Banning Books in Beulah
Good morning and thanks to those who read last week’s thoughts, and thanks for tuning in today. Just to remind those new readers: I’ve begun to write this from some article I find interesting in Thursday’s Bismarck Tribune.
One might suspect I’d be writing about the week’s
overwhelming coverage (adulation) of Barak Obama’s inauguration…nope; enough has been said, and congratulations to him. I wish him well in this difficult if not overwhelming task.
I want to address the article(s) about the ‘uprising’ in Beulah over the ‘banning’ of a book in th
e school library. I know NONE of the principles in this story. I don’t know any of the school board members, I don’t know the parents who requested the ‘ban’, I don’t know the author of the book, I don’t know the book, I’ve not read it, and though I watched the movie by the same name
, I don’t remember anything about it! It’s dangerous to try and make any comment when so much is not known!! Oh, caution to the wind…here goes!
In principle, I’m against book banning. I like the freedom of reading what I want, and being able to allow others the same right; seems righ
t, to me. However, I’m also a parent, and know the difficult job it is raising our children. I’m grateful to the Tribune, and other media coverage, that have left the Beulah parent’s religious beliefs out of the discussion. (same can’t be said of the numerous assumptions made by the bloggers / commentators on the Tribune’s web site.) But there is one comment/quote from the book’s author that stirred me a bit this morning.
Quoting from the Tribune: “(John) Berendt said the book is ‘salty and racy,’ but not pornographic in a graphic way, or otherwise. He says parents should have the right to restrict children’s access to Internet pornography or other subversive materials. He said his book does not belong in those categories. (quoting Berendt now) ‘That is ridiculous. I don’t like the whole idea of these (Beulah parents), who don’t know what they’re talking about, deciding to be judge and jury,’ he said. ‘The (Tribune Web comments) reviews were all overwhelmingly positive, and for suddenly someone to come out and say it should be banned seemed extreme and left me speechless. I’m not angry or anything.’”
My immediate reaction was: who is judging who? His dismissive comment that the parents don’t know what they are talking about, and his rationale that because the reviewers comments were all positive (after reading many, I’d disagree with him) seems suspect at best. From what I’ve seen/heard/read, the parents took this action according to the school district’s written policy. The school board may have overreacted too quickly, and just as quickly undid their previous action. All parties except the Librarian admitted they had not read the book. (note above mention of this danger)
I guess my point is, who is better qualified and more responsible for educating a child; the parents or the school, or some author of some rather obscure book who had never even given thought to or about ND prior to this incident? As the spouse of a teacher who often laments the pathetic involvement of so many parents in their children’s education, I’d think the Beulah School board might want to celebrate and thank those parents for their willingness to be involved in the educational process, and maybe covenant with the parents to each read the book, along with the parents, and have a more informed discussion at the next months meeting. The parents might also have used the book to spark further conversation with their child. Unfortunately, the result of what happened and how it was handled has made this book the ‘hottest’ item in libraries near and far.
I don’t remember Jesus ever getting into any discussions about banned books back in the day. But remember there were no; Harry Potter’s, DaVinci Codes, or Shacks back then! I do remember him though clearly discussing matters of his day; paying taxes to Caesar, gathering food and healing people on the Sabbath, turning water into wine at weddings. I suspect Jesus would welcome the opportunity for open discussion in Beulah, Bethlehem, or Bismarck. I don’t think we as Christians ought to fear reading or discussing controversial matters. I don’t think we ought to put inappropriate books or subject matter intentionally in front of our children; but when objectionable material is there, and is brought to our attention, I’d suggest we handle it similar to what the parents did in Beulah (reading it first of course…note danger mentioned above). The open exchange of ideas, even ones with which we disagree or find objectionable (from either side of the fence), ought not to frighten any of us. Sometimes we get so entrenched in thinking we are right, (and the only ones that are); it leaves us defenseless when we are forced to incorporate new truth into our lives. Yes, there is still new truth being revealed and unveiled everyday. It’s not that God is changing; it’s that all of us are on this everlasting learning curve, and we’ve a long way to go!
I’d guess there are probably more meaningful, edifying books that might be read than the one under discussion; but you choose; and I’ll be happy to engage in that discussion…(even if I’ve not read the book…note danger mentioned above.) That’s enough for now. Kermit