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Author Topic: Opinions on Banned Books  (Read 3530 times)

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Online LiliasTopic starter

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

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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.

Offline 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

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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

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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.

Online LiliasTopic starter

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

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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.

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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.

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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.