January 16, 2009

Let's Have a Good Ol' Fashioned Book Burnin'

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'.


Oemissions said...

I wonder what Sarah Palin would say.
aybe send her a copy.

Kyle said...

Palin would probably think it's a lost book of the Bible...

Bob Broughton said...

If the guy believes that The Handmaid's Tale is "anti-Christian", he hasn't read it.

All of the biblical references in The Handmaid's Tale are from the old testament.

Kyle said...

I've heard that before. The book isn't necessarily anti-Christian rather it's anti-Islam...

put old testament quotes together with veiled women and...

However, I still don't think it matters which religion Atwood intended to point out, having an anti-religious tone isn't necessarily a reason to go after a book without providing responses.

Jymn said...

I guess any authoritarian or otherwise can make a complaint. As is shown by the FCC receiving only 18 complaints of a Director giving a finger at a recent awards show and deciding to investigate, it doesn't take much to raise a fuss and get attention. The real story will be the school board's ruling. Hopefully, the board will have some intelligence in this matter. But don't count on it. But, you gotta feel for the guy's sons. They must be cowering in embarrassment.

Prole said...

Jymn, there's no way that guy's sons are more mortified than the daughter of that woman who is complaining about BUTT magazine at the American Apparel store in Vancouver.

Poor kids. And I thought my parents were embarassing.

Quotes from people smarter than me...

"If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich" ~ JFK

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. " ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. " ~ Benjamin Franklin

"First it is necessary to stand on your own two feet. But the minute a man finds himself in that position, the next thing he should do is reach out his arms. " ~ Kristin Hunter

"When you're a mayor and you have a problem you blame the provincial government. If you are provincial government and you have a problem you blame the federal government. We don't blame the Queen any more, so once in a while we might blame the Americans." ~ Jean Chretien

"Which is ideology? Which not? You shall know them by their assertion of truth, their contempt for considered reflection, and their fear of debate." ~ John Ralston Saul

"It is undoubtedly easier to believe in absolutes, follow blindly, mouth received wisdom. But that is self-betrayal." ~ John Ralston Saul

"Everybody dies, Tracey. Someone's carrying a bullet for you right now, doesn't even know it. The trick is to die of old age before it finds you." ~ Cpt. Malcolm Reynolds (Firefly, Episode 12)