So this is Banned Books week, which, as a librarian, is something of a big deal. (Although, as it turns out, I've never seen an institution pay as little attention to it as my current one ... although there are reasons for that.) But this ... this is just brain-damaged.
A display at Harrisonburg High School of books that have, at some point in history, either been banned or challenged was ordered removed last month by Harrisonburg Schools Superintendent Donald Ford. The display, which Ford ordered removed Sept. 27, was part of the American Library Association’s annual Banned Books Week, the last week of September. Ford said he was concerned the school division would encourage students to read banned books because they are on a controversial list and not because of their content....
Now ... let me get this straight-ish.
The superintendent banned the banned books display BECAUSE the books were banned. He thought it would encourage students to read books because they were banned, and not because they were good or bad books.
And the problem with that would be ... what, exactly?
To be sure, I do think that the superintendendent did what he did for more or less the reasons stated.
More or less.
Frankly, I'd be willing to bet that he realized that, yes, the display would encourage kids to read the books because reading banned books is "sexier" than just reading. This is, after all, a well known adult reaction to banned books (Lady Chatterley's Lover, anyone?). And from a "let's encourage kids to read" point of view, there's no problem with that. From a "parents will look at this list and realize that these books contain controversial presentations of race and sex and all sorts of things that they don't want their children to see" point of view ... BIG problem. Very big problem. So you have a choice: you can take the brief, mildly embarrassing, entirely non-parentally driven publicity hit for removing the display, and that will be over and done quickly with no real consequences. Or you can let it go forward, deal with various conservative "concerned parents" groups going on the warpath (and some of them might even be parents in your district!), with the possibility of suspension and other distress as everyone around you reacts in fits of kneejerk panic.
Pretty easy to see why he picked the path of most embarrassment, isnt it?
And he's taught his students an important lesson about the high value we place on devout moral cowardice ... wait, that's not the lesson schools are supposed to be teaching, is it?Posted by iain at October 04, 2006 10:47 PM