Friday, April 13, 2007

Free our Children's Minds (From Censorship)

Well the book banners are alive and well in Burlingame, California.

Burlingame schools Superintendent Sonny Da Marto has banned Mark Mathabane’s Kaffir Boy, which was being read and studied by four eighth grade classes. The book is an award winning depiction of Mathabane’s childhood in apartheid South Africa.

The book had been vetted by the district's "core literature committee" which consists of parents, teachers, a librarian, a student and a school board member and was successfully taught the year before.

The objectionable content involved young boys engaging in a sex for food swap with older men. The book is number 31 on the American Library Association's list of the 100 most frequently banned or challenged books. The Author, Mark Mathabane addressed the frequent banning in an essay published by the Washington Post in 1999.

In the essay, he calls "Kaffir Boy" disturbing, but not pornographic. He explains the prostitution paragraphs:
"My father, the only breadwinner in a family of nine, had been arrested for the crime of being unemployed. There was no food in our shack ... Desperate for food, one afternoon I linked up with a group of 5-, 6- and 7-year-old boys on the way to the nearby men's hostel. Their pimp, a 13-year-old boy named Mphandlani, promised that at the hostel we would get money and 'all the food we could eat' in exchange for playing 'a little game' with the migrant workers who lived there."
Mathabane writes that he was shunned by the boys for running away. He concludes that "resisting peer pressure is one of the toughest things for young people to do.
"That is the lesson of the prostitution scene. It's a lesson that seems to be lost on the people who want to censor my book."

God forbid we let our kids read anything that might actually teach them a lesson about character and dealing with adversity. I guess all class assignments should now come out of The Book of Virtues. Maybe we can get Bill Bennet to lay off the gambling and dominatrices long enough to write a sequel.

Seriously, there is very little that burns me up as much as censoring and banning books. The parents were apparently given the option to have their child read a different book, but that wasn’t good enough for these people.

I strongly urge you to go to the essay site and read the whole thing. It is a powerful explanation of the reason it is wrong to censor a book. While we are at it, go and look at the list of most frequently challenged books. Number three is I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. Are you kidding me? Also in the list are such classics as (5) The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, (6) Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, (13) The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger and so on ....

I was an avid reader as a child and young adult. I grew up in a very small, ignorant, redneck town, but I was blessed with parents who gave me the freedom to read anything I wanted to. Because of that, I was able to form opinions different from those I was exposed to. I broadened my understanding of the world and what was out there. I burned with a desire and curiosity to see the world and to experience the culture of those very different from me. I would never take that chance away from a child. We see the results of an incurious, narrow mind in our Whitehouse.

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