YA English Elective Gets Scarlet Letter
A high school elective english course focusing on the Young Adult genre is courting controversy this week after a group of parents took issue with the class booklist, including two books by New York Times Best-Selling author and YouTube vlogger John Green, Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns. Looking for Alaska has been challenged before (as have others on the list). In fact, it was the first book reviewed here on Bound & Gagged.
The aforementioned parents are circulating a petition to purge the curriculum of books deemed inappropriate, complaining that many of them are “profane, pornographic, violent, criminal, crass, crude, vile, and will result in the irreparable erosion of my students’ moral character”, according to John Green’s Tumblr.
I have not read all of the books on the list, but I am familiar with many of them and do not think any of them will irreparably erode anyone’s moral character. The curriculum does seem rather heavy on best-sellers (particularly very recent best-sellers) and a bit of a narrow representation of the genre (except Flowers For Algernon, which I would not have considered YA), but I’m not familiar with the class or its intended direction, so I don’t feel I can adequately judge. In any case, it’s hardly a reason to start sharpening the pitchforks and screaming that our kids are being corrupted by sex, drugs, and coming of age stories.
The book challenges will be addressed at a school board meeting on April 16th, so if you happen to live near the Strasburg High School in Strasburg, Colorado, consider dropping by and letting your voice be heard. If you aren’t so conveniently located, you can still help prevent the books’ removal by writing or e-mailing the school board. As John Green put it:
Please join me in emailing letters of support of the teacher at Strasburg who has heroically stood by her curriculum and stood alone at School Board meetings defending the books. It’s important to keep your letter as civil as possible, even if this kind of thing turns you into a giant squid of anger.
Letters should be addressed “To the School Board” and emailed to StrasburgYALiteratureCourse@gmail.com. It would also be a great help to attend the next School Board meeting if you live in the area.
For more information about the school board meeting’s time and location, as well as the full list of books used in the class, check out the original post from John Green in the above link.
I’d like to thank the english teacher who contacted John Green and made him (and thus everyone else) aware of the situation. It’s teachers, librarians, students, and everyday people like them who help keep books on the shelves and in the hands of students. On behalf of the Bound & Gagged banned books blog, I salute you.
If a book is banned or challenged at your school or library, the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom can provide resources to assist in the matter, so please do report it to them. The freedom to read is everybody’s right, but it’s up to us to stand up for it, and it’s a lot easier to do so together.
Oh, and congratulations to friend of the blog Nightwing17 on being Freshly Pressed. Huzzah!