I just came across this article from the Toronto Star's Parent Central website. When I originally heard about some guy wanting to get Margaret Atwood's novel, A Handmaid's Tale banned I laughed right out loud.
The father complained that the book is "rife with brutality towards and mistreatment of women (and men at times), sexual scenes, and bleak depression" and "anti-Christian".
And the problem is...? Seriously.
Nowhere in Atwood's novel are the former issues promoted or deemed a positive. They are in the novel to make the reader think and feel scared or sick by what they are reading. It's about forcing a reader to understand a problem. It makes me think about people who get worked up about Harper Lee's, To Kill a Mockingbird, over racism and slurs, when the major theme in the novel is anti-racism or inequality and the problems associated with these. The father's latter complaint touches upon a similar theme of what I talked about prior when I examined the issue of the Philip Pullman's, His Dark Materials trilogy.
There is nothing wrong with challenging religion. If anything religion, especially organized religion, needs to be challenged or it faces irrelevancy by becoming dogma. To hide children away from such an inquiry only reinforces their curiousity. It's the nature of children, especially teenagers. Rather than taking the novel away and hiding from the question, have an answer to it. Provide alternative information, show examples of where the criticism is wrong. To lock it away is to essentially give it the criticism validation. This father has ultimately done more harm than good.
Anyway, I find it funny that someone is just now getting all worked up about Atwood's novel because it was written in 1985. It has also been apart of the high school curriculum, in Ontario at least, for most of that time - it was the first Atwood novel I read and that was because I was required to read it for an English assignment. And there is so much already written about A Handmaid's Tale and the controversy surrounding its themes, that a quick internet search may have alleviated this father's concerns.
I have looked at the issue of banning books within public education before. And my feelings haven't changed. Unless the novel is written by someone that intentionally tries to mislead, obfuscate or commit harm through their writings, then no book should be banned from a public school. However, I think more or less this has come down to ignorance on the father's part. If he was really that concerned about what was being assigned in his kid's class he would have known about the novel prior to it being picked up by his son. Furthermore, he himself should maybe take the opportunity to peruse more books that are considered 'must-reads'.