Wednesday, September 21, 2011

This just in: Parents don't (and shouldn't) know everything

Republic High School, which made news earlier this year over challenges to Slaughterhouse-Five and Twenty Boy Summer, has reached a compromise: a restricted section of the library accessible only to parents. In effect, students can read these books if their parents say it's okay (and are willing and able to make the trip to the library).

I've heard many basically anti-censorship people argue that decisions over what young people may read should be between them and their parents (rather than involving school administration or other institutions). In an ideal world, this makes some sense. Many parents do know what their kids can handle, what they've already been exposed to, and what they need to know. Awareness of what their kids are reading can give parents a chance to mediate, to explain or discuss concepts that may be difficult for their children, and to make it known that they're available to answer questions.

We don't live in an ideal world, though, and not all parents know best about all subjects. Not all parents want their kids reading about, say, people who live differently in one way or another, and that doesn't mean the kids shouldn't. And even when parents are fairly open-minded, there are plenty of books that kids and teens might not feel comfortable asking for.

"Hey,

(Mom)
(Dad),

I'm feeling

(idly curious about)
(compassionate toward people experiencing)
(morbidly fascinated by)
(ashamed of how little I know about)
(personally invested in)

matters of

(sex)
(drugs)
(rock and roll)
(abuse)
(mental illness)
(death)
(cultures different from ours)
(values different from yours).

May I read

(a book that I know exists even though I'm not allowed in the section that contains it?)
(a book you will select for me in your infinite wisdom?)

Pretty please?"


Reading is supposed to be a really easy way to rebel a little and learn a lot. Adults, let's keep looking the other way.

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