Banning Books Instead of Discussing Them

I came across this article on the Huffington Post this morning.

A dad in my province doesn’t like that The Perks of Being a Wallflower is being taught in Grade 10. He wants to get it banned. He believes that the book is borderline pornographic and is filled with graphic, inappropriate material.

So many thoughts.

First, banning books just make them more interesting. My dad wants to stop me from reading a book, now I want to know what about this book is so exciting that my dad doesn’t want me reading it. I will get it from a friend, the library, this thing called the Internet that lets me order whatever I want. Maybe Amazon will even recommend other related books that I might like.

I’ve read The Perks of Being a Wallflower – it was a book club book a while back. And I loved it. I thought it was an honest, brilliant portrayal of growing up. Being a teenager is no joke. Over time, the memories soften and you’re able to pick through and choose the good memories (unless being a teen was really traumatic for you. Then that is not going away). You manage to forget about all the feelings of inadequacy, the worries that you’re being left out, the confusion about who you like. Being a teenager sucks.

I think that reading a book about that, about all the crazy messed up things that can happen, the temptations to indulge in drugs and alcohol, the sexual confusion, I think it helps. This book talks about all of those things but it also spins out the consequences of those decisions. Teenagers, whose brains haven’t developed that impulse control, don’t always have the ability to see through to those consequences. This book takes them along. It is honest about mental health, sex, and drinking -all things that teenagers think about but don’t necessarily vocalize.

I have teenaged siblings. If they were reading this book I’d be so proud. It would mean that they were able to see outside of themselves, that they were growing as people. Actually I’m pretty sure that my one sister has read this book. The bottom line here is that just because you’re reading about something, doesn’t mean you’re doing it. Reading about a kid having sex with a dog doesn’t set you down the path to bestiality you know?

There are loads of other books for young adults that I would argue are more difficult to digest. The Hunger Games is a whole series about children killing children. How come they are less messed up than a book that sees teens experimenting with drugs and sex?

Maybe instead of trying to get the book banned, this dad should take the opportunity to discuss this book with his son. That’s the whole point of books anyway.

11 thoughts on “Banning Books Instead of Discussing Them

  1. Banning books or challenging books? One is quite different from the other. I believe parents have the right to opt out of their student reading a book. I had a parent request his student not read Lord of the Flies (pre-runner to Hunger Games?) Our school honors that.

    • As it stands right now, this man’s son is reading something else. Which fine I guess. But now he’s working to get the book banned in his school district.
      I remember reading Lord of the Flies- that was a crazy book! I’m so glad my parents love books and used them as a platform to have meaningful discussions instead of blocking them out.

  2. Oh, dear. So depressing 😦 I guess parents probably have a legal right to stop their children from reading things. And I agree that if a video or book is violent, a child may be disturbed by it and it would cause them distress which they need to be protected from. But it’s sad to see this parent fearing a book’s influence instead of feeling able to educate his children to become a citizen who can learn from and make judgements on the books that he reads.

  3. I’ve been following the whole Perks of Being a Wall Flower thing and I totally agree with you. Kids are going to be talking about the things in it regardless of whether or not it is taught in school, so let’s give a productive forum to explore these ideas. Also, I started the Hunger Games and couldn’t take it. It was too upsetting for me – kids killing kids, but then I’m old!

    • Exactly. At least this book gives dad a platform on which to relate to his kid. Doesn’t he remember what it was like to be a teen, have all of those things going on in his head, watch his friends experiment on the road to adulthood?

      I thought I would be so much more upset about the kids killing kids in The Hunger Games. But once I got into it, I was able to move past it.

  4. I find banning books from a readerly perspective to be abhorrent, but I also know it’s usually good for sales of a book (especially in teens) so I don’t fight it too hard 🙂
    I find it interesting which books do get banned. It’s usually the books that bring up anything even remotely sexual, and not the books that have violence in them. I have no issue with either, especially as school books where they will get discussed and thought about, but I do find oddness in people’s rage against their teens discussing anything sexual when really, that’s what all teenagers are thinking about for quite a large percentage of their day, 🙂 -Tania

    • You’re definitely right that banning books drives sales. People, especially teens, love things that are banned.

      I guess the idea that their children are thinking about sex at all, a distinctly adult activity, is what makes them so uncomfortable. Instead of talking to them about it and making sure that their teens are making smart decisions when it comes to sex, they would rather it just didn’t come up.

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