Thursday, September 16, 2010

Stockton Upholds Book Ban on Sherman Alexie Book

The Stockton schoolboard in Springfield, Missouri, voted to continue to ban Sherman Alexie's "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian", stating the book had too much profanity to be of value. While the complaint was originally filed by an upset elementary school parent, the suggestion to move it to the high school library with restrictions.

"The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" is about a young resident of an Indian reservation who decides to attend a white high school.

There are descriptions of masturbation, sexual language and foul jokes, along with themes encompassing racism, alcoholism and violence. There are also descriptions of how the protagonist, Junior, tries to realize his dreams while surviving both life on the reservation and at a new school.

Elementary school? Alright, I can see where that might ruffle a few feathers. On the other hand, who says younger kids can't benefit from a book acknowledging racism, alcoholism, and violence? Kids don't get the benefit of not dealing with these issues just because they're 'too young'; bad things happen and sometimes feeling like nobody else in the world has the same problems makes kids feel they're alone with their troubles.

High school, though, that's a different story. The profanity's nothing they haven't heard before. Ken Spurgeon, a board member, stated the book's reading level is low for high school students and that keeping it to encourage teenage boys to read was "dumbing down [their] educational standards".

Not everyone is a strong reader, even at high school level. I'd imagine that the older someone who reads poorly gets, the less likely they're going to pick up a book to read. Any reading is good, and so what if a teenager works his way up from low reading levels? He's working his way up. He has to start somewhere. He apparently can't start at the elementary level.


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