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Author Topic: Opinions on Banned Books  (Read 3816 times)

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Offline LiliasTopic starter

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Opinions on Banned Books
« on: December 06, 2009, 08:52:38 AM »
LiveJournal offers its members a daily writing prompt to hold off writer's (or blogger's) block; a question that people can answer if they have nothing more interesting to write about on that day.

Not too many days ago, the question was: What (if any) books would you ban from a high school library? Are there certain subjects that you feel are inappropriate for teenagers regardless of literary merit?

It turned out to be the most popular question of the week (and probably an all-time winner). Here's how some bloggers tackled the issue:

1. Hrmph. Does the world need highschoolers reading Last Exit to Brooklyn, Delta of Venus, Requiem for a Dream or Tropic of Cancer? The answer is yes, but. Yes, but only under the suggestion and guidance of a wise (and fully fully tenured) professor who can explain context, answer embarrassing questions, and sit there poker faced through a parent-teacher conference...

2. Romeo and Juliet. I am sorry for the rude words I'll say in advance. Romeo and Juliet is - as my teacher put it - a PORN BOOK. An EROTIC NOVEL created by Shakespeare himself. The contents inside feature ONE SEX SCENE and many innuendos that relate to sexualism. It is truly a bad book to put in a high school library, no matter what the literary merit they'd gain. (Not sure if they're being sarcastic here...)

3. I would ban all the books... also, the internet. Make these kids learn THE HARD WAY!

4. Twilight. All of them. Ban them: Some of us like our books to have literary merit and not bloody well glorify pedophilia, stalking, emotional abuse, and misogyny, all under the guise of a crappy romance. Also, Vampires should never sparkle. That is all.

5. I don't have time to do this justice, so the short answer will have to do. No, and no. Absolutely, completely, and totally against censorship.

6. ...Rather than descend into giving lists of "approved" books for teens, perhaps we should first agree on what subject matter teens SHOULDN'T get their hands on, what teens may read with adult supervision, and on what teens can read at their own discretion. If there's one area in teen and preteen education that American society really fails at, it's in providing a proper amount of adult contact and supervision for all teens... Interaction and dialog with adults is what teens most need when they encounter new, strange, and sometimes distressing ideas and concepts.

7. Translated from Cyrillic: I wouldn't forbid any of them. One should learn to think with one's own head. But if the person only uses it to eat, then he/she wouldn't read any books anyway. Any books at all. [Original: Ни одной не запретила бы. Человек должен учиться думать своей головой. А если он туда просто ест, то книги все равно читать не станет. Любые.]

8. ...On the matter of banning books, no one has the right to deny anyone the beauty of art, creativity, imagination and symbolism. Totalitarians ban books, and too many people have died in the defence of free-expression for even the notion of banning books to be a valid argument.

9. Since I have a fucking clue, I wouldn't ban any books. I'd set up polling stations, and have anyone who voted to ban books summarily shot.

10. By all means, ban whatever book you want. It will result in at least double the amount of people reading it. I find it saddening so many people thought Twilight was a witty answer to this.

Offline Oniya

Re: Opinions on Banned Books
« Reply #1 on: December 06, 2009, 09:08:54 PM »
I'll fully admit that the only reason I picked up Huck Finn the first time was to find out why the school system banned it.   :-[

Offline Serephino

Re: Opinions on Banned Books
« Reply #2 on: December 06, 2009, 09:22:28 PM »
I like answers 9 and 10.  I don't think any book should be right out banned.  Censorship is bad.  And any high school student that would be inclined to read on his/her own would probably be mature enough to handle just about anything. 

My high school library had a book called 'The Inkeeper's Song' I believe it was.  It had a very graphic sex scene in it.  Of course that wasn't the reason I enjoyed it.  It was a very good book and I recommend it to anyone that likes fantasy. 

There were others that had lots of violence in them.  They were still good stories, and made downtime a lot less boring.  I always carried a book with me for when I didn't have anything better to do.  Reading is good.  Thinking is good.  There are way too many people in this world that let others tell them what to think and believe.     

Offline Moonsword

Re: Opinions on Banned Books
« Reply #3 on: December 07, 2009, 08:01:27 AM »
There's some interesting points of view in there, though I agree mainly with #9.

Online Raveled

Re: Opinions on Banned Books
« Reply #4 on: December 07, 2009, 08:40:11 AM »
Someone thinks Romeo and Juliet is pornographic?  Wonder what they think of Titus Andronicus?

Anyway.  Banning books is a bad thing.  The best defense against tyranny is information.

Offline Oniya

Re: Opinions on Banned Books
« Reply #5 on: December 07, 2009, 09:00:36 AM »
Or The Rape of Lucrece, for crying out loud?

Offline Moonsword

Re: Opinions on Banned Books
« Reply #6 on: December 07, 2009, 09:02:12 AM »
Neither of those are especially likely to come up in most high schools.  Romeo and Juliette is.  I read it in my freshman year, for example.  But modern society tends to underestimate just how coarse and impolitic Shakespearean literature actually is.

Offline Oniya

Re: Opinions on Banned Books
« Reply #7 on: December 07, 2009, 09:05:21 AM »
I seem to remember some naughtiness in Othello as well (not to mention the fact that most of the tragedies end up with everyone killing everyone else.

Ooh!  Hamlet! Murder and sex!

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Re: Opinions on Banned Books
« Reply #8 on: December 07, 2009, 09:11:12 AM »
Um... Does the fact that the jocks in my high school started carrying copies of a complete Shakespeare and bookmarking pages count for anything?  I don't mean to disparage the intellect of the athlete but a 250 lb. 6'3" linebacker giggling over a book should tell you something.

Offline LiliasTopic starter

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Re: Opinions on Banned Books
« Reply #9 on: December 07, 2009, 09:13:40 AM »
The giggling is definitely a giveaway (probably over the, hemhem, foreplay in Venus and Adonis). Otherwise, I'd have given them the benefit of the doubt and thought they went for the gore in the historical plays ;)

Offline Will

Re: Opinions on Banned Books
« Reply #10 on: December 07, 2009, 09:34:20 AM »
Neither of those are especially likely to come up in most high schools.  Romeo and Juliette is.  I read it in my freshman year, for example.  But modern society tends to underestimate just how coarse and impolitic Shakespearean literature actually is.

Students do encounter a lot more than just Romeo and Juliet.  I actually had to read a pretty good bit of Shakespeare in school, and Romeo and Juliette is pretty tame comparatively.  Seeing as how the writer of that particular opinion (to ban it) acted as if it were especially bad, and said nothing about any of Shakespeare's other works, I can only assume that they do not know what they are talking about.  They are only going on what their teacher told them, who also appears to not know what they are talking about.  With an opinion like that, I would be willing to bet that Romeo and Juliet is the only Shakespeare play they've ever read.

Besides, a more salient concern for me is the idea that the (again, tame) sex in Romeo and Juliet is somehow less palatable than the murder and suicide involved.  Somehow that's just fine, but if someone sheds their clothing, then we must never let teenagers read it. ::)

Offline Moonsword

Re: Opinions on Banned Books
« Reply #11 on: December 07, 2009, 01:23:58 PM »
I said "most" for a reason.  We read MacBeth, Midsummer Night's Dream, and Julius Caesar along with some of his sonnets, for example, as well as Romeo and Juliette.  However, the works I was referring to before aren't the most well-known of the Bard's body of literature, while Romeo Juliette may be the most commonly known.  It's not the only thing I'd expect them to encounter by a long shot.

And I agree entirely on your point about banning it.

Offline Callie Del Noire

Re: Opinions on Banned Books
« Reply #12 on: December 07, 2009, 02:25:20 PM »
One point to remember is that the er.. earthy humor of the plays is due to a more.. unrepressed outlook of the times. Puritan outlooks were still in the future.

Offline Celestial Goblin

Re: Opinions on Banned Books
« Reply #13 on: December 07, 2009, 02:53:23 PM »
I'd consider not stocking Mein Kampf, Marquis de Sade or other books that charismatically extoll virtues of anti-social attitudes. (I don't mean Marquis's kinks, but that he, IIRC, raped a prostitute and mentions it)
Probably also the Anarchists Cookbook, because it might inspire someone to waste good sources of potasium.

Though those might be restricted to adults already...

Offline Brandon

Re: Opinions on Banned Books
« Reply #14 on: December 07, 2009, 05:21:33 PM »
Meh, Shakspear's work is totally overated in the first place.

Were talking about mainly high school kids here right? People of the ages 14-18. This is an age range that while immature is still mature enough to handle more complex themes like violence and sex or even more extreme facets of those themes like Gore and rape.


Offline Oniya

Re: Opinions on Banned Books
« Reply #15 on: December 07, 2009, 08:22:36 PM »
Funniest thing I ever saw was a class full of 9th graders opening 'Catcher in the Rye' for the first time.  Within five minutes most of the girls were white-faced and most of the guys were snickering.

Offline Saerrael

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Re: Opinions on Banned Books
« Reply #16 on: December 07, 2009, 08:28:02 PM »
Quote
3. I would ban all the books... also, the internet. Make these kids learn THE HARD WAY!

*Laughs.*

Well, while we're at it. Ban the bible then? Reread it if you don't know what I mean by this.

I'm against banning of any type of book. And, yes, certain books may need some guidance when read by certain age groups. But how will our children learn about certain things if we deny them to read about them? By finding out themselves. Is that what people wish for?

Offline GolGol

Re: Opinions on Banned Books
« Reply #17 on: December 09, 2009, 01:45:53 PM »
Well, I'd say: "Ban Twilight!"

Offline Senti

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Re: Opinions on Banned Books
« Reply #18 on: December 10, 2009, 02:12:34 AM »
Fahrenheit 451 always springs to mind when folks talk about banning books.

Personally I think banning any book is a crime.


(Though I have not read Twilight.)

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Re: Opinions on Banned Books
« Reply #19 on: December 10, 2009, 03:06:44 AM »
Personally I think banning any book is a crime.

I can second this, to a degree.
While it is certainly a crime to keep mature people from reading what they please to read (within legal boundaries, of course), I suppose, sometimes it's done quite sloppy. Each ten year old has access to pornographic materials these days, as sad as it is. Personally, I merely would ban certain materials from certain ages. But this doesn't seem to work at all, plus, the internet makes it easy to access all kinds of things.
Plus, the moment something is banned, it suddenly is ten times as interesting as it was before, because it does have the forbidden flair to it. So, yes, banning books (or movies, music videos, computer games, etc.) can backfire greatly.

Offline Senti

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Re: Opinions on Banned Books
« Reply #20 on: December 10, 2009, 04:04:56 AM »
I take your point, and yes just like films, video games and the internet there needs to be a certain responsibility taken on books too.

Unfortunately it comes down to responsible and sensible parenting, and education. However it appears that this is becoming far rarer these days for many reasons.

I suppose itís not even about age restrictions, itís about level of maturity as well.

Also I get the gnawing sensation when such matters are discussed, that when one bans maybe one or two books for what ever reason, it will only make it easier to ban moreÖand thus the downward spiral starts.

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Re: Opinions on Banned Books
« Reply #21 on: December 10, 2009, 06:38:19 PM »
It sort of regulates itself. The kids who don't want to read will not pick them up and usually not get the complex way most of it's worded anyways.

The ones who want to read will probably see more than, "Tee-hee sexual reference." or "Oh my God, they call him N***er Jim."

I almost removed the * from it. But this is the public board, and I fear my intention for using it will be misconstrued as much as Twain's intention was.

Offline Cold Heritage

Re: Opinions on Banned Books
« Reply #22 on: December 11, 2009, 12:40:17 PM »
I don't really think banning is worthwhile, but I certainly think there's books that just don't really merit class time. Just don't mention them at all, you know?

And I guess you cannot really stop people from writing what they want to, but I really do not think that there is any literary merit to The Turner Diaries, or that it is an entirely unworthwhile effort to stifle its circulation.

Quote
Each ten year old has access to pornographic materials these days, as sad as it is.

That is just how it is when you get uncensored, unrestricted, and unfiltered access to pure information. Considering the nature of some novels, they have access to it through a public library's inventory (the regional one here includes the Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series, which contains explicit sexual content).

Quote
Plus, the moment something is banned, it suddenly is ten times as interesting as it was before, because it does have the forbidden flair to it.

And it does not really matter who is saying you cannot have it, whether it is the censor or a parent. I am quite convinced that kids getting their hands on things that they were forbidden is a time-honoured tradition that predates agriculture.

Quote
However it appears that this is becoming far rarer these days for many reasons.

It is a common trend among everything to say that things suck now more than they used to, and that in the past things were always better.

I mean, take baseball, for example. The "athletes" of today's Major League Baseball are poor role models who abuse their natural skills and poison their bodies with performance enhancing drugs, worthy only of being called professionals in the strictest sense of being individuals who are monetarily compensated for their time. It is widely held that the game was purer, in the past.

If one ignores Pete Rose (whose wrong-doings are simply note-worthy because he was caught). Or individuals like Ty Cobb.  Or the Black Sox scandal.

Offline cat storm

Re: Opinions on Banned Books
« Reply #23 on: December 11, 2009, 06:44:48 PM »
I don't think there is any reason ever to ban a book from a high school library.  The librarian knows her community and its standards and chooses books that meet those standards.  At some point you just have to trust the person in charge.  The teens that want to read other material have the internet, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, the public library and countless other ways to get their hands on books they want to read.    While there are books that I feel wouldn't be the best choice to teach in a classroom, even there I am willing to give the teacher the power to choose based on his/her knowledge of the community.  I really believe that there isn't anything that is made better by not talking about it.

Offline Will

Re: Opinions on Banned Books
« Reply #24 on: December 11, 2009, 07:06:06 PM »
I don't think there is any reason ever to ban a book from a high school library.  The librarian knows her community and its standards and chooses books that meet those standards.  At some point you just have to trust the person in charge.  The teens that want to read other material have the internet, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, the public library and countless other ways to get their hands on books they want to read.    While there are books that I feel wouldn't be the best choice to teach in a classroom, even there I am willing to give the teacher the power to choose based on his/her knowledge of the community.  I really believe that there isn't anything that is made better by not talking about it.

I think that was really well said.

Offline Oniya

Re: Opinions on Banned Books
« Reply #25 on: December 11, 2009, 07:43:20 PM »
Quote
Hopkins: Well, in all my years I ain't never heard, seen nor smelled an issue that was so dangerous it couldn't be talked about. Hell yeah! I'm for debating anything. Rhode Island says yea!

From the musical 1776, as the delegates are voting on whether or not to discuss independence.

Offline Vandren

Re: Opinions on Banned Books
« Reply #26 on: December 22, 2009, 09:49:23 PM »
Also I get the gnawing sensation when such matters are discussed, that when one bans maybe one or two books for what ever reason, it will only make it easier to ban moreÖand thus the downward spiral starts.

Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 . . . enough said.

(Ok, not enough.  The fact that he wrote a book about the evils of censorship during the worst string of censorship the U.S. has ever seen - the McCarthy years - is just plain cool.  And he gets added coolness points because the only place that would publish it was Playboy, because Heff figured McCarthy would shut him down in a month or two anyway.)

Oh, and Ray Bradbury "Usher II" from The Martian Chronicles - the moral of the story: if censors read books instead of burning them, they'd have been able to avoid the, literally, poetic justice meted out by the protagonist (death by Poe).

Those two pieces alone sum up basically my entire view of censorship.  Even the poorly written books (Dan Brown, Stephanie Meyers, John Grisham) need to be kept around for the same reason that potato chips and M&Ms need to stick around . . . sometimes, in moderation, stuff that's not necessarily good for you can, and should, be indulged.

Offline Mathim

Re: Opinions on Banned Books
« Reply #27 on: December 23, 2009, 03:13:13 PM »
Aside from Twilight (I agree with topic creator), the only books I wouldn't allow in PUBLIC school libraries are ones that endorse religion (i.e. things like the Bible or Koran or Talmud.)

Offline Senti

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Re: Opinions on Banned Books
« Reply #28 on: December 23, 2009, 03:24:37 PM »
I would have to disagree there on the matter of religious books. As long as the majority of religions are represented there should be no issue. WE humans are diverse, and that is a wonderful thing. It is ignorance that binds us.

So perhaps if such books were available freely then the religion and faith of another would not be so frightening.

Offline Vandren

Re: Opinions on Banned Books
« Reply #29 on: December 23, 2009, 06:09:01 PM »
I'd agree with Senti on religious books, but for different reasons.  First, the books mentioned are no different than the Iliad, the Aeneid, or Ovid's Metamorphoses in my mind - works of mythology.  Second, they are interesting literary works and should be studied as such, and should be studied for the insights they (like other pieces of literature) give us into the period(s) and cultures in which they were written.  Besides which, reading them, in any school, as literature alongside, say, Ovid or Gilgamesh would serve to dispel many of the myths that their adherents claim about their faith (such as the one about Christianity being "original" rather than "borrowing" everything down to its daily mass/services and core beliefs from older faiths that it then tried to wipe out).  Plus, most Christians haven't actually read the Bible anyway, whether as a religious document or literature.

Besides those reasons, the Talmud, Bible, and Koran have, whether we like it or not, significantly shaped Western culture (both positively and negatively).  And reading them in an English class, for instance, is likely to challenge the assumptions and views of the students, which is a good thing over all.

(And I say all of this as an atheist, secularist, and liberal.)
« Last Edit: December 23, 2009, 06:10:26 PM by Vandren »

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Re: Opinions on Banned Books
« Reply #30 on: December 25, 2009, 11:05:36 AM »
Aside from Twilight (I agree with topic creator), the only books I wouldn't allow in PUBLIC school libraries are ones that endorse religion (i.e. things like the Bible or Koran or Talmud.)

I would have to disagree with this. ALL books have a right to be in schools.... even religiouse books. School is a place to learn, well reading a book, even a religiouse one IS STILL LEARNING!!!!!

Offline Tankou

Re: Opinions on Banned Books
« Reply #31 on: December 25, 2009, 06:03:14 PM »
You know, I read The Chocolate War before the school system banned it. In fact it was because of my class reading it in High School that The Chocolate War was banned at all. They banned it because of a two paragraph scene that mentioned two boys masturbating back to back, a scene that went largely unnoticed until we actually read it and, the reaction of my class, including the teacher was. "so what... kinda funny even. The principle found out and the schoo system found out and two weeks later it was banned. Personally I dislike such things... btw, I would totally ban twilight but I have other reasons for it than blatant sexuality and all. I just hate the series with a fiery passion. Regardless I think kids should be able to read what they will... When I was in sophomore year I had The Epic Of Beowulf confiscated because my english teacher had read it and "didn't appreciate the sexual scenes in the book." I was highly put off by the fact that freedom to silently read what I like provided I didn't blab about the details was taken away from me.

As long as a kid isn't bringing what is clearly a pornographic magazine into school I don't see why they shouldn't be allowed to read what they will provided it is a time that reading a book is acceptable.

Offline Serephino

Re: Opinions on Banned Books
« Reply #32 on: December 25, 2009, 07:31:51 PM »
Ah, 'The Chocolate War'.  I remember it well.  I hated that book, and there aren't many I can say that about.  My more immature classmates loved it because of the swearing and sex.  I remember that I hated it, but not much else. 

I think students should be able to read what they want on their own time, but I also think there are some books that shouldn't be read as a class assignment.  Not because of the content, but because they're stupid and not well written.  My English grade my Senior year was ruined by the book 'Cry, the Beloved Country'.  From what I can remember, the story line itself wasn't bad, but the author apparently failed his English class.  I know grammar rules can be ignored when one is writing poetry, but this book...  I think he even changed points of view mid chapter.  I couldn't read it, and I failed all the tests.

I say if a book is going to be read as an assignment, a person should be able to like read it and understand it.  /rant

Offline Asuras

Re: Opinions on Banned Books
« Reply #33 on: December 25, 2009, 09:18:39 PM »
The irony is that often times people will take their children out of public schools because they're afraid that they'll be exposed to this sort of thing, and instead put them into some Christian schools where the libraries are thoroughly purified.

And this is just something that comes to mind, but does anyone find it ironic that children are required to read Fahrenheit 451 and Animal Farm, but no counterpoints?

Offline Vandren

Re: Opinions on Banned Books
« Reply #34 on: December 26, 2009, 11:23:49 AM »
I think he even changed points of view mid chapter.

Uh . . . lots of authors do this: Hemmingway, Joyce, Stroud, Colfer, Pratchett (sort of, since he really doesn't have chapters as such), etc.  It's a fairly common literary device.

Quote
I say if a book is going to be read as an assignment, a person should be able to like read it and understand it.

True . . . but that doesn't mean it should be easy.   :)  One problem that I'm finding, as a teacher (college), is that students are having a more difficult time understanding a lot of things I assign because they lack basic cultural referents that most people of my generation or older take for granted as common knowledge.  Then again, half of my recent students had problems understanding discussion of a few pieces they read because they lacked knowledge of current events and didn't know who Mike Huckabee or Howard Dean were.
« Last Edit: December 28, 2009, 08:00:35 AM by Vandren »

Offline AnjelicDemon

Re: Opinions on Banned Books
« Reply #35 on: December 27, 2009, 08:36:36 PM »
In my opinion, if they ban a book from some place, for whatever reason. All its going to do is make people want to read that book even more.

As far as highschool. There is the age thing to take into account. You shouldn't have outright pornography and erotica novels. But I think that there should be a wide variety of books in Highschool librarys. From different writers, different countries. Books on everything from psychology to spiritualism as well as a wide variety of different kinds of fiction books.

Since our society (U.S.A's society anyway) promotes acceptance and diversity so much, why would we ban books that show a new side of view? Besides, all they do with banning books is giving people a incentive to read it to find out why its banned.  If people don't want you to read it, there must be something good in it.

Offline Wolfy

Re: Opinions on Banned Books
« Reply #36 on: December 28, 2009, 07:18:35 AM »
I want to read those books that were banned because of sexual content. o-o

...But..that's just curiosity, really. o3o

Offline Vandren

Re: Opinions on Banned Books
« Reply #37 on: December 31, 2009, 09:01:00 AM »
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a plethora of questionable material that does not need to be there to teach children the skills they are there to learn.

How exactly is this defined?  Because there are lots of books that I would argue "teach children the skills they are there to learn" in my own field that many people would consider "questionable".  Ex. Lois Lowry's The Giver (an excellent dystopian and argumentative novel, that deals with institutionalized euthanasia, illiteracy, and eugenics as well as sending a positive message of rebellion) or, depending on age, Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita (an excellent psychological study and study in censorship, but highly "questionable" to many people), or anything by Judy Blume (who currently holds the U.S. national record for banning attempts regarding her books, yet most of her books teach about relationships, things like puberty, etc.).

I would also enforce that teachers needed to teach the approved curriculum.  If you are there to teach English, you are not there to teach math, and if you are there to teach history, you are not there to teach ecology.  That is not to say that teachers should not have some latitude in teaching their classes, but neither should a subject be entirely derailed.

This point is extremely problematic.  For example, I teach English composition and literature.  Part of doing both involves teaching a smattering of history, politics, geography, philosophy, economics, law (especially re: plagiarism and copyright), science, psychology, sometimes math, and several other things in order for students to fully appreciate, analyze, and discuss a particular piece that they've read.  Case in point, it is impossible to teach George Orwell's Animal Farm without delving into politics, history, philosophy, and economics at the very least.  If you don't do so (especially since most high school students who read the book haven't gotten past the U.S. Civil War in history), you've got a bunch of students who think the book is simply about a group of strange farm animals.

Admittedly, most of this happens because the majority of students lack knowledge of common cultural referents and basic history.  And that's my experience from teaching at two different colleges (one college, one university) with both traditional (18-22) and non-traditional students (22-60something).