It is one of my favorite times of year… Banned Books Week is September 25th through October 2nd. The American Library Association (click on the photo to go to their site) promotes the freedom of choice by encouraging libraries across the nation to celebrate every American's right to choose not to read controversial books.
Notice that I didn't emphasize "every American's right to choose what they read." When I consider the titles which have been challenged or banned over the years, what I see is not just the loss of a choice to read a book but the loss of the choice to not read. There is a reason I haven't read Mein Kampf and haven't watched Natural Born Killers. These are not the same reasons I choose not to read Twilight or watch, well, Twilight, but the fact is that I have the right to choose not to consume these texts. That decision was not made for me. Sure, I agree that every student's parents have the right to say that a text is not appropriate for their kid and ask for an alternative if a text is assigned in a class.
But, there are only two parents who have the right to say what text is not appropriate for my kid.
Appropriately, this year's theme for Banned Books Week is "Think for yourself and let others do the same."
It's particularly fun this year that Banned Books Week corresponds with my teaching of George Orwell's Animal Farm. Down on the farm, literacy is wielded like a weapon. Those who are literate easily overpower those who are illiterate, essentially enslaving them by controlling information (hello FoxNews). A great Orwellian theme, and one to which we ought always pay close attention.
As a side note: There's a very intriguing interactive map at the ALA press-kit site which uses Googlemaps to tag exemplars of challenged or banned books. Some of the titles and reasons are rather surprising.