For two weeks now, it has been in the news that Republic Missouri is banning books. The vote was 4-0 in favour of ridding the high school library of books deemed worse than the Bible. Sadly, this is a town next door to mine and heavily influenced by Religious Reich Pentecostals, who of course avoided stating the reason for the ban as I did.
REPUBLIC, Mo. • Two books have been banned from the libraries and curriculum at Republic High School after a parent complained that their content taught principles contrary to the Bible.
The district's school board voted Monday to remove Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse-Five" and Sarah Ockler's "Twenty Boy Summer," but to allow Laurie Halse Anderson's "Speak" to be used in the district's high school, The Springfield News-Leader reported.
Supposedly, a man who has no children filed the complaint with the school board, over a year ago. His reasoning for wanting these books gone is because the books are contrary to the stories in the Bible and do not teach Biblical values.
Now what I want to know is why is it that the rape, incest, murder, and genocide in the Bible are OK for teens to read, but not Slaughterhouse-Five? It seems to me that Christians really do not read their storybooks, because if they did, they might be appalled by all the violence in the Bible. Then again, because they believe that particular book is the inerrant word of God, inspired and written by God, that such violence is OK and has the stamp of God’s approval.
The thing is, the Bible is a book full of mythical stories written and inspired by very errant humans, not a deity. These same humans were no better Kurt Vonnegut or Jackie Collins, except that Vonnegut and Collins are better writers.
Meanwhile, the childless man who complained these books do not teach the Bible, is saying that he congratulates the school for banning the books, but unfortunate that they did not ban the third one.
Why did the school board ban the books from the school curriculum? Sex, promiscuity, crude language, adult themes, and drunkenness. All the very same themes found in their little book.
Minor said most people supported keeping "Speak," which is taught in English I and II courses, because although it had one short description of a rape, it had a strong message at the end.
But he said those who read "Twenty Boy Summer," available in the library, thought it sensationalized sexual promiscuity and included questionable language, drunkenness, lying to parents and a lack of remorse. And he said "Slaughterhouse Five" contained crude language and adult themes that are more appropriate for college-age students.
Do these people realize that Lot’s daughters got him drunk and had sex with him after he told a bunch of men in his town to take his daughters and have sex they did not consent to in the first place? Oh and Noah got so plastered that he did not realize he was sleeping naked on the floor when his son found him past out from a night of heavy drinking. What about the Song of Solomon? It is loaded with adult sexual themes. Let us not forget the constant murder and mass slaughter of people starting with Cain and Abel, eventually going into the mass genocide of whole cities.
What are these people? Nuts? Or do they just not read the book they believe is so holy? I really believe that if they actually did read their mythology, they would find it at least as sexual and violent with adult themes as the books they want to keep out of the hands of their teenagers.
Of course, one person argues that these books are not really banned and to say they are is hypocrisy, because students can find these books in bookstores. He argues that students do not have the same rights as normal adults in society and the school board did what was appropriate for minors. Yet these same minors can read the Bible? By the way, he admits to not reading these books and I can only assume that he has not read his Bible either. Now there is hypocrisy for you.
Even worse, one of the people who decided to remove these books from public high schools is a professor at my alma mater.
We also lament that one of our colleagues here, at Missouri State University, appears to have been a major force behind this decision. This is painful, not only because as educators we should always be on the side of books and not book-banning, but because our university has a special state-mandated mission to educate our young people in public affairs. At a minimum, this means teaching the fundamental principles and values of a liberal democracy. To suggest that a sectarian religious litmus test should be applied to public school curricula, as Wes Scroggins has suggested, is antithetical to those fundamental principles and values.
Finally, we want to affirm that we, a diverse group of faculty and staff at Missouri State, are committed to the substantive and rigorous education of young people in our region, our state and our nation, one that allows for the unhindered, open exploration of ideas that is so necessary to flourishing in our modern democracy.
The complaint supposedly started with Biblical teachings or lack there of, but yet the board insisted they avoided moral issues in making their decision concerning the books.
"We very clearly stayed out of discussion about moral issues. Our discussions from the get-go were age-appropriateness," he said.
"The discussion we've been having was not are these good books or bad books … It is is this consistent with what we've said is appropriate for kids."
The board adopted the standards — which cover language, violence, sexuality and illegal substances — in April and those standards have since been applied to the three books.
It seems to me that the Bible meets this standard and should be removed also. After all, the use of alcohol is an illegal substance for minors under 21. Not only that, I will repeat again, that it has the violence and sexuality that people complained about too. The Bible is not a book that is fit for minors under these criteria.
So others applaud this move and while they say on one hand that basing books on whether or not they teach Biblical values or not is not the standard, maybe they should take a second look at the standard they have set up and evaluate the Bible with it. If they actually read the book, they would probably find they would have to ban the Bible too, under these criteria.
A task force took on the job of reviewing existing board policy and the public rating systems that already exist for music, TV and video games.
Considering that input, the board adopted standards, which cover language, violence, sexuality and illegal substances. Those standards were then applied to the three books in question.
By first having the ethical conversations needed to set those standards, the school board has provided an important tool and lesson for its staff and students. One cannot make good decisions if there is no ethical undergirding on which to build them.
Those standards can now provide the basis on which curriculum committees and individual teachers can make decisions about books, movies, speakers and other input in the classroom.
Can we say FAIL?
Despite the rewording, the school board might not get around the obvious and the original complaint about the books. It is potentially possible to accuse the school board of wording their decision in an effort to get around Church and State separation issues. This ordeal started with religion and it was only reworded to prevent the accusation of bringing religion into a State ran institution.
Actually, what's unfortunate it that the school board didn't stand up for church-state separation and the freedom to learn. And it's unfortunate that the education of students at Republic High School is being held hostage by such narrow-minded people.
It might also be unconstitutional. In 1982, the Supreme Court struck down a book censorship plan at a New York school district. Members of the school board in Island Trees had banned eight books, including Slaughterhouse-Five, after a statewide right-wing pressure group started a campaign against them. Board members agreed, calling the books "anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic, and just plain filthy."
Justice William Brennan led a court plurality in striking down the censorship scheme.
The Religious Reich is always trying to find ways to control our government, yet at the same time avoid being obvious about it.
In 1993, a school board in Olathe, Kan., ordered the removal of the book Annie on My Mind from a school library because it deals with homosexuality. Parents who supported the novel sued and won. A federal court ruled that public schools may not ban books "based on their personal social, political and moral views."
It sounds like the school board in Republic did exactly that. One fundamentalist complained that the books offended his interpretation of the Bible – so out went the books.
That is exactly what they did and any intelligent person can see that. The Religious Reich wants their violent and sexually explicit literature taught, but no one else’s literary work can be taught. That’s just wrong and I think we should attempt to ban the Bible from Public Schools, using the very same criteria they are using, everytime they attempt to ban any book from the schools. Maybe if we show the Religious Reich just how much rape, promiscuity, violence, and adult themes are in the Bible, maybe they will get the message that they really need to read their book before they ban anyone else's. We can hope at least.