Censoring high school kids’ reading doesn’t promote respect for authority

This post should come with a huge duh.

Florida School Cancels Reading Program Over Cory Doctorow Book.

“The principal of a Pensacola, FL-based high school has cancelled its One School/One Book summer reading program citing concerns that the approved reading assignment promoted hacker culture.

“Students were going to read Cory Doctorow’s bestselling YA novel Little Brother, but the school pulled the book after receiving complaints from parents. Doctorow blogged about the issue on BoingBoing:

In an email conversation with Ms Griffith, the principal cited reviews that emphasized the book’s positive view of questioning authority, lauding “hacker culture”, and discussing sex and sexuality in passing. He mentioned that a parent had complained about profanity (there’s no profanity in the book, though there’s a reference to a swear word). In short, he made it clear that the book was being challenged because of its politics and its content.”

Doctorow and his publisher Tor Books are now donating 200 copies of Little Brother directly to the students.

I guess I need to say it, because the high school seems to have missed this point: An ideal way to undermine respect for authority is to try to prevent kids from reading books that encourage them to think for themselves.

Think about it: the school canceled its entire summer reading program rather than let its students open the cover of this book.

Give me an I. Give me an R. Give me an O. N. Y.

(The Husband comments: Bet they didn’t cancel cheerleading camp or football practice.)

Cory Doctorow’s video message above, to the kids at the high school, is thoughtful and worth watching.

4 responses to “Censoring high school kids’ reading doesn’t promote respect for authority

  1. Agreed. But I wonder how they came to choose that book, when there are certainly so many other books to encourage reading that wouldn’t have been a challenge to parents concerned about undermining authority, etc. I’m curious about the other side of that choice…

    • Little Brother was, and I suppose still is, marketed as a YA book. The protagonist is a teen, as are the majority of the characters in the book, It does celebrate a “hacker culture”, but more in the classic sense of “hacker” as a highly skilled programmer rather than a criminal. And, it does encourage the questioning of authority, especially those who promote “security theater”. It also celebrates, in the extreme, a very literal reading of the Bill of Rights. Corey Doctorow was very active with the Electronic Frontier Foundation a few years back.

      The book is rather a political screed, tilted to the left of American politics. At the same time, it is quite a thought-provoking read, and was well worthy of its Hugo and Nebula award nominations (yes, it is SF).

  2. I just put Little Brother on my to read list.

  3. We had a very small minority here object to Eleanor & Park at a Minnesota school and the school board canceled her visit. There was such crazy outrage, that I’m sure she sold more books here than she might have otherwise (The bright side of the coin – the publicity made people so outraged, somebody I didn’t even know in Texas -who read me squawking about it- bought 10 of Rainbow Rowell’s books in protest) but it was still very disheartening. But Minnesota rose to the occasion to show Rowell it was just a very small minority. She has visited about four times since in one year. Once at a library event where four librarians from that one school district were asked to stand up and be acknowledged for their fight to keep Rainbow’s books around. Rainbow cried. the librarians cried. I cried. Hooray for the backlash against ignorance.

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