catapult magazine

catapult magazine


offensive books


Oct 08 2003
02:49 pm

These are such good questions—thank you for asking outloud. But what are the answers????

This year I’ve been challenged about The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier being checked out to a middle schooler. I actually concurred and it slipped by us in the library inadvertently. I’ve had to respond to the parents via the teacher with our means of rectifying the situation. Now they want their children to read “Christian” fiction titles/authors.

Okay, getting on my soapbox now…so much of what is sold under those auspices has in the past been such poor literature or full of teachings that I would consider untrue to Scripture or misleading. Just because it has a Christian publisher/author does that make it truthful? Does that make it good story? There is so much good literature…one unhappy encounter should not cause one to"throw the baby out with the bath water"! It always feels to me like ignorance and fear…I just wasn’t raised that way and have a difficult time with this viewpoint. I digress…I’m sorry.

It is admirable that parents are paying attention. I respect that as well as their right to hold different viewpoints from mine.

As teachers, are there just as many books we can choose that are excellent that won’t have ‘stumbling blocks’ in them? Might it behoove us to do so or would we be setting precedence for weeding out anything that might provoke controversy? Heaven forbid!

As thinking Christians, can we often overcompensate for popular or fundamentalist Christianity by insisting that nothing is untouchable? That all is good for thought, discussion, learning?

A classroom is a bit different from a library…you are actually requiring the book…I think that might call for some compromise…for working with the parents on this one. Providing something satisfactory for all concerned..let the class finish, provide this student with an alternative selection and required assignments? But where to go while the class is discussing? hmm…one thing begets another…“but Mr. N., if she doesn’t have to read it why do we? Can i read a different book too?” arg.

We don’t want to lose students from the classroom permanently…we do want to respect a parent’s right to object…and have input…might the parent have to compromise too? I’d like to think so, as far as being willing to work with the situation without bringing their judgement down on all the students.

Might we as teachers/librarians work diligently to find something equally good, beautiful, thought-provoking, truthful to replace this choice with next time? Can we be humble enough to do so? Will it be earth shattering if this book isn’t read next year?

Or, does this begin a nightmare of compromise, book banning, fear mongering?

I’ve just succeeded in asking more questions and I’m not sure I didn’t just talk in circles, but my mind spends much time on this also. Thanks for the good thought provoking topic…I want to hear more.