Banned Books Week

From the LA Times:

It’s happened again. In 2009, “And Tango Makes Three,” the heartwarming children’s book about two penguin daddies and their adopted baby penguin Tango — based on the true story of penguins in Central Park — was one of the year’s most-challenged books, according to the American Library Association. Once again, unfortunately, we’re celebrating Banned Books Week.

If there is a sense in some quarters that America embraces freedom of expression, there is a sense in others that books present ideas that are dangerous or inappropriate. In 2009, there were 460 challenges reported to the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. The top 10 most-challenged books of 2009 were:

1. TTYL; TTFN; L8R, G8R (series), by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: Nudity, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs
2. “And Tango Makes Three” by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
Reasons: Homosexuality
3. “The Perks of Being A Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Anti-Family, Offensive Language, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs, Suicide
4. “To Kill A Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee
Reasons: Racism, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group
5. Twilight (series) by Stephenie Meyer
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group…

[continues in the LA Times]

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  • Liam_McGonagle

    To Kill a Mockingbird? On grounds of racism? How do they ever expect kids to be able to identify it and combat it if they never explore it?

    I agree that there is such a thing as age-appropriateness, just ’cause none of us has completely unlimited bandwidth to deal with it all at once. But an outright ban is just bullshit.

  • Anonymous

    To Kill a Mockingbird? On grounds of racism? How do they ever expect kids to be able to identify it and combat it if they never explore it?

    I agree that there is such a thing as age-appropriateness, just ’cause none of us has completely unlimited bandwidth to deal with it all at once. But an outright ban is just bullshit.

  • Vox Penii

    Curious, isn’t it, how self-anointed leaders believe they have the right to decide what’s appropriate for OTHER PEOPLE’S children, and that people are “closed minded” or “bigoted” or fill-in-the-blank when they object to the decisions of a self-selected elite.

    Doubly curious how Disinfo rails against some types of “elites” (e.g., wealthy people) while championing other elites (e.g., textbook selection committees).

    Hogwash is Happening

    by Thomas Sowell

    Washington Times

    October 3, 1994

    Book Banning is Happening Now!! That is what the sign said in the midst of a big display in the bookstore window. As it turned out, book banning was not happening. Hogwash was happening.

    The books in the display were not banned. You can get them at bookstores from sea to shining sea. The government itself buys some of them. Many of these books are circulating in the tens of thousands, and some in the millions.

    A poster in the display proclaimed [the week of October 3, 1994] to be “Banned Books Week.” The kind of shameless propaganda that has become commonplace in false charges of “censorship” or “book banning” has apparently now been institutionalized with a week of its own.

    False Charges

    Someone called the 1930s a “low, dishonest decade.” The 1990s are a serious competitor for that title. False charges of banning or censorship are so common that they are seldom challenged for evidence or even for a definition.

    To call a book “banned” because someone decided that it was unsuitable for their particular students or clientele would be to make at least 99 percent of all books “banned.” Few individuals or institutions can afford to buy even 1 percent of the vast number of books that are published annually. They must exercise judgment and that judgment is necessarily in the negative most of the time.

    If we are not going to call every book that is not purchased by an institution “banned,” then how will we define this nebulous but emotional word?

    Usually some school or library officials decide to buy a particular book and then some parents or others object that it is either unsuitable for children or unsuitable in general, for any of a number of reasons. Then the cry of “censorship” goes up, even if the book is still being sold openly all over town.

    If the criterion of censorship is that the objection comes from the general public, rather than from people who run schools and libraries, then that is saying the parents and taxpayers have no right to a say about what is done with their own children or their own money.

    This is a pretty raw assertion of pre-emptive superiority–and while many of the self-anointed may think this way, few are bold enough to come right out and say it. Fraudulent words like “censorship” and “banned” enable them to avoid saying it.

    Some of the books shown seemed pretty innocuous to me–but there is no more reason why my opinion should prevail than the opinion of someone else, especially when that someone else is a parent or taxpayer. However, other books in the display were pure propaganda for avant-garde notions that are being foisted onto vulnerable and unsuspecting children in the name of “education.”

    Parental Rights

    Parents have not only a right but a duty to object when their children are being used as objects for other people’s ideological crusades, especially when brainwashing replaces education in the public schools. Let the ideologues argue their ideas openly with adults in the marketplace of ideas, not take cowardly advantage of children behind their parents’ backs.

    There is no point arguing about whether this book or that book should or should not have been taken off the shelves. There would not be an issue in the first place if different people did not have different opinions on that point. The question is why some people’s opinions are called “censorship” and other people’s opinions are not.

    Elite Intelligentsia

    No one calls it censorship when the old McGuffey’s Readers are no longer purchased by the public schools (though they are still available and are actually being used in some private schools). No one calls it censorship if the collected works of Rush Limbaugh are not put into libraries and schools in every town, hamlet and middlesex village.

    It is only when the books approved by the elite intelligentsia are objected to by others that it is called censorship. Apparently we are not to talk back to our betters.

    All this is just one more skirmish in the cultural wars of our time. In war, someone pointed out long ago, truth is the first casualty. Those who are spreading hysteria about book banning and censorship know that they are in a war, but too many of those who thoughtlessly repeat their rhetoric do not.

    It is not enough to see through fraudulent rhetoric in a particular case if you continue to listen gullibly to those who have used such rhetoric to muddy the waters.

    There should have been a sign in that bookstore window saying “Hogwash is happening.” That’s what really rates two exclamation point–and perhaps a National Hogwash Week.

  • Anonymous

    Not sure that Disinfo has ever advocated banning anyone. But to assert complete intellectual and moral equivalance for all viewpoints is to surrender to chaos and mediocrity.

    If your ideas just aren’t winning in the marketplace of free ideas it could just be that they’re poor ideas and not because the devil turned on their ‘hate right-wingers’ switch. There are three principles or virtues through which I try to engage ideas. The best ideas appeal highly to each of them, the worst ideas appeal to none of them.

    1. Curiosity: How much scope does this proposal provide for exchange and development of new ideas? This is the most typical failure of Right Wing rhetoric. Not only because the personal styles of its practicioners is often aggressively sneering and dismissive of honest challenge, but because its fundamental bias is unrelentingly toward the traditional. Often it seeks to drown out productive inquiry through sheer repetition of flawed conventional formulae. And cocksure certainty does be jumping the gun into some pretty hilarious analytical errors.

    2. Courage: I never get a strong feeling of reliability from someone whose strategic preference is for retreat (i.e., avoiding challenges like controversial new ideas). Would anyone want a guy like that on their team?

    3. Generosity: The tension between self-interest and altruism is what makes the world go ’round. And it’s no secret which one of these has been in an unbalanced ascendancy over American society in the last 30 years. Let’s face it, it takes a pretty tortured interpretation to make Laissez Faire Capitalism into something other than amoral savagery.

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    ALA lists of books with the most requests for removal usually make for an interesting collection of taboos du jour. It’s a nice reflection of what our society fears/holds in contempt at any given moment in history. Per usual, mistaken accusations of racism made against a book whose context is actual very anti-racist, human sexuality in any form, shape or context, and books that encourage distrust of authority are always high on the list.

    The concept of the public library always raises difficult questions, because a library is a communal resource and many differing opinions go into what material should be made available for the public and at the publics expense.

    But in the end theres one thing worth noting…the vigorous opposition to access to literature is centered in the right of the political spectrum. If anyone wanted to restrict access to William F. Buckley’s “God and Man at Yale”…I’d be just as hopping mad as usual…but liberals just aren’t on that bandwagon because it isn’t their raison d’etre. One side believes in both parties coming to the table with their chosen information and hashing things out…the other doesn’t have an intellectual leg to stand on and just settles for trying to amputate everyone else.

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    ALA lists of books with the most requests for removal usually make for an interesting collection of taboos du jour. It’s a nice reflection of what our society fears/holds in contempt at any given moment in history. Per usual, mistaken accusations of racism made against a book whose context is actual very anti-racist, human sexuality in any form, shape or context, and books that encourage distrust of authority are always high on the list.

    The concept of the public library always raises difficult questions, because a library is a communal resource and many differing opinions go into what material should be made available for the public and at the publics expense.

    But in the end theres one thing worth noting…the vigorous opposition to access to literature is centered in the right of the political spectrum. If anyone wanted to restrict access to William F. Buckley’s “God and Man at Yale”…I’d be just as hopping mad as usual…but liberals just aren’t on that bandwagon because it isn’t their raison d’etre. One side believes in both parties coming to the table with their chosen information and hashing things out…the other doesn’t have an intellectual leg to stand on and just settles for trying to amputate everyone else.

  • Kyle B.

    I haven’t come around to read “And Tango Makes Three”, but for the reason why people want it censored/banned is pretty stupid. Ok sure, it promote’s Homosexuality, but still no reason for it to be banned. There are alot more books out there that promote alot worse stuff then what this book does, and yet there is nothing wrong with Homosexuality. People who wanted this book to be banned because two male penguins adopted a baby penguin come on, have a sense of love. I don’t understand why people see one little thing about a book they don’t like and they want it to get censored/banned, and I probably will never understand. But in the end, they win because they don’t want their children reading about Homosexuality, but they have to understand that their children will be learning all about Sexuality at around age 10 – 12. Children these days are learning fast and those parents that want to exclude their children from that is fine, but it wont be helt back for long. Now just to close of my Comment, I am planning on reading this book and also suggesting that this book should be uncensored/unbanned.

  • Kyle B.

    I haven’t come around to read “And Tango Makes Three”, but for the reason why people want it censored/banned is pretty stupid. Ok sure, it promote’s Homosexuality, but still no reason for it to be banned. There are alot more books out there that promote alot worse stuff then what this book does, and yet there is nothing wrong with Homosexuality. People who wanted this book to be banned because two male penguins adopted a baby penguin come on, have a sense of love. I don’t understand why people see one little thing about a book they don’t like and they want it to get censored/banned, and I probably will never understand. But in the end, they win because they don’t want their children reading about Homosexuality, but they have to understand that their children will be learning all about Sexuality at around age 10 – 12. Children these days are learning fast and those parents that want to exclude their children from that is fine, but it wont be helt back for long. Now just to close of my Comment, I am planning on reading this book and also suggesting that this book should be uncensored/unbanned.

  • Liam_McGonagle

    Not sure that Disinfo has ever advocated banning anyone. But to assert complete intellectual and moral equivalance for all viewpoints is to surrender to chaos and mediocrity.

    If your ideas just aren’t winning in the marketplace of free ideas it could just be that they’re poor ideas and not because the devil turned on their ‘hate right-wingers’ switch. There are three principles or virtues through which I try to engage ideas. The best ideas appeal highly to each of them, the worst ideas appeal to none of them.

    1. Curiosity: How much scope does this proposal provide for exchange and development of new ideas? This is the most typical failure of Right Wing rhetoric. Not only because the personal styles of its practicioners is often aggressively sneering and dismissive of honest challenge, but because its fundamental bias is unrelentingly toward the traditional. Often it seeks to drown out productive inquiry through sheer repetition of flawed conventional formulae. And cocksure certainty does be jumping the gun into some pretty hilarious analytical errors.

    2. Courage: I never get a strong feeling of reliability from someone whose strategic preference is for retreat (i.e., avoiding challenges like controversial new ideas). Would anyone want a guy like that on their team?

    3. Generosity: The tension between self-interest and altruism is what makes the world go ’round. And it’s no secret which one of these has been in an unbalanced ascendancy over American society in the last 30 years. Let’s face it, it takes a pretty tortured interpretation to make Laissez Faire Capitalism into something other than amoral savagery.