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Are You Joking?

Written by Bjenning Sep 29, 2007

I’ve taken a few courses on Constitutional Law, I’m not a lawyer, I’m not even a paralegal, but I feel I have a firm enough grounding on the fundamentals of Con Law to feel relatively confident in talking about constitutional guarantees to free speech.

In a story that seems to come right out of the 1700s, a mother of a teenage girl in Gillette, Wyoming wants to ban the book “The Shell Lady’s Daughter” from school libraries because, and I’m quoting, because I couldn’t make up more amusing wording if I tried: “The teenagers in the book show such a lack of moral integrity.” Ladies and gentlemen, she wants to ban the book because the characters might not be upstanding members of society.

Now, what is it these teenagers do that shows their “lack of moral integrity” ? An excellent question. A reasonable person would assume it has something to do with racist remarks, perhaps violence, drug use, betrayal of trust, theft or other such crimes. A reasonable person would be wrong, quite wrong. The “objectionable” material in question is nothing more than mention of, and once again, I’ll quote because it’s just that much more amusing: “sexual relations between teenagers, sexual thoughts, promiscuity, masturbation, deceiving parents, suicide and self-inflicted pain.”
I’m sorry, sexual thoughts show a lack of moral integrity? I must be a complete and utter reprobate then, as well as everyone else over the age of 12! And thoughts of suicide show a lack of moral integrity? Are you joking? I hope that’s a joke because what they really show is the character is going through a period of mental anguish, something that far too many people, especially teenagers, suffer through in silence. To say that a person having thoughts like that “lacks moral integrity” is a gross insult to everyone who suffers in pain and silence because they’re too ashamed to speak about their feelings and get help. If there’s any sort of justice, then there’s a special circle of hell for people who make those who are depressed feel like something is wrong with them, that they somehow “lack moral integrity,” instead of showing some empathy and pity by trying to help them.

What really gets me about this story, what just baffles me, is that the woman complaining about this book, which, incidentally won the American Library Association’s Best Young Adult Book in 1983, says that instead of giving youth books that might have some relevance to their life, that might help them make sense of the incredibly dizzying array of problems teenagers face, is to instead teach them to “cherish their purity.”

Heavens forbid we might try to give people a book that speaks to the unfortunate experiences that almost all teenagers go through in growing up. No, instead let’s give them books that show people living in a bubble, “cherishing their purity” and thus make those who don’t behave that way feel even more isolated and alone. Does this woman even remember what growing up felt like? Does she remember the loneliness and shame that came along with maturing? Does she really want to exacerbate that by making teenagers feel even more like freaks than they may already? What kind of sick twisted desire is that?

Thankfully, educators show a bit more compassion for youth than this deluded mother does. A librarian at the school has been quoted as saying “It’s a good coming-of-age story about a girl who is dealing with a lot of issues that girls deal with at that age. We can’t shelter our kids from reality. These are things that they are going to deal with in their life.”

Yes they are. And when they do, it’ll be comforting for them to know it isn’t abnormal, that other people go through these things too, and that there is an end to them. Teenagers already feel that the issues they go through already make them freakish, abnormal, strange, or “corrupted.” Giving them books that show that this isn’t some abnormal phenomenon can help them cope with their problems and issues that, to any normal person, are a bit overwhelming. Isn’t that what we should be trying to do?

The full article can be found here. Thanks to Monarch91 on the forums for posting the news story for this issue.

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