Ban "R-Rated" Books From Schools?
Let's listen in, shall we?
School boards have an important responsibility to their communities to make sure that the curriculum is appropriate for students. Just as showing an R-rated movie would not be appropriate in the classroom, it is right to question using an R-rated book.Generally speaking, the writer is correct: we all want kids exposed to the "best" literature that's most appropriate to the class at hand and, hopefully, most relevant to the students' lives. But, as always, the devil is in the details. The point is, diverse communities have different ideas as to what constitutes the "best" and most relevant literature. A lot of people think To Kill a Mockingbird, one of the most challenged books of the last four decades, is not appropriate for high schools. Others say 1984. Or A Handmaid's Tale, or Beloved, or The Chocolate War, or Lord of the Flies. And so on and so on.
There is no rating system for books. Often teachers will pick books based on awards from organizations like the American Library Association. "The Freedom Writers Diary" did win recognition as a Notable Book from the national library association -- but for adult readers. This organization recognizes that literary value does not mean a book is appropriate for a high school classroom.
Parents trust that teachers and administrators have set solid standards for what is appropriate for our communities' children learning process. This is not always the case. As a parent, who wants to find out after the fact that their child has been reading about drug abuse, oral sex or other issues in school?
It has become common practice to offer an alternative to controversial books used in public schools. But for some books, it makes more sense to use the alternative to teach the desired lesson rather than the inappropriate book.
It is the job of the schools to decide what children are exposed to in the classroom, especially since they are not adults and are not mature enough to judge what is truly worth learning at taxpayer expense. There are a plethora of curriculum choices and not all can be selected. By this definition, schools censor all the time and usually without protest.
Going back to the movie analogy, is the writer really arguing that schools should never be allowed to show R-rated movies either? No Shindler's List in history? No Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf? in drama class?
The point is, context matters. In fact, when it comes to literature, context is everything. Simply writing a list of topics, or compiling a list of words, that are not "appropriate" for schools means that--whoops!--we will have actually eliminated the whole concept of literature.