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High School literature

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I have read the Kite Runner, which personally I feel is somewhat over-rated, but it is a good book. What is worrying in articles like this is that single passages are taken out of context and as a result give a totally inaccurate image of what the book is about. The reference to the rape of Hassan is just that, a reference to an event but it is an event that is critical to what subsequently happens. Amir's guilt over not intervening to stop the rape and refusing to acknowledge that it happened results in him framing Hassan for theft to get him out of the house.

The book tackles the issues of consequences of sexual violence. It is important that young people discuss issues like this. Literature is where these issues can be explored and discussed.

I suspect some of these parents would prefer their children to read nothing but the Bible and Shakespeare. They need to remember that when threatened with prosecution for obscenity Sir Richard Burton stated he would go into Court with the Bible and Shakespeare under his arm.

Also I find it difficult to give serious consideration to a parent who does not know the difference between pornography and obscenity. It might be submitted that parts of Beloved are obscene, that is a matter of opinion, I would argue that they are not. What they are not is pornographic - unless they have brought out an illustrated version. What it is a powerful and effective description of slavery and its impact. Again something that should be discussed and explored.

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All books can be indecent books though recent books are bolder

For filth, I'm glad to say, is in the mind of the beholder

When correctly viewed

Everything is lewd

I can tell you things about Peter Pan

And the Wizard of Oz is a Dirty Old Man!

- - - SMUT by Tom Lehrer

I am somewhat torn about the subject here. Yes, it would be nice to keep kids "protected" from bad things, but by the time they're in high school, usually age 14 and above, their innocence is likely already waning. On the other hand, why do so many of us obsess about the evils of sex while we glamorize violence? It is a conundrum.

For starters though, every library in the world censors simply because no library in the world owns every book. They determine titles based on their local population. So parents should certainly expect school libraries to be mindful of the fact that students of various ages and maturity will be accessing the materials and should therefore stock their shelves wisely. The same with teachers' suggested/required reading lists; they should be compiled wisely.

This carries even more weight when the family is expected to foot the bill for books at home. (Schools won't likely have 150 copies of each book on hand.) There are some books I've read, and more that I know of, that I might not care for my child to read. I'm damned sure not going to pay for them!

Modern books, television, films, are indeed grittier than in the past. It's what sells. Should I then surrender to that inevitability and ignore the possibility that those media are contributory to the increased sexual activity and violence among kids? Should drug cartels, rapists, axe murderers, etc., be treated with the "It's only a book, sweetheart" response? I think not.

In fairness, I remember being somewhat startled when our sophomore English teacher explained that Romeo and Juliet were likely about 14 years old. That made things much more interesting. And when he went on to explain that women weren't stage actors in the day, and Juliet was usually played by a young teen boy, it was great fun (and just as likely humiliating) figuring who'd make the best Juliet in our class. And a local PBS station put on a fascinating show about Shakespeare, extremely fast forwarding through his plays, counting how many people were dead, dying, raped, etc., as they went along. Shakey was definitely not Dr Seuss.

Perhaps teachers could compromise somehow. At the beginning of the term, send home a list of proposed readings for the grading period and decide which books the student will/will not read. Along the lines of "Select 5 of the following 10 books for this year." One family's prejudice one way or the other would not then interfere with another's.

But assigning "Fifty Shades of Grey" to a class of sophomores would likely not be a good idea. Well, not to most some at least a few of the parents.

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This is why I posted this. I felt it would evoke discussions like this. I agree that it's a very complex issue.

To try to shield teenagers from reading anything about sex is inane. What in the world does anyone think half the discussions boys have when together are about! Of course they think about, talk about, and try to engage in it. Nature built them that way. Propagating the species begins in the teenage years.

But the parents have a right, in my opinion, to be involved in what these schools are having their children read. Books are powerful things, more powerful in my mind than movies or games or songs. They also carry more weight. I doubt most kids would tell their parents, "They did it in this game, so it's all right to do." They might well say that about characters in a book. At least they're likely to think it.

Nigel has an excellent point. The rape in that book is crucial to character development and the plot. It shows the harm it can do. I think it's OK for high school kids to see the deleterious effects of rape. But I wouldn't mind the parents being told in advance that there is a scene in the book that shows the cruelty of rape, and the consequences of it. I think the parents should know what their kids are reading so they can discuss it and put any questions in context.


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