Sunday, February 06, 2005

Burn baby, burn!

"It wasn't a band of angry students who destroyed about two dozen copies of "Bless Me, Ultima," a novel selected for a Norwood High School English class - it was a group of parents. Norwood School Superintendent Bob Conder confiscated the books and released them to parents to be burned or otherwise purged."

So begins this story from Colorado, the state that burns books, attacks a professor's right to free speech and threatens him with dismissal and of course, the home of James Dobson and Focus on the Family ministries.

The book, Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolpho Anaya, explores the difficulty of reconciling conflicting cultural traditions. The main character, a young boy growing up in New Mexico during World War II, struggles with the complexities of his religion. He becomes increasingly frustrated by the failure of the Catholic Church to explain the most pressing questions about morality and human experience and is frustrated by his failure to find a forgiving god, and then finds an unlikely mentor in a local “healer” who comes to live with his family.

Anaya, a professor emeritus of English from the University of New Mexico, wrote the book in 1972.

Anaya, in a phone interview said, “Freedom of democracy is learned in our school systems.”

“Parents have the right to monitor what their children read, however they do not have the right to tell others what they can read. That is un-American, un-democratic and un-educational,” said Anaya.

The article goes on to say that these parents objected to some of the "nasty" words contained, so with the endorsement of the local administration, they built a bonfire in the parking lot of good 'ole Norwood High. According to School Superintendent Bob Condor, the book contained "filthy language".

"I'm not going to repeat the language. Our job is to protect kids from things that aren't good for kids," he said.

Hey, if it has bad words, just fire up the censorship pyre and be done with it!

The ALA has information about banned books at their website.


Anonymous said...

Ah yes, our little conservative town...
It's boiling down to just the "bad words" and the school's hard and fast policy against them. My kid's are in this class that banned the book (which, by the way, most of the kids are now reading on their own...) Is this common for a high school to forbid reading *anything* with a "bad word" in it, or is our little town unusual (I hope so!) What other classics might be kept from my sons due to "bad words" alone?
Another comment: Colorado is also home to the "South Park" show, um-k!

Jim said...

Maine recently had a case where a mother wanted Salinger's "A Catcher in the Rye" banned. The mother had never read the book, but she and her husband determined from a Cliff notes version that this was a "bad" book and poor junior had better not read it. Didn't matter to her that the book was a classic and that other children might benefit.

Fortunately, the school board didn't side with the little fascist here, but often, they do.