that. Colour me suprised.
 
At times, I've seen it in the store. Specifically in the politics section.

But it's shrink wrapped similar to some of the hardcovers in the graphic novel section
 
They banned truly distasteful joke books in my middle school :o
 

Wow The Pigman is a banned book. I read that in 7th grade and loved it.

What about stopping children from reading some books? Should some books be "banned" for certain age groups? I know there are some books that are pretty shocking and may not be appropriate for a younger audience. Yet other books such as Gone with the Wind, Huckleberry Finn, and Catcher in the Rye deal with issues like race, gender, and sexuality in diverse ways, yet these books are pretty freely available for kids to read. They may not even understand what they are reading and what the actual point of the literature is.

So...what do you think?

I think as far as age groups, there should be a sense of maturity and intelligence to read books. I dont see the point in giving younger kids a book to read if the thematic elements are going to go right over their heads. Plus if a story included graphic sex or violence, you dont want kids who giggle when they read the word penis. But in no way do I think we should coddle them and shield them from books.
 

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