Wednesday, May 2, 2007

An interesting censorship dilemma

In this article, a mother discovers her 15-year-old son is inhaling nail polish remover in order to get high. He says he got the idea for doing this from a book about drugs he found -- you guessed it -- in his school library. And, of course, the mother wants not just this book, but all books about drugs removed from the library, and she is going to challenge all of them.

It should be pointed out that these are not books that are glorifying the use of drugs. They are discussing different kinds of drugs, what they do to the body, why they are dangerous, where they come from. They are part of the school curriculum.

I empathize with the mother. I'm sure she thinks that, had it not been for this book, it never would have occurred to the boy to sniff nail polish remover. But think about it. What kind of judgment (or lack thereof) do the boy's actions demonstrate? He is fifteen years old. Millions of people read about all kinds of things every day, from books, magazines, newspapers, the Internet -- and they see them on television -- things about rape, robbery, drug use, embezzlement. Do they all go out and do them? I don't think so. The boy sounds like an accident waiting to happen. This same kind of parent wants all books about sexual education removed from the shelves, too -- if the kids read about it, they might go out and do it.

I'm thinking about Virginia Gal's comment on the Tango entry -- she calls these parents lazy parents. What if the parents sat down with the boy and they read over the book together? I imagine the book would describe the effects of this drug, and the parents could discuss his behavior, perhaps go together to a counselor. Instead, they sit back, accuse the books, never think that they (or the son) could possibly bear any responsibiliy for what happened. The mother simply says, "Now I've got a problem on my hands and I don't know what to do about it. That stuff's going to end up killing him." Maybe one of those books they would like to see removed from the shelves would have some helpful advice about what to do.

One of the parents in the article says that her son still believes in Santa Claus, and "he doesn't have a clue about drugs." She doesn't want him to be able to check these books out. He is in the fifth grade, which seems to me a bit old to be that naive. I want my children to be well informed so they know what is going on and have thought about how they will deal with it. In my second grader's curriculum they are already discussing these issues, and we are, of course, discussing them at home. I fail to see how keeping our children in the dark will protect them. In the end, I guess we're all just trying to keep our children safe the best way we can. Funny how we can see things from such different points of view, even as we're trying to accomplish the same thing.


  1. AnonymousMay 03, 2007

    Aye, people are so a book can make you do something. PEOPLE STOP BLAMING INANIMATE OBJECTS FOR YOUR INABILITY TO THINK - USE YOUR BRAIN!!

    I definitely think this is lazy parenting...removing the book, exactly how is this going to help the kid? I agree with you Darla, they should be sitting down and talking about it. What is the significance in keeping your kids in ignorance? I'm befuddled.

  2. Me, too. I live in fear that my kids will make some awful mistake because I have neglected to warn them about something. And so I endure their eye rolling and "I KNOW, Mom, you've already told me that!" Better safe than sorry!

  3. Yes, and what about the dozens or hundreds or however many kids who ALREADY checked out the offending book - and didn't start sniffing nail polish remover? So one kid's an idiot and/or has lazy parents, and so we dumb-down the entire library for his sake.


  4. that's hilarious!

    ... though i will say, at 15, if my parents wanted to sit down to read through a book with me about virtually any subject that "affects teens," i would've felt patronized. discussing contents of books, sure, but not sit down and read it through together so that we're all suffering through some family education moment.

    however, i'm guessing meaningful conversations about important topics probably weren't part of this woman's regular agenda. default parenting seems easy until you come up against cases like this where your own inaction leads to bad choices.


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