Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Banning Books in America

Banned Books Freedom of Speech USA
We don't ban books from our personal
home library. Rather, we tend to hoard books.
When it comes to my weekly syndicated column, I do my best not to talk politics, religion, or sports. My column is a feel-good, humorous, fun piece that is not meant to stir up controversy. However, there are times I feel it necessary to rant about something controversial. There are times I need to step up onto that proverbial soap box. That's when it's time to blog.

Yes, it still happens today in public schools. A parent doesn't like the content of a book. Rather than select the other books on the summer reading list or request a suitable accommodation, the parent works to get the book banned from the public high school the child attends. School committees get involved and make recommendations to the school board. The committees defend the book and make the recommendation to keep it. The school board votes to ban the book. As a result, the rest of the children in the entire school district are denied the right to use the book as part of their public education.

Parents absolutely need to be involved in their children's educations. They need to be familiar with curriculum materials. They need to be knowledgeable about content. When a parent decides something in the public school curriculum is not in alignment with their own belief systems, they have the right to request a reasonable accommodation, i.e. substitute, for the conflicting material. The public school system is obliged to make that accommodation. 

When a middle school teacher in our district incorporated a rated-R movie into his history class, I exercised my right to refuse to allow my children to watch the movie. While their classmates watched the material I felt was a graphic, fictionalized story based on historic events that was inappropriate for students in their early teens, my children were in the library reading non-fiction accounts of the same subject. However, the school system approved the material. The parents of my children's classmates gave permission for their children to watch the movie. In this scenario, everyone's rights were protected. 

Unfortunately, the parent in Randleman, NC, and the school board chose to deny other children and parents the right to include a specific piece of literature in their education. They did this based on one family's belief system. In the United States of America, I believe this to be unconstitutional. 

It is unacceptable for personal belief systems and ideologies to be forced upon others in public venues. That's what makes us a FREE country. We are free to believe what we want to believe without persecution from the government. We have the right to a free and equitable public education. We have the right to freedom of speech. What we don't have is the right to take away the rights of others. If we don't maintain these basic founding freedoms, then what do we stand for as Americans? How are we different from other countries?

Links to some of the other stories about the Randolph County School's decision to ban Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison:
Huffington Post
LA Times
The Courier-Tribune

On September 25, 2013, at a special called meeting, the Randolph County School Board voted 6-1 to rescind the ban and allow Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man to be part of the high school curriculum and library collection. To Read more: The Courier-Tribune

Micki Bare, mother of three, wife, daughter & writer is the author of Thurston T. Turtle children's books. 
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  1. Mason didn't find any literary value!!? Well, maybe he would have everyone read Mother Goose instead. Ellison's book is tremendous! I figure Mason has the literary compass of a second grader. I also doubt any of the board voting to ban are African-American. How'd they like if the only literature about, say, WWII was written by compliant Jews? Or histories of the 16th century by Catholics with an ax to grind against Luther?