A bookworm to the core, Banned Books Week is one of my favorite holidays. Not only do I get to celebrate reading, I also get to give props to the First Amendment and intellectual freedom, and snub my nose at the conservative zealots who have tried to suppress some of my favorite books over the years. All in all, an awesome time. (#1 on the holidays for atheists list, perhaps?)
In honor of this Banned Books Week, why not read one of 2008’s most challenged books, listed on the American Library Association’s website. I personally recommend #2 on the list, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, one of childhood favorites that has stood the test of time, as a recent re-reading proved (undertaken in time for the release of a movie based on the first book in the series, The Golden Compass). Pullman’s work attracted the ire of would-be censors for “political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, and violence” (translation: it’s too progressive and makes organized religion look bad). You’ll also find the Gossip Girl series on that list, and though I’ve yet to read the books, I’m a devotee of the T.V. version. (Oh, Chuck and Blair, together at last, but for how long?)
Or, go for one of the “Banned and Challenged Classics.” Forty-two of the Radcliff Publishing Course’s top 100 literary all-stars have been subjected to ban attempts, so there’s plenty to choose from. I’m currently engrossed in #11, Vladmir Nabokov’s Lolita.
If you can’t decide which to read, here’s my suggestion: George Orwell’s classic dystopia, 1984. One of my all-time favorite books, and great for BBW because the book has not only been censored, it’s about censorship. Anyone who hasn’t read it yet should take this opportunity to celebrate the holiday and find out the true meaning behind “Big Brother” and the thought police.
Filed under Arts, Education
When I attended school in Manhattan, I received what I considered good, comprehensive sex education. Sex ed started in 5th grade: the boys went to one room, the girls to another, and we learned how bodies worked. (Okay, by that point we’d picked up enough through the playground, parents, or TV programs that we had the basics down already.) I don’t remember what precisely was covered, or how useful it was, but I have a clearer memory of 7th and 8th grade. I’ve mentioned the assembly on flavored condoms before; condoms could be procured for free in the bathroom at the nurse’s office.
I moved to New Jersey for high school, so I missed out on a continuing New York City sex education. But I always assumed–well, it’s New York City! Where would you expect to find better sex education?
So imagine my surprise when I read a letter, “Sex Ed in the City,” to the New York Times a few days ago from the president of Planned Parenthood of New York City. Joan Malin points out in that the city actually does not require sex education, a fact I find shocking. With the current budget cuts being made in New York schools, as a program legally considered non-essential, sex education is often a target. This puts youth at danger by not educating them on making healthy sexual decisions–and those young people grow up to adults who still don’t know how to make the best decisions.
I’ve realized, considering my own New York education, that the best sex ed I received was in 7th and 8th grade, when I attend a school that, though not private, was affiliated with Hunter College, not the Board of Education, and it had chosen to prioritize the subject where the city administration had not. While some public schools now also do an admirable job of providing comprehensive sex ed, it shouldn’t be left up to the discretion of individual school administrators.
If you’re a New Yorker and want to see sex ed secure, sign up with the Planned Parenthood “We’re Going to the Principal’s Office” campaign.
An article on Alternet today bears the ominous title: “An Army of Home-Schooled ‘Christian Soldiers’ On a Mission to ‘Take Back America for God.'” In it, Robert Kunzman discusses some of what he uncovered researching the “Generation Joshua” program for his book on the “world of conservative Christian homeschooling.” Children are quoted calling public schools tools of “the Enemy” and “quite simply humanist churches” out to undermine Christian values. (I guess they’ve never heard of Christian humanists.)
Of course, Jesus Camp probably holds the honor for the most disturbing depiction of anti-science Christian fundamentalist homeschooling: [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DH_wPUVlJ38]