Have you ever watched four-year-olds playing? It’s really kind of an interesting lesson in sociology when you think about it, especially because an unfortunately high number of toddlers carry the “I’m going to take my toys and go home if I don’t have my own way” mentality into adulthood.
One of the coolest things about being a human being is formulating your own ideas based on unique life experiences. Opinions are shaped by what we see, hear, and live … at least ideally. And as a parent, I think that providing my children with conversations, literature, and differing viewpoints on a variety of issues is the greatest gift I can give them as they travel their own paths.
My children watch the news regularly, for example. Should a six-year-old be privy to current events as they’re presented on television news? I guess that’s a matter of opinion, but I would rather know where she is getting information and have open lines of communication with her based on some sort of fact than have her getting false information from a classmate (one of her peers told her last year that gay people are going to hell and that’s why they can’t get married and have children … my little spitfire replied, “Actually, gay marriage is legal in a lot of states, so you clearly don’t know what you’re talking about”).
One of the most ostrich-with-its-head-in-the-sand parental temper tantrums involves the banning of books, a stance that’s stirred up New Hampshire’s Bedford High School in recent weeks.
Parents of a Bedford teenager are asking school officials to ban the use of a book that refers to Jesus Christ as a “wine-guzzling vagrant and precocious socialist.”
The 2001 book, “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America,” documents author Barbara Ehrenreich’s attempts to live on minimum wage as she critiques the nation’s economic system.
Aimee and Dennis Taylor are fighting against the book being used as part of their son’s personal finance class and pulled him from school over the dispute. They said they object to book’s foul language, drug references and the author’s characterization of Christianity.
“We’re concerned about three things: we’ve got heavy obscenities in this book, ‘Nickel and Dimed,’ we’ve got some Jesus-bashing religious bigotry and also some drug promotion,” Dennis Taylor said at Monday night’s Bedford School Board meeting.
Wow. That’s all I can say. Just … wow.
First of all, the language that a kid hears in the school halls, the local mall, airplanes, or even on television is far worse than what’s contained in this book. For better or for worse, foul language has become part of American culture. Is this a good thing? No, of course it isn’t. Is pretending this isn’t true going to change the fact? No way.
And “Jesus-bashing religious bigotry”? I would love for my sixteen-year-old to have the opportunity to explore Jesus Christ as He is portrayed in the Bible with the concept of socialism. One of the main points of education, after all, is for children to think. If your children are fully grounded in the teachings of the Bible, could the opinions of one author really tear them completely asunder? What are these parents so afraid of?
And while Mr. and Mrs. Taylor are adamant in their convictions that this book is going to cause irreparable harm to their son, other students disagree:
“I don’t think the author of ‘Nickel and Dimed’ is promoting any kind of obscenity, or use of swears or drugs, but rather she’s showing how they’re used in our society by the poorer class, and it’s about what we can learn and take from these,” Bedford High School senior Jordan Dempsey said.
Exactly … what students learn and take from the experience of reading a book is what matters, what will go into the mix of what they ultimately think as adults. Dempsey’s parents clearly support the idea that reading Nickel and Dimed will broaden their child’s horizons.
Dennis and Aimee Taylor, on the other hand, have pulled their kid out of the school over this issue, essentially saying that they’re going to take their toys and go home because they aren’t getting their own way. They are home-schooling their son, and you can probably imagine that the curriculum they’re following encourages parroting a party line rather than actual thinking.
The school is holding firm, at least for this year, that “the book’s merit outweighed any concerns raised.” A review group is currently making a decision on whether or not Nickel and Dimed will be a part of Bedford High School’s book list in the future.
I’m an English teacher, and as such no stranger to the banned book brouhaha. The Catcher in the Rye promotes prostitution, so let’s ban it … never mind that Holden Caulfield chooses not to consummate his interaction with a hooker. Let’s keep the Harry Potter books off the shelf because they glorify Satanism … just forget the fact that the characters regularly and enthusiastically celebrate Christmas. And the use of the word “nigger” in works like To Kill a Mockingbird or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is definitely racist and not at all an opportunity to understand the historical context of rather narrow-minded times, not to mention how and why things have changed for the better.
I will never understand why any parent would make an active choice to keep their children from … thinking. It just defies all logic, as far as I’m concerned.