Free-speech Struggle

I found this article in Sunday’s Denver Post (11/25/07), reported by the Associated Press. Perhaps advisory labels are the way to go.

Free-speech struggle

Graphic depictions of violence, suicide and sexual assault in two Pat Conroy books are at the heart of a First Amendment debate in West Virginia, pitting offended parents against high school students who object to being told what they can’t read.

Even Conroy has interjected himself into the debate. In an e-mail to a student, Conroy slams those who would ban his works as “idiots.” A student group is vowing to sue the Kanawha County Board of Education if the removal of “Beach Music” and “Prince of Tides” from two Nitro High School classes is made permanent.

In a move that appeased neither side, the board decided to explore using advisory labels on books that show content for violence, language, sexual content or adult situations. The Associated Press



2 responses to “Free-speech Struggle

  • Linda Ruth

    Warning labels for violence, suicide and sexual assault? Sure, go ahead. But make sure to print plenty of them, one for every bible and collected works of Shakespeare to start.

    I think there is a concept called “total effect” where the overall merit of a book should be judged by the complete work and not by partial selections. One trusts that a teacher of Literature has at least this level of competence in the subject we have hired them to teach. I am not familiar with Conroy’s work any more than the back of the book jacket and what type of customers to whom I’ve sold his work. Although I expect the teacher who assigned his work had reasons for choosing it as an appropriate example of literary studies, I am reluctant to agree that a diet of contemporary fiction is best for a grade school student’s literary education.

    The thought of high school students’ opinions being a critical factor in what literature they are to be taught is horrifying. Students are students because they have something to learn, not because they already know what they need. Students need a solid foundation in the history and basics before they can move on to an understanding of contemporary concerns in the subject. I can’t name another academic area where the student gets to choose their curriculum. Imagine going to the dean and announcing that the basics of contracts are rather boring to you and you find entertainment law more relevant and interesting so you are going to study that instead.

  • C. Turano

    Whatever happened to the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover”…

    Even with an advisory labels I believe our local school boards should have to consider literary works for their total and complete body of work. As a culture, we are constantly evolving and expanding – including our values. Historically deemed classics should not be canonized; meaning what was once deemed appropriate, in order to still be considered appropriate, revisited, reread and reexamined; an alternatively, books that were once banded for just caused should be reconsidered.

    I still wonder why schools are not praising students for reading and then holding open forums to discuss materials that may be perceived as mature or illicit. If the desire is there, kids will read this material at home and outside of the classroom. Why not encourage the kids to keep in the classroom and really discuss the themes the book was trying to convey?

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