It boggles the mind that in an age and society where our children are bombarded with sex, violence and depravity on radio, television, movies, the internet and even video games, parents should get all excited over a book. Now, I’m not saying that it’s all out there so a little more won’t hurt. Quite the contrary. I think parents need to be more vigilant about what kids absorb in their free time. One of the big problems facing education is getting kids to read at all. They protested in the streets over Harry Potter but it got millions of young people to actually pick up…and enjoy…a book.
To get back to the book that has Newfane parents up in arms, this was in the US&J piece. “Written by Larry Watson, “Montana 1948” is required reading for incoming high school juniors. The book contains at least two passages that could be found as offensive, each containing descriptive information. One involves a boy seeing a woman get out of the shower, and the other deals with a character describing rape.”
See a woman getting out of a shower? After television commercials using sex and scantily clad bodies to sell everything, this is probably pretty tame. No, I didn’t listen to the passages being read (out of context) on the radio but, yes, I plan to get the book and read it. Not for titillation, I assure you. I just want to see what would finally push parents over the edge with fear about polluting young minds! What powerful words could knock them off their complacent perches and rally them to defend their children from the onslaught of smut?
I applaud a parent’s interest in their child’s education and respect their right to monitor what their children learn. If the story had said that several parents had read the book and requested that their child have an alternate selection, I would have supported and applauded them. My question is, would they even have noticed at all if it didn’t cause a sensation on the radio, causing the story to run the gossip lines at lightening speed?
I am an admitted bibliophile. I love books, and for me the computer monitor will never replace the printed page entirely. I was lucky enough to be brought up in a “reading” household. That doesn’t mean we read encyclopedias for fun. We were a two-newspaper house, with the Courier Express every morning and the Buffalo Evening News after dinner. My father was a lover of mysteries, from Mike Shayne to Nero Wolfe (some thought those were racy in their day). My mom loved romances in the grand tradition of Barbara Cartland. We had stacks of Archie and Richie Rich comic books that we traded around the neighborhood for others until they were frayed and smudged. I grew up to be a voracious reader and consider the vast array of information I’ve gleaned from reading purely for pleasure to be far more valuable than five years of college courses. Books take you to different times and places; immerse you in cultures and experiences far removed from everyday life.
Look at some of the “banned” books through history; Of Mice and Men, To Kill A Mockingbird, The Catcher in the Rye and even the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. They turned a mirror on life that made some people uncomfortable. Now we wonder what the fuss was about, but they are of the past and don’t hit close to home. Our high school children are more than well aware of the dark side of life, and it’s important that we, as adults, use every opportunity to discuss moral issues and how to handle life situations with maturity and self-respect. All I’m saying is, don’t listen to the hype when it comes to your child. If you are concerned enough to complain, be concerned enough to read it yourself first. While you’re at it, watch every music video they see, listen to the lyrics of every song they play, play every level of the video games that consume them and listen to the dialog and situations in the prime time television you watch every day. The problem is bigger than one assigned book.
Lastly, don’t blame a teacher who is trying to get kids to disconnect from their Ipods and electronics long enough to read, and contemplate, a book. Take the time to talk TO the teacher, not ABOUT the teacher. “Off with their heads” went out with Alice in Wonderland (Alice Through the Looking Glass, another banned book!) Help them help your children; try constructive dialogue before condemnation and confrontation. Isn’t that the way you’d like your children to handle conflict? They learn by example. ‘Nuff said.