A School District Bans ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ After Parents Complain… but the Fight’s Not Over Yet

If you’re a middle school student — or any student, really — you probably prefer reading a book that you chose instead of one your teacher chose for you. So, at Hadley Junior High School in Glen Ellyn, Illinois (not far from where I live), the English teachers include in their curriculum the opportunity for students to choose their own books to read, discuss, and analyze.

This past December, one group of students chose to read The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, a book (and popular movie) about a teenager named Charlie who has to deal with issues that are pretty heavy (and all too relatable) for any adolescent. It covers sex, suicide, drugs, crushes, and so much more — which is a large part of why so many students are drawn to it:

The district has a policy when it comes to books chosen by students, and the teachers let the parents know about it early in the school year. In essence, it says that parents have final say when it comes to their child’s independent reading: If parents feel a book is inappropriate, their child doesn’t have to read it. The teacher will then help the child find a different book. There’s no penalty for that, of course.

Sounds simple enough.

Because this particular book has some mature themes, the teacher told the students that they should get permission from their parents before tackling it, reinforcing the policy already in place.

That’s when one of the student’s parents flipped out.

Once they realized what was in the book, not only did they not want their daughter reading it, they wanted it banned entirely. They wanted to make sure no child had access to this book at the school. And they may have succeeded… but it’s not too late to do something about it.

Yesterday, the Illinois Family Institute’s Laurie Higgins alerted her members to the controversy with all the demonizing and spin you might expect from a group like hers. IFI fully supports the book banning. In Higgins’ version of the story, the English teachers are basically a radical group of people who want to teach kids about deviant sex, promote homosexuality, and turn the students into raging liberals like themselves.

In reality, the teachers have the best intentions of the students at heart — and they want the kids to read books that talk about issues that are relevant to them, even if those issues may be difficult to discuss. But it’s the reality the students live in so it’s worth talking about.

I spoke with one of the teachers involved in this incident last night for over an hour to get a fuller picture of this story. By piecing together the two competing narratives, I think I can offer a better picture of what’s going on that anything IFI spits out. I’m going to quote from Higgins’ screed and interject some additional information that might be helpful. Afterwards, I’ll talk about what we can do to fix this problem.

Higgins’ post is below. Other than the names, all the bold-faced emphases are my own:

Last December, students in Tina Booth’s 8th grade literacy class at Hadley Middle School in Glen Ellyn, Illinois were divided into small groups and assigned to choose a book to read. One group chose the infamous The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which set in motion a controversy that persists today.

When students asked Booth about the book, she gave it a glowing recommendation. After parents expressed opposition to it, Principal Christopher Dransoff proposed the option of teachers in the future sending out permission slips about controversial books prior to allowing students to read them, a compromise parents were willing to accept.

Dransoof soon discovered, however, that the majority of 8th grade literacy teachers would not accept such a compromise, apparently believing that such prior notification and parental permission constituted censorship and an implicit indictment of their expert judgment.

It wasn’t a “glowing recommendation.” Actually, Booth told the kids there was mature content in the book, so they should get approval from their parents first (per the district policy). One student’s parents opposed the book and, normally, that would have been enough for the teacher to work with the student on selecting something else to read or placing her in a different group. (Not kicking her out of the classroom, as Higgins suggests)

Before that could happen, though, the principal suggested a quick fix to the problem: What if teachers just sent out a permission slip with every book chosen by the kids? If the parents signed off on every book, their bases would be covered, right? The problem with that idea is that the teachers have over 80 students, each reading approximately 25 books over the course of a year. It’s a logistical nightmare to have slips for every kid for every book. The system that’s in place — a blanket policy that parents are made aware of earlier in the year — makes much more sense. No wonder the teacher didn’t like the “compromise.” It wasn’t about censorship of parents or an indictment of their judgment.

In any case, the parents didn’t like the suggestion of having their daughter replace that book with another one. They wanted it banned for good. So they took their case to the school board. The Glen Ellyn School District 41 Board of Education created an ad hoc committee consisting of parents, faculty members, literacy specialists, administrators, etc. to make a recommendation about what to do. The committee listened to what parents Jennifer and Brian Bradfield and teacher Tina Booth had to say. In the report of the meeting, it’s noted that Booth explained how the book was chosen by the students (not her) and how they had to obtain the book on their own (since there were no copies of it in her classroom).

The parents didn’t care. It was noted in the press that the Bradfields told the school board: “Our innocent child has already been tainted” by the book. (Riiiiight.)

I love this quotation from one of the teachers involved because it really gets to the heart of what’s going on here:

“Like it or not, your daughters and sons in eighth grade heard the word ‘blowjob,’” [Lynn] Bruno said. “I’ve been at this for 30 years… What they are exposed to in terms of dialogue, in terms of media… I don’t like it any more than you do, but it’s (out) there.”

She added books like Perks of Being a Wallflower are valuable because of the lessons students can learn from characters’ decisions in difficult situations.

“I have children in my classroom who need this knowledge now because they’re facing those issues… You cannot take away from children who need to have those conversations… just because it upsets some other children.”

Ultimately, the committee decided that the book should remain an option for students who wanted to read it. They also suggested that parents be given a letter each trimester reminding them that they should be aware of their kids’ book choices. Better than just the beginning-of-the-year reminder and far better than a permission slip for every book.

Usually, school boards take the advice of a committee of experts.

In this case, they rejected the advice completely and banned the book in the process.

Back to Higgins:

This intransigence on the part of the teachers resulted in parents pursuing the issue with the school board which voted 4-2 to remove the book from the middle school, which, in turn, intensified the community controversy. With two newly elected members, the school board is scheduled to revisit its decision at its next meeting on Monday, June 10.

The board’s decision raised the ire of presumptuous teachers who oppose anyone disagreeing with their assessment of what constitutes “age-appropriate,” an undefined term that Booth and her ideological allies use in their defense of the oft and justifiably challenged book.

It’s actually three newly elected members.

Anyway, the 4-2 vote looked like this: Four men — none of whom had read the book — voted for the ban. Two women — both of whom had read the book — voted to keep the book in place. (One board member was absent.) (***Edit***: I’ve been told, but cannot confirm, that one of the women who voted against the ban did not read the book; her daughter read it.)

It was a confusing vote, too. At least one of the board members thought he was voting against the committee’s recommendations, but didn’t realize he was banning the book. He figured the committee would just have to offer a new proposal.

And it wasn’t just the teachers’ ire that was raised. The students were pissed off, too. This is a good book that talks about real issues. They wanted to know how to fight back against the school board.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a coming of age novel that includes suicide, abortion, drug use, foul language, heterosexual intercourse, homosexual sodomy, masturbation, bestiality, incestuous molestation, and rape — you know, all the topics “progressives” think form the basis for a solid education. Please read these excerpts from the book that Booth believes is a wonderful and “age-appropriate” book for eighth graders. ( **WARNING: Obscene content.**)

The book indeed covers those things. It doesn’t make light of them — it talks about them honestly and bluntly — it’s one of the reasons students relate to the book so strongly. They’ve experienced or heard about these things for years at this point. If conservative Christians have an issue with that, they should take it up with their God for creating puberty. To have a fictional character go through those experiences and talk about them so honestly and vividly is almost surreal the first time you encounter it. I suspect it’s how a lot of older people felt the first time they read Catcher in the Rye.

The linked document puts many of these passages together as if to suggest that’s what the whole book is about.

If we wanted to, we could do the exactly same thing with the Bible. Rape, incest, violence, sex, sex, sex, more sex… (oh my god, IFI must want to ban the Bible, too!)

In addition to the arrogant unwillingness of teachers to ask for permission to teach such a controversial book, it is reported that three of the teachers, Lynn Bruno, Ali Tannenbaum, and Booth, initiated classroom discussions on the topic, ginning up support for their position among students. It’s reported that Booth suggested to students in her class that the school board vote was unfair, that it was censorship, and that students have a “voice.” Apparently, Booth believes that the voices of 14 year-olds should have greater influence than the voices of parents and school board members. Such use of class time to engage students in a public controversy and attempt to manipulate student opinion is unprofessional and an abuse of their power and role as public servants.

Actually, the students initiated the conversations. When they heard the book was banned, they wanted to know what they could do to reverse the decision. The teachers told them the steps they would need to take (like speaking at the next meeting of the school board) to have an impact.

The teachers weren’t saying the voices of 14-year-olds were more important than everybody else’s — but they damn well believed the students shouldn’t be shut out of the conversation. They wanted to say something, so the teachers told them what tools were at their disposal.

Coincidentally, these three teachers (along with Kelly Coleman) spoke at a subsequent school board meeting in support of the retention of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Were there no teachers who supported the school board’s decision? And if there were teachers who supported it, why didn’t they speak up at the school board meeting?

Not surprisingly, students and their voices made an appearance at school board meetings to support the retention of Perks.

Believe it or not, most teachers oppose the banning of books. (Shocking, I know.)

Students tend to like this particular book, too.

It’s usually just religious conservatives who think they should be able to control what everyone else gets to read. It’s not enough that they forbid their own children from reading it; they have to stop your kids from reading it.

But it gets worse. During the recent 8th grade graduation ceremony, one of the two board members who voted in favor of retaining the book, Terra Costa Howard, abused her privilege of speaking by quoting from the disputed book. Demonstrating both a lack of judgment and sensitivity, Howard transformed a family celebration into a controversial political event, ruining it for the daughter of one of the families who oppose the book.

Howard — who’s no longer on the board — referenced a quotation from Charlie in an address she gave at graduation. It wasn’t political. It wasn’t controversial. In any other situation, it would’ve gone unnoticed. But because she referred to the book in the middle of this controversy, IFI wants you to think it was a political statement.

It wasn’t.

It should be noted that this brave girl was bullied relentlessly by classmates for two days following the school board’s vote. She was called “snitch,” “tattletale,” and “goody two-shoes.” Kids passing her in the halls said snottily, “Thanks a lot,” and “good job.” And her locker was festooned with post-it notes with flowers (get it — “wallflowers”). Apparently, the book, which was made into a film, hasn’t taught these kids much about compassion, kindness, diversity, or inclusion.

Here’s what really happened: students began putting up Post-It notes with the word “Flower” written on them all around the school. Unfortunately, that included the girl’s locker. That’s disappointing since she didn’t do anything wrong. This is her parents’ issue, not hers. The teachers Higgins condemns in her piece, after finding out about this, made it very clear to their students that this sort of bullying had absolutely no place at the school. They won’t put up with it and they’re certainly not condoning it.

The students may be upset about the book-banning, but they shouldn’t take their frustration out on one of their classmates. There are far more productive ways to fight back.

On a side note, it takes a lot of chutzpah to see someone from IFI criticize bullying when that’s precisely what the organization is known for doing to the LGBT community.

Booth told parents that it is their responsibility to monitor the books their children are exposed to in school. In other words, don’t trust their teachers. So, now parents must read every book assigned or chosen with a teacher’s recommendation, and they must read these books before their children do. For those families who have multiple children this is a nearly impossible expectation.

It’s a teacher’s responsibility to pick books that are part of the curriculum. When it comes to books selected by the students, yes, the ball shifts to the parents’ court.

Keep in mind that teachers can’t possibly know where different families draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable. What’s good for one may be bad for another and vice versa.

This is where the school’s current policy makes a lot of sense: If parents don’t want their child reading a particular book, all they have to do is say so and the teacher will accommodate the request.

The teachers did that here. But it still wasn’t good enough for the parents.

Okay, so what happens now?

The school board has decided to revisit the issue next Monday night. It’s noteworthy because the board has changed since the 4-2 vote. Two of the men who voted to ban the book are no longer in office. One of the women who voted to keep the book is gone, too. So the vote is is currently at 2-1 in favor of the ban, with three new board members (plus the member who was absent last time).

They need to be convinced that this book is worth reading and that banning it for everyone is the wrong option. Please write to them (politely, respectfully) and let them know that. They need to hear your voice.

There’s also a petition at Change.org urging the Board to reverse its decision. It was created by Kristin Ginger, who graduated from Hadley in 2000. Sign it.

Finally, at Monday night’s board meeting, you KNOW there will be a vocal group of conservative Christians there, courtesy of IFI. So if you live in area, attend the meeting and be a voice of reason instead of a voice of censorship and fear. If there’s a chance for public comments, speak out against banning books for everybody just because you’re not comfortable with it.

If you’re a student at Hadley, bring your friends and come to the meeting. The voices of intelligent, open-minded students go a long way to swaying a school board to do the right thing. Start a Facebook group, spread the word, and get everyone involved.

This isn’t about one family. This is about whether adults, supported by the Christian Right, get to dictate what books all students are allowed to read at school. They have no right to do that, and the school board needs to know it.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • speedwell

    their innocent child has been tainted… oh, wow. How’d you like to be the child thus referenced as “tainted” in public? Doesn’t that smack of “damaged and no longer good enough for this family?”

  • rossman

    “tainted” i.e. more educated than the rest of the family.

  • DougI

    I understand their fury. Reading this book takes away from Bible reading where kids can learn about the benefits of incest, slavery and genocide.

  • Aneres

    A buried memory suddenly triggered by this story…. 5th or 6th grade (roughly 1990, Arizona public school) book report, we were permitted to choose our own subject. I can’t remember if the report was supposed to be about a fictional book or not, but I chose to write about ancient Aztec sacrificial rituals.I don’t remember what (if any) score I got on this report, but I remember being made to bring my parents after class to talk to the teacher and being told that my report was inappropriate and I seem to recall that the book I had used (which was acquired by me from the school’s library) was removed from the school. Ugh. I’m glad I was too stubborn to stop learning.

  • Kevin Sagui

    Wow, parental notification is way more of a courtesy than my Catholic high school extended before we read books like Catcher in the Rye, Rosemary’s Baby, A Separate Peace, Boys from Brazil, Election, This Perfect Day and probably other “objectionable” books I’m forgetting in my freshman English class, and there’s no way in hell we’d have been excused from an assignment if our parents bitched.

  • TCC

    Nothing (edit: well, okay, few things) makes me angrier than parents trying to censor books. I have a number of “objectionable” books in my classroom library, but I’ve been fortunate not to have to worry about parents demanding that these books be removed (and I think – not necessarily know, but I suspect – that my principal would be behind me). I’m going to correspond with my professional opinion shortly.

  • JKPS

    “Howard — who’s no longer on the board — referenced a quotation from Charlie in an address she gave at graduation. It wasn’t political. It wasn’t controversial. In any other situation, it would’ve gone unnoticed. But because she referred to the book in the middle of this controversy, IFI wants you to think it was a political statement. It wasn’t.”

    Okay, I don’t know if I believe that. It just reminds me of the senior class president, Hardwick, who prayed during the graduation and then got a standing ovation. He was technically doing anything wrong, but he knew about the controversy and he decided to make people feel uncomfortable anyway. You didn’t support that. I don’t think this is different: Howard knew about the controversy and brought attention to it, although technically she didn’t do anything wrong.

    I think it was a political statement.

    Also, we were all pretty worried about the people who didn’t want school-sponsored prayer at their graduation were going to get bullied, and it seems to me that you’re just brushing away any chance that the girl involved in this case got bullied at all, except for one “unfortunate” incident with Post-its. How do you know what people said to her? You weren’t around.

    I’m absolutely against censorship and banning books. I just think this is coming across as hypocritical and I would like to see more about why you think certain behaviors are totally unacceptable in one instant but fine in another.

  • TCC

    By the way, there is actually a separate form for contacting all board members rather than each member individually. This might be advisable to use unless people are targeting the board members whose decision might not be clear.

  • TCC

    Which is why Hemant wrote:

    Here’s what really happened: students began putting up Post-It notes with the word “Flower” written on them all around the school. Unfortunately, that included the girl’s locker. That’s disappointing since she didn’t do anything wrong. This is her parents’ issue, not hers. The teachers Higgins condemns in her piece, after finding out about this, made it very clear to their students that this sort of bullying had absolutely no place at the school. They won’t put up with it and they’re certainly not condoning it.

    Does that sound like Hemant think that the students’ behavior is “fine”?

  • Andrew Kiener

    Catholic school kid myself. Voluntary attendance smooths a lot of things out. Even back in the ’80s, I found I was getting a much more open discussion of “adult” issues than my public-school friends; took much longer to understand why.

  • Stev84

    I thought they were already tainted with Original Sin.

  • Beth

    When is was a sophomore (about 1998-99) we read the short story: The Most Dangerous Game. I think its pretty typical reading for that grade and I enjoyed the thrilling story about a man being hunted for sport. The teacher informed us there was a film on the story and sent home permission slips. My parents didn’t care. If I had read the story I already knew the ending to the film and so what if I saw a little gore. I was 16 and I had seen plenty of horror films.
    Another student’s parent was not so reasonable.
    They complained to the principal and the school board. It turned into a big f*ck’n deal. The teacher offered the student another assignment or she could go sit in the office (across the hall) and do some independent reading.
    In the end we didn’t watch the film and we had to write and essay instead. That made the complaining student sooooo popular/sarcasm.

    As a parent I feel like anyone should be able to read anything. If you don’t think your kid is able to handle the content perhaps you should read with your child and have a dialog. My mom read to me until I was 14, reading as a family was important to us, and as my sister and I grew more and more independent my mom used stories to bring us together. She never shied away from adult topics, and even as a devout christian she would talk us through some stories even while she blushed. She read Cider House Rules to us when I was 12. I don’t know that she would have tacked 50 Shades of Grey if that had been published back then…that may have been too much for her to take on, but I highly doubt she would have stopped me from reading it and she wouldn’t have stopped other kids from reading it.

  • onamission5

    I’ve got news for those parents. Their middle school aged kids already know full well that life issues such as crushes, drugs, sex, and suicide exist, they just may not have the accurate, practical, fact based, real life information they need to more or less safely navigate those waters. Denying your kids the resources they need to navigate the emotionally loaded complexities of the world does not put them into a stasis of “innocence” and “purity,” it just leaves them with fewer coping mechanisms or life skills. Storytelling is one valuable way that kids (and hell, adults too) learn life skills. If they don’t get accurate information from storytelling because you’ve banned all the books which contain that information, they will get (often inaccurate) information via storytelling from their peers.

    Which, I realize, is probably what at least some of those parents want, so they can rant about the corrupting environment of peer groups in public schools and validate their mission to keep their precious snowflakes from ever entering the world until they are good and married.

  • JKPS

    You’re misrepresenting what I wrote. Please don’t just pinpoint one word and not include the context, because that’s appalling behavior in a discussion.

    Here’s what I wrote: “It seems to me that you’re just brushing away any chance that the girl involved in this case got bullied at all, except for one ‘unfortunate’ incident with Post-its.”

    Here’s what I wrote later: “I would like to see more about why you think certain behaviors are totally unacceptable in one instant but fine in another.”

    And here’s what I wrote before any of that: “he decided to make people feel uncomfortable anyway. You didn’t support that. I don’t think this is different: Howard knew about the controversy and brought attention to it, although technically she didn’t do anything wrong.”

    So I hope you understand now that when I was saying “fine” I was talking not just about the bullying; I was actually summarizing everything I had written.

    Now, please feel free to provide a thoughtful rebuttal of any and all points that I originally made, rather than just picking one word that you didn’t like. Thank you!

  • talkingsnake

    Streisand-effect in action soon.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dotyhistory Brandon Doty

    As a history teacher, I worry about this based on the “truth” I teach. I feel bad for my English colleagues because this happens all too often. These parents who think their kids need to be shielded have absolutely NO clue what their kids are really doing or what they really know. Work with a bunch of 13 year olds and they know more than most parents are willing to admit.

  • TCC

    I didn’t misrepresent you in the slightest. You have no evidence to think that Hemant would think that “certain behavior are totally unacceptable in one instant but fine in another.” I gave you evidence that he doesn’t think they’re fine in either case. Now try to engage my thoughtful rebuttal instead of dismissing it.

    Edit: Or be clear about what “certain behaviors” you’re talking about. You mentioned the bullying, so I addressed the bullying.

  • TrickQuestion

    I think the major problem that IFI has with the book, from reading the excerpts in the linked letter, is this:
    It makes homosexuals appear to be normal people, like everyone else, and shows that they go through the same thing that heterosexuals of that age do.

  • http://www.everydayintheparkwithgeorge.com/ Matt Eggler

    This story illustrates the difference between reasonable people and extremists perfectly:
    Reasonable Person: “I don’t like this book. I won’t read it.”
    Extremist: “I don’t like this book. NO ONE can read it!”

  • Ibis3

    Funny. In my split grade 5/grade 6 class (in an Edmonton, Alberta Catholic school), we had a whole unit on the Aztecs, including their sacrificial rituals.

    Edit: Just to be clear, because other commenters are talking about private Catholic schools, this was a public Catholic school.

  • TCC

    I think it’s the difference between public and private that is at the heart of the disparity. A Catholic high school could say, “Oh, you don’t like it? Pull your student out, then.” A public school, not so much.

  • http://www.travismamone.net/ Travis Mamone

    That’s funny, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” didn’t make me a sex crazed homosexual. (Well, I am pansexual, but that’s besides the point.) The book actually saved my life!

  • Rain

    I discovered the Cocteau Twins and the Shaggs from the film version. Dunno if they were in the book or not. I had already heard of David Bowie before though. I saw him on “Extras” singing the “Little fat man” song.

  • Christopher Neal

    Here’s what I send the members of the school board.

    Hello Mr. ,

    I write to you because I have recently learned about your school district’s issues surrounding a particular book called “The Perks of Being a Wall-Flower”. From
    what I have gathered, you and the other members of the local school board have been tasked with voting on a potential ban of the book from Hadley Middle School and (potentially?) the school district.

    Please consider your vote carefully. It seems that there is already a good system in place that informs parents of the student’s book selection, so there does not
    appear to be a need to ban the book. If we banned books whenever anyone took offense to anything within them, we would live in a world devoid of literature. You
    may recognize this line of reasoning from the novel Fahrenheit 451. This is precisely the issue that Mr. Ray Bradbury was trying to illustrate with his novel.

    Literature is not written to please everyone in the world. It is written to convey a particular interpretation of the world that we live in, and that interpretation may open a student’s mind to the interesting and complex world that we live in.

    I cannot change your mind, but I only hope that you will consider my words and the words of Mr. Bradbury.

    “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”
    ― Ray Bradbury

    Best regards,

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    Multiple choice

    In Higgins’ version of the story, the ______ teachers are basically a radical group of people who want to teach kids about deviant sex, promote homosexuality, and turn the students into raging liberals like themselves.

    A. Math
    B. Science
    C. Kindergarten

    D. English
    E. All of the above

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    Let them read the bible.

    ” 11“Now her sister Oholibah saw this, yet she was more corrupt in her lust than she, and her harlotries were more than the harlotries of her sister.12“She lusted after the Assyrians, governors and officials, the ones near, magnificently dressed, horsemen riding on horses, all of them desirable young men.13“I saw that she had defiled herself; they both took the same way.14“So she increased her harlotries. And she saw men portrayed on the wall, images of the Chaldeans portrayed with vermilion,15girded with belts on their loins, with flowing turbans on their heads, all of them looking like officers, like the Babylonians in Chaldea, the land of their birth.16“When she saw them she lusted after them and sent messengers to them in Chaldea.17“The Babylonians came to her to the bed of love and defiled her with their harlotry. And when she had been defiled by them, she became disgusted with them.18“She uncovered her harlotries and uncovered her nakedness; then I became disgusted with her, as I had become disgusted with her sister.19“Yet she multiplied her harlotries, remembering the days of her youth, when she played the harlot in the land of Egypt.20“She lusted after their paramours, whose flesh is like the flesh of donkeys and whose issue islike the issue of horses.21“Thus you longed for the lewdness of your youth, when the Egyptians handled your bosom because of the breasts of your youth.”

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    My first thought at reading all that was “Ya, School’s out, Hemant now has even more time to burn…”

    I look for books that have been challenged to read with my son. “Tango Makes Three”, “In the Night Kitchen” are recent ones.


  • JA

    Ahh these silly parents…it’s like they think they can control what their children see and hear when we have things like the Internet and jr high school hallways.

  • Kevin Sagui

    Yeah, I get that. I was just using the example to highlight how reasonable the school policy was.

  • Sue Blue

    When my daughter was in the 6th grade, her class did book reports on subjects of their choice. I got a call from her teacher, who expressed concern over my daughter’s “morbid” choice – Richard Preston’s “The Hot Zone” – a story about the Marburg and Ebola viruses. I had to go talk to this teacher, who wanted to know where and from whom my daughter had gotten hold of such a “gruesome” book and why on earth a child of her age would be interested in something so “horrible”. I told her the book was mine and that I encouraged my daughter’s interest in science, including medicine. I informed this teacher that it was my own “morbid” interest in the 1918 flu epidemic that I gained during my experience of the 1976 Swine flu scare that led to my lifelong interest in medicine. Many doctors, epidemiologists, virologists – the famous “virus hunters” who have discovered the causes, and engineered vaccines and treatments for, some of our most terrifying diseases – were inspired by such gruesome tales. Where would we be without them?
    This teacher still didn’t get it. She acted as though I was screening porn with my daughter or something. She grudgingly gave my daughter a “C”, but I’m sure that if I hadn’t defended my daughter’s choice, she would have gotten a lower grade, even though her report was excellent.

  • Aneres

    Yeaaah I’m also getting the feeling that ‘morbid’ and ‘gruesome’ were brought up in the discussion, and I get the feeling a LOT of that had to do with the fact that I was a girl. A girl must never be interested in ‘horrible’ things, right? -.-

  • Malcolm McLean

    How does the school react to novels which promote racism? Why should the reaction to novels which Christian parents find offensive be any different?

  • Bdole

    Hemant, you MUST ban Holytape immediately…he’s posting smut all over your good, clean blog! I’m afraid we’ve all been tainted!

  • griffox

    In my private Christian school, there was one student in my class whose parents objected to us reading The Hobbit. She was made to go outside the classroom while we discussed it. Case closed. I don’t know why public schools are allowing parents to bully them into censoring material.

  • Bdole

    E. All of the above
    The math teachers insist that 1+1+1 = 3 not 1
    The science teachers…well that’s obvious
    Kindergarten is when they start indoctrinating kids with “My Two mommies” – type books
    English? Peddlling wretched things like the works of Mark Twain which are filled with the n-word.

  • aoscott

    I can’t believe we are still having to debate book banning. Haven’t these people read Fahrenheit 451?

  • beatlefreak9

    What a waste of time and money. I’m glad I grew up in a place where what I read was my business and nobody else’s.

  • kagekiri

    Dude, don’t forget the rape commands/allowances, female subordination to males, children and even babies dying for the sins of their parents, human sacrifice, self-mutilation, racism, and murder and hatred of atheists or believers of other religions!

  • Bdole

    “Apparently, the book, which was made into a film, hasn’t taught these kids much about compassion, kindness, diversity, or inclusion.”
    I love how they try to throw these things back in the faces of those who have to fight the IFI and all their ilk across all 50 states tooth and nail in support of those qualities. Those are just buzzwords to them, the only time words like “inclusion” ever cross their walnut-sized brains is either when they’re throwing it out with a sneer, or hypocritically using it against someone who actually IS trying to make the world more compassionate, inclusive…

  • allein

    My first thought when I read that line was “How could it teach them anything if you won’t let them read it?”

  • allein

    Wasn’t Tolkein a Christian?

  • griffox

    I think so. It was ridiculous. They claimed it was because there was magic/fantasy in the story and that it was inviting satan in.

  • allein

    Seriously. This book has been on my list of things to read, but I think it might be time to finally get around to it. ;)

  • Raising_Rlyeh

    So, censorship is ok if it is for a conservative viewpoint? People like the IFI always complain that christians are being censored and yet don’t care about censoring other views. How about trusting your children to pick something they can handle. My parents never once read or looked into what I was reading when I was younger and I was reading things like the unaltered brothers grimm and the original greek and roman myths that came with *gasp* actual pictures of roman and greek artwork of naked people.

    Such loving parents to refer to their child as tainted in public.

  • baal

    In case anyone has forgotten, the IFI is on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of hate groups for their anti_LGBT efforts.

  • allein

    Well, then clearly we need to get going on teleportation devices. NO MORE JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL HALLWAYS!!!

  • allein

    Probably not…

  • JET

    I am continually amazed at how parents, Christian or not, seem to think they can control the thoughts and actions of young teenagers by banning them. Teenagers are rebellious by nature and are much more resourceful and secretive than their parents seem to realize. By banning a book, or anything for that matter, they are just firing up interest and ensuring that their teen will find some way of getting their hands on it.
    Our middle school librarian, who has complete responsibility for what is purchased, decided to not add Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’ to our middle school library. When some kids came looking for it, she simply said that she had limited funds and chose to spend them elsewhere. (Yeah, right.) After that, dozens of private copies made the rounds for months.
    When my son was in middle school and South Park was all the rage, I used to have a family room full of boys during every episode. They were eating me out of house and home! When I asked my son why they didn’t go to someone else’s house to watch occasionally, he told me that they were not allowed to watch it. (Yeah, that worked.)

  • TCC

    We agree on its reasonableness, but my point was that public schools don’t have the advantage of being able to enact such policies, unfortunately.

  • Miss_Beara

    She probably wouldn’t be able to get through 50 Shades because of the laughter.

  • JET

    I knew a few parents who wouldn’t let their kids read the Harry Potter books for the same reason.

  • Mairianna

    The real reason your daughter got a C: she chose a subject that the dumb teacher didn’t understand!

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    Very devout RC, pissed when they changed from Latin to English. Also largely responsible for converting CS Lewis.


  • Hunter Taylor

    While I never read “Perks,” I do agree with the sentiment that some of these more “explicit” books were incredibly important in helping me to grow and develop. As someone who went to a Catholic school, I was often marginalized, indirectly or not, for my views and attitudes towards religion, politics and sexuality. Being an avid reader growing up, it helped me to recognize that I was not alone within the world and gave me the tools to defend my point of view.

    By taking away books like “Perks,” these conservative parents are leaving their kids completely unprepared for engaging with the subjects discussed in the book. The world is not neatly divided into “Christian” and “wrong,” but is more complex than that. Books like these help students interact with an increasingly diverse world.

  • Dave The Sandman

    file under

    Reasons Why US Style Democratized Education Is A Stupid Idea

  • Stev84

    I don’t think there is any space left in that filing cabinet

  • busterggi

    I read ‘Tell Me that You Love Me, Junie Moon’ back in HS and they’d probably ban that too. The usual reaction of folks who believe the bible is the only book that should be available though never actually read.

  • busterggi

    Her parents would honor kill her if they could get away with it.

  • busterggi

    There have been no really original sins since the vacuum cleaner was invented.

  • Dave The Sandman

    When you put educational decision making in the hands of religulous reich creotards, Bubba Gumps, Joe the Plumbers and Don the Dentists this is what happens.

    Still, who am I to poke a sharp stick in your eyes? Over here in the UK the Conservative government are doing everything they can to accelerate the erosion of our educational systems and standards.

    Then again….its a damn long way down those league tables to where your kids sit.

    Seriously guys….. school boards are not a liberty, they are a liability.

  • busterggi

    So is Pan as good as the legands say?

  • busterggi

    ““She lusted after their paramours, whose flesh is like the flesh of donkeys and whose issue islike the issue of horses.”

    I wonder how she knew?

  • http://www.travismamone.net/ Travis Mamone

    Haven’t heard that joke before. I mostly get the “pansexual = attracted to pans” one.

  • JKPS

    I can’t believe I’m having to rehash what I already clearly explained, but okay.

    It seems to me that in the article with the atheist student, Hemant did not approve of the senior class president praying and then receiving a standing ovation, although we all agreed that it was legally okay. It was morally questionable, or outright objectionable, because the action gave the appearance that the prayer/ovation were done only to make a certain group of people feel uncomfortable while the Christians simultaneously patted themselves on the back for it.

    I am not going to go through the past blog entries again, simply because my lunch break is up in two minutes, but I do seem to recall that either Hemant or readers (or both) were worried that the student who initially objected to the school-sponsored prayers would be bullied. And rightly so.

    In this particular case, in my opinion, Hemant seems to justify an action that seems strikingly similar to the one he previously objected to. I mean, of course, quoting from a recently censored book, which in my opinion may have been done in an effort to bring up the censorship issue and make some people feel uncomfortable.

    As for the bullying, although Hemant did address it, I object to the way he did so. What he did was list one person’s report on the bullying and then followed it up by saying “Here’s what really happened.” Hemant does not know everything that really happened. He can’t know everything that happened. That is why I said “How do you know what people said to her? You weren’t around.”

    Your original rebuttal was not thoughtful, by the way. Not in the slightest. Don’t kid yourself. I think what happened is that you have subscribed to the hive mind, and you have decided that you must defend all the elements of this situation simply because you’re passionate about the censorship issue. I’m also passionate about the censorship issue, but I don’t like double standards. You have yet to explain how it’s not a double standard, and I don’t think you can.

    If you could explain how it’s a double standard, then I really wish you would have done so originally, because that’s the information I requested in my first comment.

    Comment back if you’d like, but I simply can’t be bothered to read and respond to anything else you write unless you’re capable of following my original argument and can explain to me how there’s no double standard here.

  • PhiloKGB

    Because “promotes” and “offends” are not the same?

  • Alice

    What made me angriest is the PDF with the quotes. IFI’s heading for the rape scene was “A boy seduces a girl.” Um, LEARN TO READ YOU MORONS! She was crying and saying “no” the entire time.

  • phantomreader42

    I have a pansexual friend, when she discovered the term I jokingly asked if it referred to satyrs or kitchen implements. I’m waiting for her to bring it up again, since she’s a Doctor Who fan and I’d like an opportunity to use the phrase “wibbly-wobbly sexy-wexy”. :P

  • phantomreader42

    Do you really expect IFI to be capable of grasping the concept of consent?

  • phantomreader42

    Well, since LEARNING is the Original Sin, this fits pretty well.

  • RobMcCune

    It shouldn’t, because censorship is wrong.

  • Tom

    Evidently, some of these people actually think the purpose of a school is to *stop* their children from growing up, rather than to help them do it.

  • busterggi

    I didn’t even think of the kitchen implement meaning darn it!

  • RobMcCune

    I don’t think this is different: Howard knew about the controversy and brought attention to it, although technically she didn’t do anything wrong.

    I think it was a political statement.

    One is an attempt by the majority to impose it’s values on others, and the other is opposing blanket censorship. Btw what are the political sentiments expressed in the passages Howard read? Is it the content itself that’s problem, or just it’s source? That’s not the case with a graduation prayer because it’s content is religious, that’s what makes it a prayer.

    and it seems to me that you’re just brushing away any chance that the girl involved in this case got bullied at all, except for one “unfortunate” incident with Post-its. How do you know what people said to her? You weren’t around.


    The students may be upset about the book-banning, but they shouldn’t take their frustration out on one of their classmates. There are far more productive ways to fight back.

    Hemant pretty clearly condemned bullying students for their views on this. Pointing out that the hypocricy of the IFI does not equate to dismissing bullying.

    I would like to see more about why you think certain behaviors are totally unacceptable in one instant but fine in another.

    Well, because their not the same. The only way you can say they are is by false equivalence, and flat out ignoring passages that don’t fit your narrative.

  • Malcolm McLean

    You can make distinctions, but they’re pretty fine. Those who believe in racial equality refuse to accept,in schools, any literature which challenges that belief, Even Huckleberry Finn, which is basically an anti-racist work, is being censored because it uses an Anglicisation of the word “Negro”. Anything that could, in any way, lead to racism is rigorously policed.
    So Christians should adopt the same attitude to works they disagree with. Anything that in any way, even in the slightest degree, tends to promote anti-Christian attitudes or behaviour must be rigorously removed from the school curriculum.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    Book Banning is Blasphemy.

  • RobMcCune

    You can make distinctions, but they’re pretty fine.

    No, there is a pretty clear distinction between “promotes” and “offends.” A dictionary might help you clear that one up.

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

    And I fight, hard, against the schools banning Huck Finn. Banning books is not OK.

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    There’s a webcomic, El Goonish Shive, featuring the couple of Tedd and Grace. It is among things a transgender fetish comic, and Tedd routinely uses alien technology to alter his appearance and gender. He and Grace are all over one another just about 24/7 in one way or another. As a result, people had assumed that Grace was bisexual, and were shocked to learn that she wasn’t really into girls. Or boys. Or much of anything besides what she had, no matter what he looked like at any given moment.

    They dubbed her a “Teddsexual”. :P

  • Malcolm McLean

    Yes, Lord of the Rings is a profoundly Catholic book. Lembas, or the waybread of the elves, is a figure of the blessed sacrament, for example.
    A lot of people don’t spot it. I had friend who was doing a PhD in biochemistry, and rand a MERP (Middle Earth Role Playing) games for many years. He never twigged, until I told him.

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a coming of age novel that
    includes suicide, abortion, drug use, foul language, heterosexual
    intercourse, homosexual sodomy, masturbation, bestiality, incestuous
    molestation, and rape — you know, all the topics “progressives” think
    form the basis for a solid education.


    Do they not realize that every kid in that county is now going to read that book and watch the movie online?

  • Malcolm McLean

    Not everyone is a hypocrite. When you get such hysterical anti-racist censorship that Huck Finn has to be bowdlerised, then it’s a bit silly to protest the Christian right censorship of a very debased, sexually explicit book on the grounds of free discussion and enquiry.
    One issue is that filth can be dressed up as “an edgy exploration of contemporary issues”. I’ve read the excerpts but not the text, so I don’t know whether this is the case or not, but I suspect that it is.

  • RobMcCune

    Huck Finn is taught as curriculum, Perks of Being a Wallflower is popular with students for an independent reading assignment where students choose their own books. The ban in place at this middle schools is far more restrictive than the attempts to remove Huck Finn from English curricula.

    It’s comparing apples and oranges regardless of the books respective merits.

  • Miss_Beara

    Or they did and refused to understand it.

  • Malcolm McLean

    But Huck is an anti-racist book. It’s under attack because it is not militantly anti-racist enough. That’s like Christians banning CS Lewis because he says “we don;t have to believe that these non-Christian religions are wrong through and through”.
    There are difference between the two cases, yes. But they’re not big enough to invalidate the general point. Liberals are extremely keen on censorship.

  • RobMcCune

    And this has what to do with anything?

  • Miss_Beara


    I read Perks when I was 18, finally out of the catholic school system and starting college. The book was only about 3 years old at the time so I don’t think it was a well known “controversial” book as it is now. As a social outcast and a depressed teen all through high school, this book really spoke to me. I haven’t read it in ten years so I forgot a lot of the scenes and themes. All I could remember is the effect it had on me and many teens need that in their lives.

  • phantomreader42

    Love the webcomic, and the term. I wouldn’t really consider it a fetish comic, it’s just that the creator and some characters are various types of perverts (and I loved Tedd’s speech on not being that kind of pervert) and enjoy having fun with such things.

  • Malcolm McLean

    Both liberals and Christians are extremely sensitive about what children are allowed to read. But in this case, the book the Christians were trying to censor was pretty extreme, very graphic, coarse depictions of children engaged in sexual activity. Liberals, on the other hand, tend to censor anything that even mildly hits their hot button issues.

    So this claim

    It’s usually just religious conservatives who think they should be able to control what everyone else gets to read. It’s not enough that they forbid their own children from reading it; they have to stop your kids from reading it.

    is simply false.

  • RobMcCune

    Well that’s a really round about way to quibble with two sentences.

  • TCC

    I’m sorry, but that reply is complete bullshit. I’ve “subscribed to the hive mind”? Fuck you. You misrepresented Hemant regarding the bullying – he explicitly did not condone bullying and noted that the teachers have not, either – and I called you out on it. Now you’ve moved the goalposts and said you “object to the way he did so.” Sorry, you don’t get to claim the moral high ground when you’re the one being disingenuous.

    For the record, I have said nothing about whether or not the graduation reading was in fact equivalent to the graduation prayer, but I don’t think that there’s any reason to think that it was. The graduation prayer was explicitly against the wishes of some of the graduates; there doesn’t seem to be any indication that the quotation in question was part of the objectionable part of the book, and so it wouldn’t have been a way of sliding that objectionable material past the ban. Was it meant to be provocative? I’m sure it was, but I don’t think you can draw such an equivalence. If you’d like to explain how they are equivalent, go ahead – the burden of proof is on you.

  • Malcolm McLean

    Yes, but it’s central. The whole argument falls apart when you accept that Christians are behaving in more or less the same way as everyone else,except maybe a few libertarians.

  • TCC

    A member of the school board in the town where I work allegedly wouldn’t let his kids read Harry Potter, which makes me wonder if I would ever get a challenge from that direction. So far, so good. (I tend not to require objectionable works in my classes, though.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/katherine.hompes Katherine Hompes

    They should ban the book- it’s a fool-proof way to ensure ALL kids in the school will read it, and I’m all for advancing literacy in schools :P

    This book (which I am now interested in reading, btw) sounds a bit like a book that was part of the curriculum in my school- an Australian coming of age story- Looking for Alibrandi. It is a fantastic book that deals with emotions, sex, drugs and suicide.

  • Anna

    Both liberals and Christians are extremely sensitive about what children are allowed to read.

    Citation needed. I’ve never met any liberal parents who are in favor of censoring their teenagers’ reading material. I was allowed to read anything I wanted, and I plan to make sure my children have that same freedom.

  • http://www.facebook.com/katherine.hompes Katherine Hompes

    (For some reason the rest of my comment was cut). It also deals with family, culture and bullying. I can’t recommend it highly enough. I think I might go read it again now, actually.

  • http://www.facebook.com/katherine.hompes Katherine Hompes

    I know, isn’t it excellent? :-)

  • RobMcCune

    The school board and Illinois Family Institute still look stupid regardless of those two sentences. That some people on all sides of the political spectrum support censorship doesn’t cause anyone’s argument to fall apart, unless that individual is a hypocrite. Do you have any evidence at all that Hemant, the author of this post, endorses censorship in schools?

  • Cattleya1

    If you want to get kids to read a book, have a big flashy public argument and then ban it. Censorship is a terrible thing – it is efforts of authoritarian bullies trying to tell everybody what they can see, hear, and think.

  • http://www.facebook.com/katherine.hompes Katherine Hompes

    My parents also trusted me to make my own reading choices- although they would discuss any concerns with me, never once would they “ban” me from reading a book. Like allowing me to read the bible in full at the age of nine (in their defense, I was rather advanced for my age).

    This was, of course, the first step on my road to becoming an atheist- I was horrified- more than when I read Funhouse by Dean Koontz (at the same age), or Hot Zone- a nonfiction about Ebola that I read a year later.

  • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

    Well, the students should all read the book if they wish and discuss it before or after school. They can ban the book from the school, but they can’t ban the book overall. It’s widely available and nothing can stop them from discussing it among themselves. Yes, that doesn’t solve the larger problem, but it is a temporary workaround if the students are committed to this particular book. Then they can choose another book and discuss it as well.

  • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

    I was thinking the same thing. there’s no faster way to get kids (or adults) to want to do something than to tell them they can’t. None of us likes that.

  • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

    Even something you don’t agree with is an opportunity for a conversation about the subject matter. Besides you’re probably smart enough to know that forbidding your children from reading something is the surest way to guarantee that they read it just to spite you. That’s what being a teenager is all about.

  • Malcolm McLean

    In athe post above:

    The district said Costner won’t be punished for the prayer. That’s where the problem really lies. The school’s not really in the wrong here since it appears they couldn’t have stopped him… but is this legal? Is this the loophole Christians have been searching for?

    So the Valedictorians choose their Own Speeches. This particular one chose The Lord’s Prayer as his speech. Hemant doesn’t approve, and thinks he should be punished for it. So I don’t think we can hold that Hemant doesn’t endorse censorship in schools.

  • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

    Same here. Huck Finn may be America’s greatest literary work. Ban it? No. Discuss it in appropriate ways referencing history and other literary works. You bet. Yes, it contains THAT word. Discuss the history of the word. Give it context. Nothing of literary value and of an age appropriate nature (no one needs to trudge through works way over their reading level) should be banned from the school curriculum. and as others have pointed out, it’s an anti-racist book.

  • Anna

    Nothing fails like censorship. I remember once when I was 15, a busybody video store clerk tried to stop me from renting a particular movie. It only made me more determined to go back and get it the next day!

  • Katherine Hompes

    As a liberal, I refute your assertion. I don’t agree with censorship at all, even if the book in question is racist, sexist homophobic, xenophobic and all around horrifying – like the bible. I still wouldn’t censor it – books, regardless of how nasty, are still a learning point – particularly when we are able to have discussion about said book.

  • Katherine Hompes

    It’s pretty boring erotica, IMO – but, hey, at least the men were hung like donkeys, eh?

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    You don’t understand what censorship actually is, do you…

  • allein

    Not really relevant, but I was at Book Expo America last week and there is a company called Out of Print (http://outofprintclothing.com/ ) that does shirts and accessories with vintage book covers. They were giving away little boxes of matches with the Farenheit 451 cover; printed on the back it says “It was a pleasure to burn.” It’s one of my favorite things I brought home that day. :)

  • RobMcCune

    Public school graduation ceremonies aren’t open mike night, or a church. The school gave Costner platform which he used to proselytize to the entire senior class, this is not at all equivalent to banning students from reading a book of their own choice on their own time. Also your interpretation of that sentence is sketchy at best.

  • Katherine Hompes

    Oh, I love Hot Zone – I read it for the first time at around the same age as your daughter- and also got it from my mum’s book collection.

    And I’m outraged that she got a low mark simply because the teacher didn’t agree with the subject – that is atrocious!

  • RobMcCune

    Well he’s one of these petty trolls who has to strike back because his side got criticized, he’ll basically say anything so long as he can keep arguing.

  • PhiloKGB

    No. Again. The situations are not. the. same.

  • Nate Frein

    I’d have taken that up the chain, myself, and made the teacher answer to the administration.

  • Nate Frein

    Ah, MERP…

    I used to enjoy just sitting and reading the crit tables.

  • Nate Frein

    To be fair, people who have read Fahrenheit 451 fail to see that it’s an indictment of television…to the point of correcting Bradbury himself when he gave a speech on it.

    Edit: In the interest of full disclosure, I was one of them.

  • Edmond

    Oh for Pete’s sake. What’s the ONE thing that Higgins and the IFI could do to ensure that MORE kids want to run out and read this book? Hmm, let me think….

  • Sue Blue

    Or in anything “science-y” or with a lot of math…cuz everyone knows girls are bad at that stuff! Besides, girls should just play with dolls and learn how to cook!
    I myself remember hiding books about biology, chemistry and evolution under my mattress like porn when I was a kid, because I grew up in a fundamentalist christian home and that stuff was all designed by the Devil to lure my empty female head away from childbearing and homemaking.

  • Sue Blue

    I was outraged too. I later found out that this particular teacher was a Christian who thought that science was “bad”, especially for girls. You’d think we were living in the 1800s or something.

  • Vision_From_Afar

    oh my god, IFI must want to ban the Bible, too!
    I see what you did there

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Harrison/23417637 Michael Harrison

    Other students reading this book will corrupt her child? Is this like gay marriage ruining traditional marriage?

  • Miss_Beara

    The Raven shirt is awesome!

  • Miss_Beara

    Say 50 students are going to read The Perks of Being a Wallflower. 49 students’ parents say that they are ok with their teens reading that book. 1 is against it. Because 1 is against it, they want to ban in for everyone? I cannot believe that the school would cave to pressure because of one parent who probably didn’t even read the book. I don’t watch Hannibal because of its violence. I am not calling and emailing NBC to make them ban it from the airways because I think nobody should ever watch it. Banning books doesn’t work and will never work.

    The fact that a harmless book can threaten and offend people, oftentimes by not even reading it but by word of mouth, is both fascinating and disturbing. Also, it occurring in the 21st century proves the power of literature and ignorance of people. A book being banned in the past makes me want to read it to see what all of the fuss was about. :) I am amazed how many times Of Mice and Men was challenged or banned.

  • TCC

    I’ve read it once before and wasn’t a fan, but now I think I might have to revisit it.

  • Agrajag

    The American tendency to want to shelter young people from the real world until suddenly they’re 18, and supposed to be competent at dealing with all of that, despite ideally never having even heard it mentioned up to that day is bizarre. Especially in the case of sexuality.

    Why would anyone consider it a bad thing for a 14 year old to have heard the term “blowjob” ? At 14 most are well into puberty, a few might already be sexually active, and most of them will be within a handful of years. There’s legitimate reasons to be skeptical of too early sexual debut, but I don’t see any reason at all to try to suppress knowledge.

    There’s plenty of bad things in the world that I would wish did not exist. Murder. Rape. Disease. Famine. These are horrors, yet I expect a 14 year old to know a bit about them, and would consider it a crucial part of education to learn about such problems, I *certainly* wouldn’t want a 14 year old to be shielded even from the word “murder”.

    In contrast, a blowjob is usually not a bad thing. It’s a normal part of human sexuality, a source of joy and pleasure, and something most people are involved in at some point of their life. Yet I see demands that teenagers must be shielded to such a degree that preferably they don’t even get to hear the word.

    Does anyone suggest teenagers should not hear the word “murder” or “death” or “famine” or “disease” ? No ? What then, is the rationale for trying to shield them from “blowjob” ? (even if it was possible, I mean!)

  • Agrajag

    Indeed ! IMHO the kids that *most* need to read and discuss such a book is precisely the kids whose parents flip out over it. What are the odds that these kids can discuss difficult topics at home with their parents, if the parents are so panicked about it publically ? I’m sorry, but your parental rights does not extend to the right to keep your child ignorant about basic facts about everyday life. (and I say that as a parent of 3)

  • Cortex_Returns

    Unless there’s some critical element that’s going unreported, I don’t think that the “flower” post-its can be reasonably interpreted as bullying.

    These students, who are supposed to be able to pick their own reading material, are having that capability curtailed because of one child’s parents, and have no official way to effectively oppose those parents – they’re too young to vote for school board, and can’t practically confront the parents who are the actual problem here. This non-violent, issue-centered speech seems to me to be a creative protest.

  • Malcolm McLean

    No, because the challenge was to show that a named individual is in favour of censorship. So I looked at one other post. An exact analogy would be if a child chose “the Bible” as his “book of choice” and was told “sorry, that isn’t acceptable” and he approved. But you’d have to trawl far and wide to find an exact analogy like that.
    The fact that he wants to punish a student for choosing the Lord’s Prayer as part of a valedictory speech tells us what we need to know. He doesn’t believe in free speech.

  • Malcolm McLean

    You can make a distinction between a book which “promotes racial hatred” and one which “sets out to offend African Americans”. Since you’re so clever, tell me how you’d draw that distinction.

  • PhiloKGB

    Who said anything about punishing anyone? I guarantee you won’t find Hemant doing so.

    In any case, ‘promoting racism’ is a far more objective category than ‘offending Christians.’ In fact, offense alone is about the worst criterion imaginable; anyone can be offended at anything and no one can tell them they’re not allowed to be.

  • aoscott

    Ahh fair enough, I’ll admit, the last time I visited that book was 9th grade, so I might be a little rusty. I remember the movie was just…just terrible…

  • teacher1

    I teach this book to my seniors. These are kids who walk into my class admitting that they have never read a book cover to cover in their entire 12 years of schooling. With this book, however, they read ahead. I have caught some kids trying to sneak the book out of class, so they can read it on their own. Imagine that! Kids these days, middle school through high school alike, are not subjected to any of these themes and concepts in other areas of pop culture, right? Geez, parents. Check their Instagrams and Vines every now and then. Turn on the TV. Listen to the music they have on their IPODS. So stupid.

  • Beau in Tulsa

    Hmm… I just checked my local library here in Tulsa, Oklahoma to borrow the book to see what the fuss is all about. There are 52 holds on 8 copies.

    So the question I have now is ….. is the book popular here among the targeted age demographic, or are the 52 holds from fundie parents who don’t want others to read the book?

  • Anna

    The book has been popular for a long time, but the movie version (starring Emma Watson) came out just last year. That may be the reason for all the holds. Alternately, it could have been assigned as summer reading at a local high school, which would explain 52 of them. My library system shows several holds on the book, but not quite that many.

  • tensticks

    Every generation has its Bible-thumping book-burners who know what’s best for everyone else. People a little older than me had Anita Bryant; I grow up under the shadow of Phyllis Schlafly, Patricia Pulling, & the PMRC. But it makes me sad. PERKS is my favorite book of all time. I flew 2000 miles to be an extra in a small scene. I’ve done all I can to spread word about it to anyone who will listen. I can only take comfort in the knowledge that the more something is denied, the more desirable it becomes–and that teenagers, being far more clever and resrouceful than adults *ever* give them credit for, WILL get their hands on the book/movie, no matter what. Amen.

  • DesertSun59

    So very amusing! Look at the Amazon review page for this book. There, you will find OVER 3000 5 star reviews. OVER 3000!!! There were nearly 1000 in the first year of its publication alone.

    I suspect that this controversy will cause that number to go over 5000 now. Anytime a fundamentalist Christian addicted to crazy Bronze Age mythology gets wind of a book they want to ban, all they do is cause sales to skyrocket.

    BTW, there’s not a single issue dealt with in this novel that’s not found in the Bible. So, these religion addicted maniacs don’t even know what’s in the Bible they ‘claim’ to worship.

  • DesertSun59

    Let’s say that not only did I know what a BJ was at 14, I had already given and received a few.

  • Agrajag

    I don’t think that’s very rare at 14. The average age of debut is something like 15.5 for girls and 16.5 for boys, but of course many people are a year or two earlier or a year or two later than the average.

  • Guest

    This is ridiculous. I read Sophie’s Choice in 8th grade. 13 year olds are routinely underestimated.