Did you know it’s Banned Books week? I did, and I’ve spent some time reflecting on the whole notion of banning books….and blogs….and wikis…and Ning….and a whole slew of other things in schools this week….in the name of protecting children.
It’s interesting what we ban and what it is we allow, isn’t it?
Our notions of what it means to protect others….our understanding of what is truly threatening in this world…it’s all very muddy, isn’t it?
A few different things have been rattling around in my mind during this Banned Books week. I hadn’t intended to blog much about any of them. Time is tight, and I’m not often one to rant within this space. It may not be the proper forum, after all. I also know that ranting tends to do little good.
But tonight, it might make feel better, and that’s good enough for me.
Here is what I know:
I know that 1 in 4 girls in this country are sexually abused before they reach their eighteenth birthday. I know that 1 in 6 boys are as well. Isn’t it disturbing, what we allow?
I often wonder how many of the over 2000 children I’ve taught have lived with the consequences of that? How many of my friends? How many of yours?
The silence around this, particularly in the field of education, is something that has always concerned me. Isn’t it disturbing, what we allow?
This is an ugly topic, I know. I don’t think that this is necessarily why we don’t speak of it, though. I think it’s possible that too many of us have too much to say and none of those stories are the ones we want to keep at the forefront of our minds. We ban them from our own thoughts. We change the subject when others bring it up. We have happier work to do and far easier battles to fight against far less threatening demons, after all. These are the problems we will recognize. They are the issues we will ALLOW on the table.
Many of these problems are real. Far too many of them imagined. I would guess that engaging in mythical battles allows us to construct all sorts of impressive armor. Too bad it isn’t the kind that serves anyone very well. All of this effort might fulfill our desire to feel competent at protecting those we care about, but when all is said and done, is it any more than a bunch of distraction that diverts our energies away from our real work?
I could share a thousand examples of where I’ve witnessed this theory in action. For example: school districts are often more concerned about potential online predatory behaviors than they seem to be about the very real traumas that are silently scarring students in every building across this country every single day. I’ve watched districts invest more time and money in maintaining their fancy filters and BANNING the use of essential technologies than they’ve invested in checking out the photographers they’ve ALLOWED into their buildings to capture and then keep the digital images of every child in their buildings. Isn’t this disturbing?
Sometimes, I think we’ve lost our minds. Case in point:
I understand Samantha Geimer’s need to maintain her privacy. She’s a dramatic example of why victims don’t often tell their stories. I wish she wouldn’t dismiss Polanski’s behavior, though. She may have recovered, but so many others haven’t. Survivors need to bear witness to these crimes in order to honor their own truth. There’s more though, I think. Whenever we dismiss, defend, or protect those who victimize others, we perpetuate a world that ALLOWS these acts. We become a bigger part of the problem. I’m pretty sure Alice Walker would endorse that perspective.
I wonder if Whoopi remembers her. Ironically, The Color Purple is #17 on this ALA List of the Top 100 Most Challenged Books. But you can watch Whoopi defend Roman Polanski any old time you would like. Isn’t it disturbing…what we ban…and what we allow?