September 27, 2006

"Banned Book Week" A Crock of Bologna

(The following is a reprint from a column I did several years ago. It was so good I had to post it again!)

Maybe you didn't even know that another "Banned Book Week" just came and went. No big deal since the whole thing is a manufactured crisis but it tends to get some people all red in the face. It's real purpose, I am convinced, is to intimidate parents into silence who might have a concern over questionable reading materials their children bring home from school or the local library.

The American Library Association in cooperation with various fringe organizations like People for the American Way have discovered its a good way to generate contributions to their cause. More on that later.

So last year the ALA came up with 152 incidents of "censorship" but 129 of these were in public schools. In other words, parents exercising their God given, and at least for now, their constitutional right to over see their children's education, were formally listed as censures if they even questioned any reading material given their children. You should also know we're not talking about a hyperventilating parent worked up over Cinderella or the Wizard of Oz. To be sure there are a sliver of incidents where one gets a bit carried away but the majority of concerns arise from episodes like that of Tonda Pratt, the mother of a California 11 year old. She went to school when her son came home upset about a story the teacher had been reading to the class.

I would excerpt it here except I already know from past experience that the Sentinel would not print it deeming it unsuitable for a family newspaper. The irony is, it is suitable for an elementary level public school teacher to read aloud to her class of sixth graders but unsuitable for the adult eyes who read the Sentinel.

Summarizing, the story in question is a shockingly graphic and gutter level depiction of the gang rape of a neighborhood girl as the neighborhood boys have some fun.

Mrs. Pratt followed the guidelines given by the school for addressing such an issue and the school board voted unanimously to remove the book from the elementary school. The book was not "banned" but was only placed in the high school library where it was deemed more age appropriate. Mrs. Pratt was shocked when she Later found out she was officially listed as a censor by the American Library Association.

Lisa Clinton, mother of an eight year old, was likewise stunned when she found out she had been branded a "censor" in a national report without her prior knowledge. She was guilty of asking that her daughter, (no one else's), not have to listen to the teacher read from the Goosebumps series which was giving her nightmares. Instead of honoring her request the teacher handed the eight year old some cotton and told her to stuff it in her ears.

The point is, censorship had not occurred in either situation neither had any books been banned. Still, they were tallied as yet two more "banning incidents" for the ALA's records.

Last year the American Library Association reported that 27 books were "banned" from a classroom or public library. In light of over 80,000 public schools across the country and 17,000 libraries, twenty seven books hardly constitute a portent of an encroaching evil empire where freedom of the press is a thing of the past. But it's a total fabrication. The truth about "Banned Book Week" is that not a single book in the United States has been banned.

Of those 27 supposedly banned books, six were merely removed from a reading list; six more were required to have parental notification; four were relocated to another shelf in the library; 3 were made optional reading; and the rest were restricted to age appropriate levels. This is the essence of the impending national crisis and this is what is empowering "Banned Book Week."

In a telling admission, former People For the American Way staffer, Marc Herman, whose responsibility it was for researching book bannings, told his superiors in 1993 that his findings showed no increase in "book banning incidents" from the previous year. He thought he was bringing good news since "banning incidents" were on the down swing. Instead of being jubilant his superiors told him to make things look worse since such headlines attract the attention of grant foundations and garner contributions from such groups as the ACLU and the American Library Association's Intellectual Freedom Committee.

So you see the book banning scare is another farce. Well sort of. You see there is one book that truly is banned for all intents and purposes. Teachers are ordered to get it off their desks; children are forbidden to read it or even bring it on some campuses. But you won't hear the American Library Association complaining; in fact they whole heartedly endorse the ban. But then the book is the Bible and that's another story.


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