The “Think of the Children” agrument

Censorship really angers me, especially when it’s keeping people from reading books.  People all over the country lose their minds and try to keep certain books out of libraries (50 Shades, anyone?) and off school curriculum. Why? Because they feel the content is inappropriate, for whatever reason. “But the CHILDREN! Think of the CHILDREN!” they cry, charging ahead for battle.

Well, I am, actually. I have children and I want them to be able to read what they want, but I also realize that some stuff might not be appropriate for their age. So, should we BAN what I don’t want them to read? Hell, no, because I can simply NOT READ IT TO THEM. That goes for movies, too. Parents can control to a very large degree what their children see and read. Involved parents know what their kids are watching and what they’re reading and if they aren’t sure about something, they should read/watch it first. Take it for a drive.

Granted, my children are very young and it’s relatively easy to keep them protected from the big bad world. As they get older, this will get harder, especially with the internet just hanging there, ready to be explored. Which makes censorship even more ridiculous, really. If a kid wants to read or watch something, there’s not much you can do to prevent it if they have access to the internet. Teenagers LOVE the forbidden with a fiery passion.  You cannot keep them from ideas that you don’t like nor can you keep them wrapped in wool and on their leading strings forever. Like everything in regards to children, you have to teach them how to process tough ideas and emotions.

Kids are not stupid; they’re just young. How can you teach kids empathy if they never see other people suffering or have suffered themselves? How can you teach them to be kind and not judge unless they see/feel what happens if people are mean or judge? How can they develop critical thinking skills if all they ever experience are the ideas YOU believe in? The POINT of reading and education is to create people who can think on their own and don’t just take something at face value. They are supposed to QUESTION. I know, I was a high school English teacher.

Schools don’t assign these books just to make you nervous. The administrators and department heads aren’t sitting there gleefully twirling their mustaches and chuckling evilly.  Those books are assigned for a reason: to TALK about them and to LEARN shit. Aside from that, who is anyone else to tell me what I can’t read? Trying to keep a book out of a PUBLIC LIBRARY is insane. Adults can make their OWN choices, thank you, they don’t need someone telling them it’s not ok to read something.

(Aside: I despise the 50 Shades trilogy, but I’m not going to tell you you CAN’T read it. I’ll advise you not to and give you my reasons why, but you absolutely can read it if you want. Oh, and why I hate it has NOTHING to do with the fact that it includes elements of BDSM and graphic sex scenes, which is apparently what those who wanted it banned were upset about. Our country’s terror toward anything sexual is a whole other blog post).

I once did a long term sub job for an AP English class and we read “The Kite Runner.”  This is a heavy book and deals with heavy stuff, mostly sexual assault and it’s ramifications. Not only is the male protagonist assaulted, he was assaulted by a male character, in the Middle East, during extremely conservative rule. DUDE. Now, this is not a book I would give a freshman to read, probably, but this class was filled with Seniors who were all college bound. An AP course gives you college credit and as such requires that you read college level literature. It also requires the students give college level analysis and exhibit a certain level of maturity when faced with such sensitive content. I can tell you when we discussed that scene in class, you could hear a pin drop. Everyone made excellent points, and NO ONE, and I mean NO ONE, made any jokes. Were they uncomfortable? Well, I certainly HOPE so. It was an uncomfortable topic. But they analysed it, looked at it from both sides, figured out motivations, and left class with a brain full of thoughts. As far as I know, no one was emotionally scarred from it. And yet. Yet parents have tried to ban this book or remove it from a curriculum because of it’s subject matter. Le sigh. I guess their children will never hear of a sexual assault in real life or, you know, WATCH THE NEWS.

When you talk about things like sexual assault in books, inevitably you talk about things like consent and reporting. This is important and I can almost promise you that conservative parents don’t talk about this with their kids. I HOPE they are, but if they aren’t, then having this conversation in the classroom can HELP someone who’s been assaulted. This is a Good Thing. Discussion is ALWAYS better than avoidance. ALWAYS. Not only does this book discuss sexual assault, said assault happens to a BOY. Men get assaulted too, you know, but are often afraid to come forward.  I cannot think why it would be a BAD thing to read this book in schools. To students who might be legal adults no less.

Don’t read the book or watch the movie if you think you won’t like it or it might offend you, but don’t try to tell other people what THEY can and cannot do. Is your kids’ school having them read “The Kite Runner,” but you don’t want your kid to read it? Guess, what: THEY DON’T HAVE TO. They can take the zero. Maybe you can work out an alternate assignment with the teacher. But don’t pull out your picket signs and start protesting. Don’t sign petitions or complain at the PTA meetings. Don’t take away something that can enrich someone’s brain. Don’t force YOUR fears and beliefs on others. Just don’t. All parents want to protect their kids, but it’s just not a realistic idea that a parent CAN protect them from everything. Instead, the goal should be HELPING them process and deal. Period.

(the “think of the children” idea was inspired by @SamSykesSwears. He writes books that I recommend you read, and I also recommend that you check out his website and read the comic found therein)

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