Following last Saturday's colloquium at Simmons, I had an interesting dinner conversation with Megan Whalen Turner and Virginia Duncan about the Speak debate of a few weeks ago and the more recent challenge to The Hunger Games at a New Hampshire school. Both cases have me in "yes . . . but" overload.
Yes, the op-ed objection to Speak was stupid and uninformed, and I'm glad lots of people said so. But the #speakloudly hashtag campaign on Twitter felt more like a parade of people swanning about in their virtue than anything else: "My name is Roger and I #speakloudly against censorship." Oh, good for me. Speak had not--in the situation being discussed--been censored or even challenged. I will spare you my usual tirade against the ALA's willful and sneaky conflation of challenged and censored books but neither was the case here. This was one idiot in the local paper mouthing off about a book he hadn't read. If this is what gets Twitter going, it's not going to go far.
The Hunger Games challenge is more serious. In this case, a mother had gone to the school board because her eleven-year-old daughter was being required to read Collins' novel in a seventh-grade class. This is a true challenge, and if the school board does remove the book from the curriculum I could be persuaded to call it censorship, if not as egregious as a decision to remove the book entirely from the school's library. But still I think, The Hunger Games? Required reading? For an eleven-year-old? Whether to make a book required reading or not is a professional judgment on the teacher's part, but must that judgment go unquestioned? In this case, I'm questioning it.
I wish the concerned parent had talked to the teacher rather than the school board. But I also wish schools and libraries would mean what they say when they ask parents to get involved. If the only possible solution to a parent's objection to a required book is to remove that child from the classroom, the wrong discussion is going on. If the school board meeting was the first time the teacher heard someone say The Hunger Games? Required reading? For an eleven-year-old? then the right discussion never happened.