Wednesday, September 26, 2018
Education

Romano: Banning a book is the real obscenity in this case

I just finished reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and I'm offended.

Not by the language, and not by the references to sex and drugs. Not by the unseen suicide, and not by the unseen pedophile.

I'm offended by those who are offended.

You may have heard by now that some parents at Pasco Middle School were upset when a teacher assigned students to read this coming-of-age book.

Just to be clear, their angst was justified. This is not a book for most 12-year-olds. It's borderline for a 13-year-old, and may not be suitable for every 14-year-old.

So, no, I have zero problem with a parent deciding the book is inappropriate for their child.

But I have a huge problem with a parent deciding the book is inappropriate for my child.

And that, essentially, is what a school committee tried to do this week. A small group of parents and employees from Pasco Middle recommended that the book be banned from every campus — including high schools — in the county.

Thankfully, Pasco superintendent Kurt Browning did not bow to the hysteria. The committee's recommendation would stand at Pasco Middle, but not elsewhere. (Story, 6B)

The district also will revise its policies to include greater oversight for books that haven't been previously vetted, and will establish better guidelines for review committees.

This is a commonsense reaction, although I wish Browning had kept the book on the Pasco Middle campus and made it available via parental approval.

No matter what anyone says, this book is not smut. It's not even close.

I would agree it is definitely mature. And it includes topics that some people might find objectionable for middle school students, including date rape and abortion.

But it's not done gratuitously or haphazardly. It's all within the context of a teenager who is looking for answers while struggling with issues he does not quite understand.

You can agree or disagree with how author Stephen Chbosky chose to explore such issues, but it has a clear and hopeful message to children who understand what it's like to live on the fringes of school life.

In retrospect, I suppose, it depends on your definition of obscene.

To me, it's less obscene than The Bachelor. Or Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, or any number of trashy TV shows that glorify shallow people.

The book may have bad words, but it has honest emotions. It has real characters dealing with real problems and sometimes making horrible decisions. But the decisions are made sincerely, and consequences are often paid.

Now, clearly, there were mistakes made in the book's assignment. The Pasco Middle teacher should not have offered the book without first reading it. And a book with such mature matters should always require a parent's permission. Even in high school, students should be given multiple options if a book deals with controversial topics.

But let's remember To Kill a Mockingbird remains on some banned lists. So do The Grapes of Wrath, The Color Purple and For Whom the Bell Tolls.

If you want to talk about something that's obscene or objectionable, we could start there.

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