Google+ Reading Teen: Child Corruptors vs. Nazi Book Banners: A different take on the book banning issue

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Child Corruptors vs. Nazi Book Banners: A different take on the book banning issue

     The Child Corrupting,
       Morally Bankrupt                       vs.           The Nazi Book Banning Idiots

I was planning to do a post about my thoughts on "book banning" with the approach of Banned Books Week, but the recent outrage over the Wesley Scroggins article has added another dimension to my thoughts, so I'll just write it as one post.

I have to say that all of the comments, blog posts, articles and such from all ends of the spectrum have been a little disheartening to me.  It makes me sad to see such hateful things being thrown around by all involved in this debate.  Morally bankrupt, Nazi book burners, pornography pushers, ignorant parents who want to keep their children ignorant too, child corruptors, the list of insults from both sides goes on and on.  I know that emotions run high on this issue, and for good reason, but when we start throwing names around, what good comes of it?

Wesley Scroggins can sit down and write a hateful (and misinformed) article about authors and their books, and people opposed to him can write hateful blog posts and throw insults back at him, but who is listening?  Who is changing their views?  No one.  There are people, I'm sure, who are reading Scroggins' article, and writing him, telling him what a great job he's doing, agreeing with him and spurring him on.  And there are people writing on blog posts who are saying that Scroggins is a Nazi and all those who believe like him are the same, and people are cheering and saying, "YES!  I agree!  Well said!"  But who are those people?  Are they the ones who's minds you're trying to change?  Or are they the people who already agree with you?  If you really want to change someone's view on things, insulting them is not going to help.  Instead of having an open mind about what you have to say, they will immediately shut you out and write you off as an extremist (in either direction).

Here's the thing:  People who write books about teenage issues that contain sex, drugs, language etc. are not trying to corrupt children.  They are writing about real life and trying to expose children to literature and thinking for themselves.  And, people who want books with "content" in them taken out of schools are not Nazis.  They are parents who are fearful for their children, and with good reason.  With the rise of teenage sex, and drug and alcohol abuse, they want to protect their children the best they can.  What's important to remember is that, ultimately, (almost) everyone wants the same thing.  We want what's best for the children of this world.  We just have different ideas about what that is.  There are people who think that kids should be able to read whatever they want, and people who think that kids should read only what is in line with their morals and values (and all sorts of people in between).  Both sides have very good reasons for these beliefs.  Do we really think that everyone should and can think exactly the same as we do?  Even Amy and I have different opinions about what our kids read (and watch) and we're best friends.  And here's the kicker....there will never be a time (in this world) that we all agree.

So, what can be done? 

It is my opinion, that the best way to deal with all of these issues is through information and education.  So many issues would never be issues to begin with if people were informed and educated.  For example:

What if the schools that Scroggins wrote about in his article had informed parents about the books that they were going to be reading this year?  What if they told the parents what content was in the books and educated them about why they felt it was an important message?  Then gave parents the option of allowing their child to read that book, or an alternate book that doesn't have questionable content.  This gives parents the chance to make the best, most informed decision about what's best for their child.  What would Scroggins have written about then?  If he complained to the parents, they would have said, "Yes, we already know...thankyouverymuch."  There would be nothing for Scroggins to "expose" and so nothing for him to write about.  

I've found that when parents learn about these things after the fact, they are much more likely to be upset and react more harshly than if they had been informed up front.  If they feel like the welfare of their children is being threatened, their parental instincts kick in, and they go on a rampage to protect their child.  All of which might have been avoided, if they had been told ahead of time what to expect, and not gotten what is often inaccurate information from a third party.

I think that often authors/teachers/schools are afraid that if they tell the content that is in the book, that parents will keep their kids from reading the book, or that they'll only see the "content" and won't see the benefits of the book.  But I think that's why it's even more important that the author or teacher is the one who tells the parents what's in the book.  They will be more likely to better explain the reasons a book should be read, regardless of the content, than anyone.  If someone like Scroggins is the one that parents are getting their (mis)information from, it's no wonder they're freaking out!

Speak: 10th Anniversary EditionSometimes informing parents about content can actually propel them into giving the book to their child.  I had never read Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.  I remember seeing it at the bookstore, but I just never picked it up.  My mom, however, was really interested in it, and decided that she would like to read it and review it for our blog.  She kept a pretty detailed account of all the content in the book and told me about it afterwards.  When I learned what the book was about, and she told me how powerful the message was, I immediately gave it to my 15 year old daughter so that she could read it.  I thought it was a really important lesson and story for her to read.  I wanted to make sure that if she ever went through this, or any kind of abuse, that she would Speak out about it.  But if I hadn't been told about the content, I may have never picked up the book for her!  And I certainly wouldn't have had the opportunity to talk to her about what she had read. (Laurie wrote a fantastic article as a rebuttal to Scroggins' claims about Speak, you can read it here.)

What's the bottom line?

#1 Information and Education should be embraced and not feared.  I believe it is the right of every parent to decide what their child reads and doesn't read.  That means that no one should be forced to read something their parent is against, and it means no one should decide for others what their child should not be able to read.  But how can parents make informed decisions about the books if they don't know what's in them?

#2 If you want to change people's minds, get informed yourself, then Speak Loudly, but speak kindly!  Use language that is true and not inflammatory.  Don't try to force your opinions on others, instead explain your views in a way that might make people want to reexamine their own.  Remember that there's more that unites us than divides us!

There's so much more I want to say on this subject.  I'm sure I will at some point.  What are your thoughts?  If anyone feels like discussing it, leave a comment!

To show our support to Laurie and her book, we are giving away our signed copy of SPEAK (don't worry, we have two) in the hopes that it will help someone Speak out about abuse.  If you would like to be entered, please fill out this form!

Winner: Michelle Jue


  1. Thank you for this post. I have to admit I'm a bit more of a "Nazi" (but a teen, so that's a paradox for you), but I'm also annoyed with all the insults flying over this issue. Speak, for example--I've never understood why it's a banned book. I read it at random, and yes, the content was edgy, but the way Anderson handled it was perfect. Exploring a very real issue without going graphically overboard or being preachy. So, great giveaway :)

  2. Brilliant post, and well said! I myself am completely opposed to book banning, but at the same time I think it's the parent's individual decision and they should be told the content of the books their children are reading at school.

  3. I still can't understand why Speak should be a banned book. I haven't read it, but to stop publication of a book dealing with such a deep and real issue isn't something one should do.

  4. oh Andye, you said it perfectly!
    I love SPEAK and learned so many valuable lessons from it, but at the same time, no book (regardless of it's supposed worth) should be forced on kids in a public school setting. I said "forced" because kids in a public school are minors, by law they have to be there (in school), and they are a captive audience in a class where they don't have the right to stand up and say "hey, teacher, this book makes me uncomfortable, and I don't want to do this assignment." As valuable as lessons may be from certain books (even ones we love) it's the parent's job to instill values and beliefs in their kids, not the school's... Parents ultimately should have the right to know what is being taught. In my great state, they do. But something like banning? That's just too one-sided. That's taking one's own beliefs and applying them to everyone, which is not okay.
    Excellent post! Do you mind if I like to it on my site?

  5. Nicely said!! Couldn't have said it better myself!

  6. Much as every parent would like to protect their children from all the evil and bad things in the world, we all know that that is not possible.

    We live in a world that is not perfect and bad things do happen.

    So I agree with you that the first thing that needsto be done should be done by the parents.

    It is their most important duty to teach and educate their children about so many issues including porn and racism and other evils.

    But ultimately we are each responsible for ourselves.

    Teach your children to think critically and that is about all one can do.

    I don't think we need or can to protect adults from themselves.

    Carol T

    buddytho {at} gmail DOT com

  7. I have not read this book yet, but I certainly want to. I agree with everyting said here. Books are read for info and the subject matter of Speak is sensitive and gives victims a voice.
    The good thing about all this is that Speakis now getting exceptional publicity and you know what they say... there's no such thing as bad publicity. This may be a blessing in disguise for Speak.

  8. I haven't read the book yet, but there's no way any book should be banned! I think it's wonderful that so many people in the blogosphere are 'speaking up' about this and showing support!

  9. This is a wonderful post. Thank you for your calm, well-considered words.

  10. Kudos! There are always multiple points of views. I am firmly against censorship, but I do not support mudslinging on either end. If we claim to be concerned for the kids, then we should model ourselves as rational, intelligent debaters :) When they see adults fighting out their differences, they don't learn the reason for the dispute, just the result: anger.

    I agree that parents should be more informed about school reading assignments, for the conversation and to be able to share their values (and just because more parents should be involved in education!) but not to stop a child from learning and choosing their own beliefs. If teens want to read or learn about something, they will find a way. Isn't it better to know where and how and what they are learning?

    There are a variety of books that could be used as examples of unreasonable challenges, but I am shocked SPEAK sparked the topic this time. I read it myself recently, and was happy to see it on my son's reading list (in VA). At open house, I commented "That's a great book!" and his friend-who's-a-girl and the teacher both gave me kind of a surprised look. I may have been the only parent who had heard of it. I told my son I hope that they discuss why it is important to be able to talk about any problem, not bottle it up. I also hope they learn about the reality of teen sexuality and date rape. That might be pushing it for some parents, but I will support the teacher.

  11. I just read Mr Scroggins "editorial" and its clear to me that he did not read SPEAK thoroughly. I don't think he read SLAUGHTERHOUSE 5 either, just saw the swear words. I understand fighting censorship, but maybe sometimes these disputes should be ignored. It's much like the woman who wanted to ban Harry Potter but refused to read them. They get more publicity than is necessary. But at least the books do too :)

    There was a local news story about a woman who was challenging the kid version of AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH being on the recommended summer reading list. Not required. I could not help thinking that she just wanted to stir up some trouble and get on the TV.

  12. While I agree with you on some things,I have found most parents will obect because of the subject matter only. The majority of the time they haven't even read the book, so they don't know how the issue has been handled. The biggest problem I have seen is parents objecting to a book because of their religous/ moral reasons. But not everyone has the same beliefs, so to deny access to a book based on that is wrong.
    Worst of all, banning books is not going to remove the issues that they are talking about. There is still rapes, drugs, violence and any number of topics. All it does, is remove a perspective from the person dealing with them.

  13. I've read Speak myself, and right after finishing it, passed it on to my daughters. Anderson does a wonderful job of covering the topic of rape. I often wonder what people are trying to hide when then figure they have the right to ban others from reading such material.

  14. As someone in my late 20s, having a passion for YA novels and one working on a debut novel, I find it discouraging that "bans" are even applied to books. So many teens who deal with real life issues could use reading as a coping mechanism instead of bottling it up inside and becoming the teen angst no one understands.

    I'm always hearing about how parents have trouble understand their children and finding ways to reach out to them, yet a book like Speak, which I have yet to read, clearly (from your post) can help teens in similar situations. From your brief review, the book reminds me of one I had picked up from the library called Breathing Underwater by Alex Flinn (which, if my book series ever gets picked up will mention) because it reaches out to teens that are in abusive relationships. A lot of the time, you experience something, especially at a young age, and have no idea what it is or what category it would file under but when you get through reading Flinn's book, you can not only feel sympathetic towards the victim but also the abuser and see some of the signs that just because someone loves you, the actions behind being possessive and the need to control are no excuses to accept that behavior. I loved that it wasn't sugar coated or everyone got along at the end but showed that in time, the wounds would heal for both of them.

    I hope that "banning" is never used to prevent a reader from connecting with a book, especially when young people are wiser than we once were at that age and just the same, even more clueless than were were at that age. If I am ever blessed with children, I would much prefer they are aware of what can happen to anyone than be naive and think I can protect them from everything!

  15. Well said. Even thought passions run hot on this subject, yelling back and forth and slinging insults will never accomplish anything.

  16. Excellent post!

    I don't think banned a book is the best way to avoid some things.

    The parents have to talk to your children and teach them what's right and what's wrong.


  17. You make some fair points. One thing I'd add, though, is that while parents may have the right to decide what their kids can and can't read, they DON'T have the right to decide what other people's kids can and can't read. That's the point about book banning.

  18. @Brian, thanks for your comment. I agree, I said that in the post..."and it means no one should decide for others what their child should not be able to read."

    But, maybe I didn't say it clearly enough. I did write a lot....! You probably got tired of reading by that point! haha :)

  19. A well thought out post and I couldn't have said it better. You're right, the best way of addressing differences of opinions is to educate the other side, not insult. I do believe it should be the parents who help a child decide if a book is right for them and not others who seek to ban a book for everyone. Thanks for your insight:-)

  20. this is a great post! I completely agree with you that it's easier to just high five the people in your own club than to try to figure out from a sympathetic and open viewpoint why the other party feels the way they do.

    Speak loudly by kindly indeed!

  21. I think it's really sad that there still are people who would not allow useful information get to their children and by doing so they are not allowing them to make their own choices

  22. God, this post was good!
    I haven't read the book but I did read the article and several other posts like yours, and this guy seems to be completely wrong!

  23. Great post! It was very thoughtful and you explained yourself very well. I agree that parents should be the ones to make an informed decision about what their children are reading. And I like that you spoke out against all the name calling! You made a really good point that it won't help sway anyone to another point of view.

  24. Agree that insults and name calling do not make for a balanced debate.
    However I think many bloggers are simply venting their outrage because Wesley Scroggins is not just expressing an opinion he is assuming his opinion is the correct one and, by calling for a ban, is forcing others to abide by his opinion.

    I may sit in silence when I think you are foolish to protect your children from the realities of this world but I start shouting when you try to force me to do the same.

  25. I absolutely agree. I believe no one has the right to tell me (as i'm just bearly out of my teens) what I can and cannot read. I think some people should be happy that I read. There isn't many people in many area that read and in reading books like Speak, it would give me a chance to see a different perspective and sit back and think about things before I do them.

    And because of whats-his-face's 'editorial' of Speak, it's made me want to read it, just to see what it's all about.

    Also, i've entered this contest and i'm wondering if its international?

  26. I never knew about banned book week I learned alot and my favorite book is on the list :( I never read this but know about it and I feel people have a right to pick what we want to read!

  27. Parents should be told accurately what's in the books their kids read.

  28. Wow this post nailed it! Agreed with everything you said. Nice articulation of all my thoughts on the subject :)

  29. It really beats me why someone would want a book to be banned. I hate it when a person speaks for everyone when not everyone doesn't agree with him.

  30. Thanks for this post! It is so important to speak about serious topics and not to loook away or hide. Someone needs to stand and speak up first so that our world can become a better place for all of us!

  31. Really nice post! Nothing has ever been censored from my (by my parents at least). I've heard, read, seen things that I probably shouldn't have, but I'm glad I did. I didn't have preconceived notions of the world like many children. I wasn't crushed to find out that the world isn't a fairy tale- mostly because I was told that right off the back. That's not to say that my parents didn't encourage me or let me pursue my dreams. Its just saying that I was never told, "You're too little to understand," and I'm really glad I wasn't.

    Also, my town is pretty anti-censorship as well. The school I attended for Middle School had a "banned-books" Section of the library. (As does the public library). Speak was also a choice for reading groups when I was in 7th grade.

  32. My sister was sexually abused, and so was my mother.

    In nursing school, I did a huge speech to 75 highschoolers about dating abuse and how to get out and get help.

    What a great idea to speak up!

  33. I`ve seen the movie and it really changed me.Noe I`m going to read the book. I hope there are more books and movies like this to help young women... and sometimes men.

  34. I loved your opinion on this topic! It's simply no use throwing curse words at each other, it will never fix the problem here. But talk and information and parents and their children discussing books certainly will!

  35. I think it's disheartening to know that we live in countries where kids well under the legal age are doing things they shouldn't, while an inspirational book about speaking out about rape is being slammed by a misinformed tyrant. Why would he write an article about a book that many people hadn't even heard of until he started all of this? Why this book (and twenty boy summer) in particular? Why would he slam books at all? If he has such a big problem with moral corruption, then he should go out there and do something about it! Banning a book won't change anything except make him look like a bigot, and I know for a fact that the sales of Speak increased dramatically once he published his article.

  36. I agree with the comments. This book is very inspirational and so as the movie. I'd love to see and read books with same theme. It's indeed heart touching.

  37. Absolutely the best "banned books" post I've read


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