Censoring Books in School Doesn't Keep Teens From Learning About Rape

Banned booksIt’s pretty easy to tell the difference between a scene from pornography and a scene from classic literature. Porn is artistically uninspired smut, lit is beautifully descriptive prose. Porn shapes barbaric acts into sexual fantasy, lit taps into the angst of those tragedies. Porn leaves nothing to the imagination, lit incites it. Given that, it’s impossible to mistake Toni Morrison’s epic novel The Bluest Eye with pornography. Unless you’re president of the Ohio Board of Education.


If Debe Terhar and her band of fellow critics have their way, all mentions of the book will be scrubbed from school curriculums statewide. Ohio is one of 45 states to follow the Common Core Standards, a set of expectations for what all kids should be learning and executing in math and English. So it serves as kind of a cross-country academic checklist. Her issue with the standards’ inclusion of The Bluest Eye in particular is a scene where the main character is raped by her father. That passage, Terhar claims, isn’t suitable for school-age children.

But the book is on the list of suggested and, in some states, even required reading for 11th graders. Teenagers don’t need to be shielded from books. They aren’t babies. They’ve got one foot on a college campus or the pavement of the real world. Even worse, they’ve got the Internet and access aplenty to videos and pictures far more graphic than Truman Capote or George Orwell have ever conjured up with words.

Anyway, inasmuch as she’s trying to shield kids from reading a rape scene in a piece of fiction, hiding the issue doesn’t negate its existence.

Terhar’s personal opinion—and that of others on the same censorship bandwagon—is trying to override students’ exposure to art and, honestly, reality. Everything has its time as far as curriculums go, and there’s a level of maturity that should accompany the reading of classics like Catcher in the Rye or any of the hundred or so other books that put a bee in the proverbial bonnets of conservative educators.

Terhar isn’t the first person to bark about The Bluest Eye’s content and, considering that Morrison’s novel is still stirring controversy 33 years after its publication, she won’t be the last. Toni Morrison is taking this one personal, though, her being an Ohio native and all. The home team isn’t rooting for her on this one.

There are still some things I don’t want Girl Child to be exposed to just yet, but they sure don’t reside on a shelf in the library. Did y’all hear that dudes are making videos of themselves jerking off and posting them on Vine? Basically they’re 15-second clips of porn. Stuff like that is way more traumatic than an instructor leading a thoughtful classroom discussion of a rape scene in a book. C'mon.

I don’t believe in censoring the classics. Even if her class is reading a controversial text, I trust that what my daughter is learning will be given to her with the right amount of insight and guidance around it so that she "gets" it. Conversation is the companion to education, not censorship.

Do you want things in your kids’ school censored?

Image via LearningLark/Flickr

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