My photo
Poetry and snark blogger who also has a creative side (who knew?)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Slaughterhouse-Five or The Censor's Crusade

image source
Obviously, the danger is not in the actual act of reading itself, but rather, the possibility that the texts children read will incite questions, introduce novel ideas, and provoke critical inquiry." -Persis M. Karim (The New Assault on Libraries)

The censors are at it again!  Almost 30 years after the Supreme Court ruled in the Pico case that the First Amendment limits the power of local school boards to remove library books from junior high schools and high schools, the Republic, Missouri school board has decided to remove Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five from the high school curriculum and from the school library. This action was taken in response to a local resident, Missouri State University professor, Wesley Scroggins, who wrote an article in the Springfield News-Leader last fall in which he complained that Vonnegut's book, as well as two others that the school used, contained "inappropriate content" and promoted values contrary to those found in the Bible. (sidenote: We will not be sending our daughter to Missouri State University in 3 years when she graduates high school!)

Where do I even begin here? With the fact that a university professor is condemning works of literature? With the fact that no one in Republic seemed to have had a problem with the curriculum until this man wrote his tirade in a public forum? (Parents, do you have any idea what your kids are studying in school? Why did it take this jackwagon for you to take a look at your kids' reading list?) With the fact that whether or not Vonnegut's book supports or contradicts the values of the Bible is totally irrelevant in a public school? With the fact that these high school students will be able to vote and enlist in the armed forces in a short time, if not now, but are not considered mature enough to handle the material in this book? With the fact that school boards keep watering down the curriculum to the most inoffensive, bland pablum available and then we wonder why our kids don't want to read?

There is a bright spot to this story, however.  The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in Indianapolis announced that it would offer a free copy of the Slaughterhouse-Five to the 150 students who were supposed to have read it in class, thanks to a generous donation from an anonymous donor. I sincerely hope that these students realize that the school board is attempting to restrict their first amendment rights and will insist on reading the book. I don't care if they like the book. I don't care if they agree with Vonnegut's ideas. I just want these soon-to-be adults to be able to judge for themselves.
image source


  1. I'm shaking my head in disbelief!
    Like....why not allow our kids til they are over 18 years of age to ONLY READ FAIRY TALES which end ....and they lived Happily Ever After. Then in a future century ...they can be led like lambs to slaughter.
    It's called Indoctrination!

  2. I've had just about all I can stand from bible people pushing their stupid-ass agenda on everybody else.

  3. the main point here is this is public school, move your kids over to private if you don't like it, our kids have been in both(started in public, then to private, now back to public), and in the end it is the home not the school that nurtures the soul, banning books and forcing biblical thoughts down the throat, does not a Christian make

  4. "With the fact that these high school students will be able to vote and enlist in the armed forces in a short time, if not now, but are not considered mature enough to handle the material in this book?":
    i think people have got it in their heads that children are just innocent children until the magical age of 18 when they suddenly become thoughtful responsible adults.
    and as i sit here thinking about this thought-provoking title, i cannot, for the life of me, figure out what the hell in it contradicts the bible.

  5. I'd like to know exactly what "inappropriate content" is in Slaughterhouse Five that these people think is contrary to values found in the Bible. Valuing human life? Alien zoos? I think the Bible talks about both as good things.

    Anyway, while I abhor censorship, school boards across the country are doing much worse for education than banning a book, and they're getting very little criticism for it.

  6. Actually, there's a difference between including it in the curriculum and allowing it in the library. No one forces kids to read the books on the library shelves, but they do have to read the books in the curriculum. I've never read this particular book, so I have no opinion about it one way or the other, but I have a problem with forcing kids to read objectionable books. What we read does influence us, and the First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion. Forcing kids to read books that try to inculcate anti-religious principles (again, I have no idea if this book does) can be considered a violation of freedom of religion. Public schools are not only for atheists.

  7. Truth Seeker: I do agree that there is a BIG difference between curriculum and library. I would hope that the curriculum is a challenging, balanced, diverse collection of authors who spark kids to think beyond the books themselves about bigger ideas (yeah, right.) I find it sad that one person's complaints could get a book removed from the curriculum but outraged that it was removed from the library. As it has been a LONG time since I've read this one, I can't comment on the contents much except to say that as I remember it, it was more of an anti-war message. Of course, what one reads depends on whether the writing is taken literally or metaphorically, isolated or within context of the whole book, etc. We must also consider that even if it is on the curriculum, it is fiction. If Shirley Jackson's short story "The Lottery" is included in the curriculum, does that mean the school endorses population control by stoning people to death? It is a work meant to be discussed, argued, and thought about within the context of other fictional works read throughout the year.


Rant with me. Come on, you know you want to!