Friday, July 29, 2011

Slaughterhouse-Five banned by Missouri school

This is disturbing—in part because Slaughterhouse-Five is one of the best books ever, but also because this was prompted by a column in the local paper by a professor that this book and a few young adult novels were too profane and promoted promiscuity and dysfunctional families. That a professor is promoting censorship flies in the face of academic integrity. When I taught middle school, students who read Slaughterhouse-Five loved it, and students who read Speak (which was nearly banned) found it very touching (it’s a wonderful book!). The moral panic behind this is ridiculous. From the Guardian:

Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five and young adult novel Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler have both been banned from a school curriculum and library in a Missouri school following complaints from a local professor about children being exposed to “shocking material”.

Ockler’s novel, which tells of a girl’s summer romance as she attempts to get over the death of her first love a year earlier, is being removed from the school curriculum and library in Republic, Missouri, along with Kurt Vonnegut’s classic novel Slaughterhouse-Five. The ban follows a complaint from Wesley Scroggins, a professor at Missouri State University, who wrote in a column for a local paper last year claiming that Vonnegut’s novel “contains so much profane language, it would make a sailor blush with shame”. He said that Ockler’s book, described by Kirkus Reviews as a “sincere, romantic tearjerker”, “glorifies drunken teen parties, where teen girls lose their clothes in games of strip beer pong”, and laid into Laurie Halse Anderson’s acclaimed novel Speak, which he felt “should be classified as soft pornography”.

Scroggins’s complaints sparked a review by the district school board, which voted this week to keep Speak but to remove the novels by Vonnegut and Ockler. Twenty Boy Summer focused on “sensationalising sexual promiscuity”, Superintendent Vern Minor told the News-Leader. “I just don’t think it’s a good book. I don’t think it’s consistent with these standards and the kind of message that we want to send,” he said. “If the book had ended on a different note, I might have thought differently.” Slaughterhouse-Five, meanwhile, contains “really, really intense” language and does not have “any place in high school”, according to Minor.