American Culture

Ban books? Ban ideas, ban imagination, ban a future

To ban a book is to ban an idea. Some ideas are good; some are bad. But good and bad are judgments each of us must be free to make — and learn to make.

At S&R — as do so many people in diverse media everywhere — we discuss ideas and express our opinions about them. We try to not suppress the ideas with which we disagree. Rather, we point out what we see as flaws and attempt to persuade others by providing better ideas.

The current flap diverting our attention from more pressing matters involves “The Golden Compass,” a movie derived from the first book in a trilogy called “His Dark Materials” written by Philip Pullman. His novels and the movie (review) have irritated the Catholic Church, which alleges a secularist agenda and fears the film would drive children toward Pullman’s books.

The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, which has published a 23-page denunciation of the film, says:

The Catholic League wants Christians to stay away from this movie precisely because it knows that the film is bait for the books: unsuspecting parents who take their children to see the movie may be impelled to buy the three books as a Christmas present. And no parent who wants to bring their children up in the faith will want any part of these books. [emphasis added]

A priest in Buffalo, N.Y., “explained that Pullman’s books were not ‘a responsible use of freedom of speech’ because of their outward disdain for Christianity,” reported The Buffalo News.

Responsibility should not be the principal test of ideas. Nor should profanity, obscenity, sexual content and “age inappropriateness” — the usual suspects put forward by those who would ban a book and its ideas.

“One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” by Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

In 1981, while in the news biz, I wrote an editorial (some of which has been adapted for this post) opposing an attempt to ban Solzhenitsyn’s work from a local high school. Critics objected to the book’s profanity: hell, damn, bastard, son of a bitch. Such language seems so tame these days — especially after the 2001 episode of “South Park” in which shit was uttered 162 times. Popular music, too, has turned to the profane. Remember Tipper Gore’s Parents Music Resource Center?

“Ulysses” by James Joyce
“Catcher in the Rye” by J.L. Salinger

Profanity has expanded the language. It may be distasteful to some who would ban books on that basis — but a popular culture surrounds young people for whom such language is the means to fully and concisely codify their existence and their struggles.

Obscenity and profanity offend many. But a novelist may require those tools to fully realize his or her expression. The resulting book should be sought by teachers and students with the purpose of exploring the tools of critical thinking — not banned outright. That’s the purpose of education — to learn how to think, not to learn how to fear.

“1984” by George Orwell
“The Anarchist Cookbook”
“The Kingdom of God is Within You” by Leo Tolstoy
“Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury

Books that envision possibilities outside or beyond a principal ideology suffer bans and censorship. Covert sniping gives way to overt book-burning when a controlling political interest feels threatened. The sad lesson? Young people learn how to censor by watching older, presumably wiser people keep information from them while uttering “it’s for your own good.”

“Daddy’s Roommate” and “Uncle What-Is-It Is Coming To Visit!!” by Michael Willhoite
“Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” and “Forever” by Judy Blume
“Gossip Girls” series by Cecily Von Ziegesar

Fear prompts challenges to many books, but not necessarily the fear a book might generate in a youthful reader. Rather, it is the adults’ fear of the book’s contents — perhaps a blunt or harsh depiction of a reality that the adults do not wish to acknowledge exists or believe is not necessary for the young to ever understand — that drives the challenge.

In an interview with The Freedom Forum, Willhoite said:

I’m not out to hurt children. Traditional families just can’t accept homosexuality or anything different from the norm. … (Readers) embraced (my book) wholeheartedly because they finally saw their lives addressed. No child should be ashamed of his or her parents.

Blume, too, said her books seek to teach the young how to understand themselves and their differences:

From what my early readers (now in their 20s and 30s) tell me, I guess I should be pleased. They say I helped them develop a healthy attitude toward their own sexuality at a time when no one was talking to them about their feelings or answering their questions. If my books have helped them become sexually responsible adults, good. If my books have given young women permission to celebrate their sexuality in a healthy way, better yet!

Why should adults fear children learning about what those adults say is not normal and to be shunned and avoided? That attitude only breeds future adults bereft of critical thinking skills and the desire to exercise them. Adults who ban books — ban ideas — that offer portrayals of life as it really is deprive the young of the ability to make fewer mistakes born of ignorance in their passage to adulthood.

“Bridge to Terabithia” by Katherine Paterson
“Scary Stories” series by Alvin Schwartz
“Harry Potter” series by J.K. Rowling
“The Martian Chronicles” by Ray Bradbury

So, too, do book banners fear those works that depict fantasy, the occult, the apparently satanic. (Have they examined the video games the young play? Do they explain the difference between reality and fiction in the television shows the young watch?) Fearful adults reserve their harshest enmity for fantasy in part because fantasy suggests anti-religious or occult themes. It is easier, the critics appear to believe, to ban a book of fantasy rather than teach it, explain it, compare it, research it … and separate it from reality.

Who among us does not daydream? Who does not read for pleasure, for excitement, for diversion? This is another honorable role of books — but another reason for many challenges to books of fantasy. Idle minds are the devil’s playthings, it seems.

The American Library Association says the authors most challenged by critics from 1990 to 2004 were Alvin Schwartz, Judy Blume, Robert Cormier, J.K. Rowling, Michael Willhoite, Katherine Paterson, Stephen King, Maya Angelou, R.L. Stine and John Steinbeck.

The three most common challenges, the association says, are sexually explicit, offensive language and unsuited to age group. But the association lists numerous other types of challenges, many of them reflecting ignorance or bias on the part of the would-be book burners:

anti-ethnic, insensitivity, racism, sexism, homosexuality, nudity, sex education, anti-family, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, abortion, drugs, occult/satanism, suicide, violence, inaccuracy

The types of challenges to books have increased as our political differences — and what those differences are based on — have grown. As politics takes on a religious, anti-secular cast, so, too, do challenges to books and their ideas reflect a desire to exert an ideology that would prevent any education that undermines an anti-secularist heterodoxy.

That’s sad, because books — filled with ideas — embrace life, living and thinking.

Books rich with powerful writing, brimming with imagination, improve us all. They tell us about ourselves. The more evocative a book is, the better it is.

Don’t tell the young “you can’t read this book” (or watch this movie or play this video game or listen to that music). That denies them the opportunity to learn, to be taught how to assess their own emerging values in a world of often divergent cultural and social “norms.” Isn’t that what we send them to school for? To hone their judgment? To form their own opinions? And to accomplish these ends in an informed way?

We rightly seek to protect the young from moral, physical and emotional injury. But part of their education ought to include exposure to ideas unpopular or inimical to others.

A book — an idea — cannot hurt the young. Keeping that book — and that idea — from the young probably will.

62 replies »

  1. Indeed, very well said. Isn’t it interesting to hear the President does not read? I don’t get it, him being so smooth and well spoken you’d never know it…

  2. …aah Dr Denny such an excellent post but I am afraid, this parent screens, makes judgement calls, filters, denies and withdraws books and DVDs, internet access when necessary. I consider the age of my children and what I deem suitable. Why?

    Because when I was a little person I sneaked all my Dad’s awful horror books and was not asleep in the back of the car when he went to the drive-in to watch his horror movies. I would lay awake quivering as the noises, screams and god knows what else filtered through the speakers. Every now and then I would raise my head and catch glimpses and duck back down again. To this day I am jumpy at horror and tend to shy away. The books were worse…

    Do I want my kids exposed the f word on such a regular basis that it loses all meaning…nah. There is something to be said for good speech as opposed to banal/lazy speech. They have, however, quickly learnt to move on from the crap that people dump via the written word on to paper and screen.

    I will carry on being the guide and gates of entry at the appropriate ages and stages for my kids…

    …and the Dark Materials trilogy is indeed a wonderful set of books.

    And when it comes to the evils of individuals and their interpretation of God’s, ahem, words/demands/instructions, I remember this:

    “So I’ll be saved and go to heaven because I go to your church.”

    “Yes.”

    “But my Mum and Dad won’t go to your church, will they go to heaven?”

    “No.”

    Goes home, hides in bedroom and cries. Mum comes in having heard me. She asks what the matter is and I explain what the nice ol’ lady down the road has said who I have met through the *Happy Clappers Group Meetings*.

    “No more Sunday chats for you young lady. You are staying home.”

    Thanks Mum!

  3. Just a remarkably thoughtful and insightful post. Someone close to me was afraid to let her kids read Harry Potter books because she’d heard – at church, I’m certain – that they promoted witchcraft. I think she finally got past that nonsense, but how many people don’t?

    This is one of the very finest things that has ever been posted at Scholars & Rogues.

  4. Elaine, I’d never argue that parents should not screen media for what the parents believe is not in the best interests of their children.

    When elected school boards do it — and against the recommendations of well-intentioned and well-trained teachers — that’s what I yell loudly. I understand good parenting and good teaching involves determining what is appropriate for a given age. But too many challenges involve ideology and chicanery to make political points.

    Thanks for your comments, all.

  5. Parents are being trumped all the time…in the British State School system. The leftist, secular, politically correct and government targets is not to middle England’s taste and the teachers often serve themselves, first, their politically ideology second and the children last.

    Hence the popularity of:

    Private Schools
    Home Tuition
    Church of England Schools
    All other religious schools

  6. Denny, you might be interested to know that the two most often banned authors are…wait for it…

    William Shakespeare and Mark Twain.

    The greatest British and greatest American authors.

    Just sayin’….

  7. Denny,
    Awesome post but once again I need to take a swipe at Dom.
    Dom,
    I agree children need to be protected from SOME/maybe most Catholic priests and SOME (mostly rabid right wing) Republicans but there are a large number of Republicans and at least a few priests who that statement is not only inaccurate about but also an insult to.

    🙂

  8. I love teaching Romeo and Juliet to fifteen-year-olds; we do a language warm-up which enables them to realize that the entire first scene is one long penis joke.

    I take my joy where I can find it. 😉

  9. Great post.

    But it does not explain why a public school should ignore community standards. It does not explain why a public school should make pervasively vulgar books available to public school children despite community standards because the school board is being guided by a misguided library association or the like. It does not explain why court cases such as Board of Education v. Pico (1982 US Supreme Court) should be totally ignored. It does not explain why the people pushing pervasively vulgar books into public schools take precedence over the US Supreme Court and community standards. And common sense. And the law.

    Everything you said for the most part is true, but it does not mean books that go against the law and the community’s interests should be pushed on children by people from outside that community who have a political interest in ensuring children absorb inappropriately sexualized material.

    While the people from outside the community are pushing such books on children within the community, people within the community who are trying to stop this are belittled by the people from outside the community. They are ridiculed for pushing their agendas on the community’s children by the people from outside the community who are themselves pushing their agenda on the children, only they hide that by raising false issues of book burning and censorship.

    Quoting Dan Gerstein, “The … elites have convinced themselves that they are taking a stand against cultural tyranny. …. [T]he reality is that it is those who cry ‘Censorship! the loudest who are the ones trying to stifle speech and force their moral world-view on others.” By Dan Gerstein, an independent consultant, former communications director for Joe Lieberman and a senior strategist for his presidential campaign.

    Well said, Mr. Gerstein, and this post is an example.

  10. Dom,
    Actually I enjoy our conversations, one need not agree with someone to enjoy communicating with them in fact if I only communicated with those I always agreed with I wouldn’t even talk to myself let alone anyone else.

    🙂

  11. Good god, you’re quoting Danger Stein on this? And referencing Lieberman? Yeah, there are a couple minds to admire.

    “Community standards” is usually a code term for “neo-Puritan dogma.” I say “usually” because I can’t prove that it’s ALWAYS so, even though I’ve never once heard it used otherwise.

    And without putting too fine a point on it, let me note that there are places on Earth where stoning a woman to death because there’s a rumor she was she seen alone with a man fits perfectly with the local community standards.

    Liberty and intellectual curiosity should never be subordinate to reactionary religious dogma masquerading as “community standards.” And people who are afraid of ideas should never, ever be in a position to inflict their ignorance on others.

  12. Mr. Kleinman:

    By all means, keep community standards that have remained unexamined for decades. By all means, keep community standards that produce high-school graduates who show up in my classroom with vocabularies so deficient they cannnot clearly express an idea.

    By all means, keep the standards that produce high-school English courses where punctuation is rarely taught (because too many teachers cannot teach it), producing students that enter my “elitist” university unable to write and think clearly and accurately.

    Keep the community standards that do not challenge the reigning dogma and ideology of those standards themselves. Keep the standards that leave American young people unable to identify nations with which we are in conflict on a map. Keep the standards that do not permit students to learn about and understand different faiths, religions, ways of knowing and government. Leave them unprepared for a globalized world.

    Keep the community standards that believe memorization for standardized tests is the appropriate education for the community’s children rather than reading challenging books that produce critical thinkers who can prosper as our next generation of business and political leaders.

    Keep the community standards that will eventually produce the teachers who only perpetuate the educational crisis in this country that produces young adults deficient in common arithmetic problem solving, devoid of interest and knowledge of science and unable to read and clearly comprehend a text. Keep the community standards that produce young adults incapable of clear assessment of political candidates and issues because they have such weakened abilities to think critically.

    And keep the community standards that permit parental and educational roles to devolve to permitting young people to spend hours with video games, television, iPods, cell phones — so much so that they no longer know how to address personal misunderstandings conflicts face to face.

    If those are the community standards you wish, fine. But I’ll be damned if I’d let my kids live there. I’d move to a community where standards stress critical thinking — and those standards are not “elitist.” They’re based in the hope that all young people learn what they need to prosper, not just survive, in an increasingly complicated world.

    Thank you for your comment.

  13. Denny: Maybe we’re being too hard on Mr. Kleinman. After all, without “community standards,” where are we going to find people qualified for all those minimum wage service sector jobs?

  14. And just as a follow-up, after perusing that horror show of hideous links and sexually repressed dogma that Dan Kleinman calls a Web site, I think
    I will follow Judith Krug’s lead and give my nephew a nice dog-eared copy of Playboy before I let him brave the muck that is Safelibraries.org.

    By the way, Dan, did you know that AT&T is so good at patrolling the ‘Net for unsafe content for kids because they got practice at spying on adults from the NSA program?

    Just sayin’.

  15. All of you have attacked me, other individuals, communities nationwide, politicians, corporations, and/or implicitly our government. Your excessive protestations, distractions, and ad hominem arguments help prove what Dan Gerstein said is true, among other things.

  16. Dan:

    Hogwash, and you know it. What has been attacked is a set of principles that are distinctly anti-intellectual and anti-freedom. As anticipated, you fail to address even the first point offered against your safe liberry philosophy. If all that had happened since we last saw you was a bunch of name-calling the charge of “ad hominem” might carry some weight. In light of what has actually happened, though, it’s a transparent attempt to dodge the issue.

    If you have a shred of intellectual honesty, how about engaging the IDEAS set forth here. There would be a measure of irony in that, of course, since your platform is about the SUPPRESSION of ideas.

    In other words, think or sit down.

  17. I would be happy to engage in debate. What I read, though, was near total scorched earth. I mean really, you must not have read what those people said too closely. They were even attacking the government of the United States for attempting to stop internal terrorism. All because I said community values backed up by the law, the courts, and common sense should be considered and might outweigh the political agenda of outside organizations that award oral sex books as the best books of the year for 12 year olds and up. Do you really think I am supposed to tweeze out a potentially viable argument from that?

    You seem somewhat more respectful. (Was Danger Stein really necessary?) Do you wish to engage in debate based on facts and the law and not on name calling?

  18. Dan:

    You’re still playing games. Lots of them. For starters, if Dan Gerstein refers to himself as Danger Stein – he does, btw – it’s probably not a mortal sin if I do it.

    Second, can you point to the teen-oriented oral sex passages in the writings of Shakespeare, Twain, and Angelou?

    Third, I read every word, and saw only you standing behind the right of “communities” to censor based on religious dogma and others calling you out on it. And in the case of Denny’s response, doing so quite eloquently. He certainly didn’t call you any names and still, even now, you’re ignoring the substance of his very on-point comments.

    As for your tweezing, that’s not the right tool for great big, sitting in the middle of the road arguments. I’m still waiting for an indication – any at all – that you’re willing to entertain the value of ideas. You came in here saying it’s okay to censor and you’re currently two rebuttals behind.

    If you want to be treated with the courtesy we afford those who discuss things in a spirit of good faith and intellectual honesty, then act in accordance with those principles. So far you’ve given us bob-and-weave and rhetorical misdirection.

  19. Dan,

    1. What kind of books in a public school library go outside which specific laws?
    2. Who, specifically, has a political interest in encouraging children to read “inappropriately sexualized material,” and what is that interest?
    3. In many schools, students from ages twelve to eighteen share a library. Is the sexualized material inappropriate for everyone or just for children?
    4. If it’s the latter, who decides the cut-off age?
    5. If community standards should be the determining factor, how do you decide which standards are, in fact, held by the entire community?
    6. Should there be some kind of vote on appropriate standards? Should the majority decide?
    7. Are there situations in which you feel that a majority of the community might hold inappropriate views?
    8. How large are the communities to which you refer? Should standards be decided by school, by district, by region?
    9. Should a ten-year-old be able to read Gossip Girls in one elementary school library but not in another, if the majority values of the communities in question differ?

  20. Dan:

    I’m an avid reader of this site and regularly piss off a plurality of the people here with my very conservative beliefs. However, I present my dissenting opinions with clarity, logic, and rational arguments(IMHO). Bobbing and weaving might work in a boxing ring, but it won’t work over here at S&R. This room can be real tough, but intellectual clarity and honesty will earn you a measure of respect, especially from most of the authors. It has been my experience that most of the commenters will politely ignore you if they disagree with you, provided you don’t bob and weave. Failure to do so, and you’ll be toast. Take it from me, as I’ve been roasted on a spit a few times over here.

    For the record, I never, ever forbade any reading material from my son, from when he was a pre-teen until now. No writing is bad(I include hate literature), when it is accompanied with thoughtful discussions on the merits, or lack of merits of that particular piece. My philosophy ended up creating a well read, intelligent kid who can form his own opinions. We might disagree politically, (he’s become pretty liberal), but I respect him and his thought process. We don’t bob and weave in our arguments…..that’s intolerable.

    Good luck, and sharpen up your debate skills…..you’ll need them.

    Jeff

  21. Dr. Slammy:

    I didn’t know Dan Gerstein calls himself Danger Stein, as you say, but are we supposed to call Richard Pryor the comedian what he calls himself that starts with the letter n? Does it have any relevance to anything, like does it make what he said false? Really, why did you even go there?

    Shakespeare? Twain? You want to play that game? Perhaps you are just not aware of what is being written today, flat out x-rated material in graphic detail right down to the ejaculation. And public schools are supposed to make this available to children despite the law and the community because people like you say it is censorship not to?

    Your definition of “censor” is one that advances your view, but it is not the true definition.

    As to ignoring the points made in those ad hominem arguments, I’ll admit I’m not rereading them to find the gems. Feel free to restate the arguments without the irrelevant distractions.

    Ah, the value of ideas. Yes, ideas are very valuable. I agree that books containing ideas and not larded over with sexually inappropriate material should not be removed because of the ideas. For example, I do not support those opposing “Harry Potter” (witchcraft), “The Golden Compass” (antireligion), “King & King” (homosexuality), “Tom Sawyer” (the n word), etc.

    However, when the sexually inappropriate material is the theme to the material or is otherwise pervasively vulgar, there is no reason a community must be forced by people like you to make that material available to children. Such material is not “ideas,” unless bestiality, child/grandchild rape, anal rape in bloody detail, etc., are your definition of ideas.

    And why should your definition of “ideas” trump a community’s definition of ideas as long as that community is acting within the guidelines of the law and the courts? Yes, I concede communities cannot act outside the law. But if the community wants to adhere to the law, then it is perfectly within its right to act accordingly.

    People like you and organizations like the American Library Association shouting them down and calling them names does not change that truth.

    “Bob-and-weave”? I am waiting for an honest discussion. I’m still waiting.

    Now, as to Ann:
    1. Example. A public school has a written policy that says neither children nor teachers are to use profanity. The school then recommends a book that violates that school policy by containing hundreds of uses of profanity. That’s a policy being violated, a policy right in that very school. Adults don’t want the children using that language. That’s a community value as illustrated by that policy. The school board thinks like you do, Dr. Slammy (appropriately enough) that the community members are a bunch of prudes and continues to make the book available to children even after apologizing to parents for not informing them of the contents of the book.
    2. The American Library Association, for example, has such an interest in my opinion when you look at the totality of what it does to ensure children maintain access to such material, in some cases even despite what the US Supreme Court said in a case the ALA itself lost but refuses to follow in spirit. As to the interest, I have no sources that I can put my finger on, so I will not venture a guess. But I cannot wait until someone sues the ALA and starts demanding discovery about how and why the ALA sua sponte changed how libraries interact with the public in a way that leaves children exposed to inappropriate material, indeed even codifying it into its “Library Bill of Rights.”
    3. Just for children, if that’s what the community holds.
    4. The community decides the age cutoffs based on a variety of factors. Not me. I’m out of it just as much as anyone or anything else from outside the community.
    5. Good question regarding deciding what are the community standards. I am not the expert in that area (or lots of other areas) so what I say in that area is kind of irrelevant. Be that as it may, community standards can be determined by a number of things. For example, a public survey found 94% (or was it 97%) of people in Oak Lawn, IL, did not want children to have access to sexually inappropriate materials. (It still is, only because the ALA override the local government. So much for local control, right?)
    6. Vote on standards, should the majority decide. Also a good question, and again I’m not the expert in that area. Let me say in my own town I was asked that question at a library trustees meeting and it turned out to be rhetorical because after I answered, the trustee had a fixed response ready to go. He said that even if a poll showed 9,999 out of 10,000 people in favor of x, if that one person was not polled, then the results are invalid because we do not know how that person truly feels. So that’s a good question you raise and I don’t know the answer. By the way, he also said that the poll would not matter anyway even if it was 100% since people were “not sophisticated enough” to make such important decisions such as whether to filter Internet computers. He said that’s why the library board is there, to make the decisions for the unsophisticated people.
    7. No. My goal is that communities get what they want after being fully aware of the plusses and minuses of the issues at hand. Whatever the majority decides is what is appropriate from them. I’m irrelevant. The ALA is irrelevant. You are too. As it stands now, the ALA and many other sources seriously mislead communities. That is fundamentally unfair, but fairness is not the concern of people promoting an agenda. Sometimes communities get burned and children get hurt, then the community finally jettisons the ALA agenda and acts to protect its children. Too bad it takes some crime against a child before a community reacts.
    8. Communities can be of any size, generally speaking. By school, by district, by region? That’s up to the people in those communities, not up to me.
    9. If the communities differ, so be it. There will not be (and should not be) one standard to apply across the board.

    Now Gossip Girls raises an interesting point about people being properly informed before making decisions. The Gossip Girl series has been labeled as substandard by the ALA, but most people do not know that. So the question becomes, why would anyone want their children to read anything that even the no-standards ALA says is substandard or “not the most literary.” I think if people were informed that even the ALA thinks the Gossip Girls series is trash, that might shed a new light on things.

    And that brings up the huge influence the ALA has over public libraries including those in public schools. But that’s going afield from your questions.

    Anything else?

    Jeff,

    Although Dr. Slammy’s claim that I “bob and weave” is false, I’ll venture a guess and say you’d agree my substantive response to Ann’s substantive questions is not bobbing and weaving. All it took was a little respect, decorum, and sticking to the issues. Thank you, Ann, for that.

  22. “Nanny-Stater..”

    Monsieur DomPierre, surely you are aware of the concept of excellent parenting and that the majority of successful parents are in fact conservative…even if they start out liberal? If we are to have our children educated by the state then the state should in fact be cognisant of the fact that it IS the parents’ Nanny. Instead…’Nanny’ seems to be calling the shots in many school systems in the West.

    In any state funded system there will be parents who feel that the state agenda is not suitable or that too much time is given to maladjusted, delinquent or ‘special needs children’. As a consequence of free will and choice regarding how their children are raised flight will occur. The flight will manifest itself in the following ways:

    Expensive houses surrounding the ‘best’ schools, expensive private schools, home tutoring and so forth. Meanwhile, your worst state sector schools will continue to offer a service to the children of parents’ who have more love for their drugs/many sexuals partners/any other selfish desire.

    Nanny state then has to attempt to introduce teachers into this publicly funded sysem who will indeed be the ‘Nanny’ in the engine room of hell.

    It is well know that conservatives and liberals fight constantly over one area in particular. Sex. Liberal attitudes to sex have found the way into state schools both in England and America. It matters not whether parents object to this…for the laws are created to support this movement.

    I am all for children learning about the birds and the bees, and that John loves John. I am all for children understanding biology and the nuts and bolts of the ‘act’. But I am not supportive of books that introduce rape, incest, graphic descriptions of anal sex (and Nanny state please could you also explain how this form of intercourse does in fact cause damage internally and that this woman would rather her bottom was not ripped to shreds. And why you need to ‘gel up’ for him to gain access but the gel does not prevent problems with slack bum muscles if you have too much anal sex (leading to nappies) or the tearing of the fine inner membrane. Could you also please explain how condoms break…thus putting you at risk of disease and pregnancy. Could you also…my darling, beautiful, caring Nanny also not encourage my daughter to give blowjobs via you educational system because you know what – I wouldn’t and I am not in the minority when it comes to choosing not to suck).

    The state does not have to Nanny adults, of course…

  23. Elaine:

    I’m not sure what planet you live on sometimes. I can’t recall ever encountering a school system that behaves as you describe with regard to encouraging all this sex. I’m sure that as a teenager I’d have WISHED it were like this because maybe it would have gotten me some action.

    I went through a fairly typical American public school system. In the American South, where the very mention of sex would get you sent directly to Hell. I assure you, though, there was PLENTY of sex education in the schools – taught by my fellow students, some of whom seemed to know a great deal about the subject.

    Of course, there were plenty of things they didn’t know, and probably ought to have known. Put another way, they knew just enough to get into trouble and not nearly enough to stay out of it.

  24. Dan,
    I have one question for you, actually two. First off, you use the term sexually inappropriate frequently but could you please define what constitutes Sexually inappropriate content. Second who gets to set that definition.

  25. Hmm.

    I wasn’t going to get involved in this discussion because a number of people are doing very, very well without me.

    But I can’t resist.

    Dan, my man!

    Based on your answers to Ann’s questions, I’d say you haven’t thought this through very well, or you have some very extreme positions. Let’s take a few of your answers, shall we?

    1. You use, as an example, the fact that teachers and students are prohibited from cursing, but are allowed to read cursing in books. And you think that’s wrong. I suspect that, in your school district, teachers and students are prohibited from disrobing in public. Does this make it wrong for them to view pictures of the Venus di Milo, David, or any other artwork that depicts nudity? Would you really deprive students of an entire era of some of the world’s best art because there are nude figures in that art?

    So, to get to books. When an author writes about, say, soldiers in Vietnam, should he have them carry on dialogue that was realistic to the time, or should he pretend that these guys never used profanity or made any sexual allusions? And if he does use realistic dialogue, are we to tell, say, our high school seniors that they can’t read the book because there is a district policy against curse words?

    And what about Shakespeare? I can take you through passages of Shakespeare that would curl your hair. And what about the Bible? It contains passages on incest, giving your daughters to a mob so they can be raped, and the like? Should we forbid our children from reading those books? Should the library refuse to lend copies of the Bible to minors? If so, why? If not, why not?

    2. What financial interest does the American Library Association have in all this? Please be specific.

    3. You have yet to define at what age, specifically, one is no longer a “child,” and for what material. My 12-year-old daughter loves reading Shakespeare. Is she too young for that?

    [Note on all the “community” questions instead of commenting one by one]:

    Dan, you admit that you don’t know how to measure a community, how big a community is or should be, or how to figure out what a community’s standards might actually be. BUT, you want books banned based on this really, REALLY nebulous concept. Could it be (I’m just suggesting now) that what you really want is for things to conform to Dan’s standards, despite your protestations to the contrary?

    7. You say that a community cannot hold inappropriate views. In essence, this is the “majority can never be wrong” argument. But, hey, in the time and place I grew up, if you weren’t white, there were all sorts of things the white majority wouldn’t let you do, including attending good schools or drinking from a white’s only water fountain.

    Would that be an example of the majority being right?

    So, I suspect you’re going to say that you were talking only about literature; that the majority is always right when it comes to literature.

    But what if the community decides that all books except ones that are explicitly Christian should be banned? Wouldn’t that violate the 1st Amendment? Would that be OK with you? What about Jewish children in that school district? Should they be allowed to read only explicitly Christian literature because the majority of the community is Christian? What about agnostics? Should they be denied access to, say, the Federalist Papers because those papers are not explicitly Christian?

    Can the community really never be wrong? Is there no higher law?

    8. If communities can be of any size, then shouldn’t the majority in the “national community” set the standards?

  26. http://books.guardian.co.uk/review/story/0,12084,923907,00.html

    http://education.guardian.co.uk/alevels/story/0,,1929198,00.html

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/education/article1640026.ece

    When I was at school we steered clear of those claiming action of a sexual nature. For the girls who were ‘honoured’ by such attention they were called proz, slag or slut by their dubious ‘boyfriends’. Also the girls tended to be located rather low down the food chain…

    Yes, girls in my group did have to ‘fight’ off some boys. My best friend stupidly found herself alone with a boy who copped a feel for free and I had a running battle with one boy who would not take the point blank refusal to go out with him seriously and every 5 minutes (it would seem) was on my case. Eventually, I told my form tutor and he was sent to the Head. Thereafter, he was my sworn enemy…but he did me no real harm because he kept his distance.

    For those couples who were ‘loved up’ and established in a set relationship we didn’t ever know if they did or did not give out.

    I educated my daughter in an all female educational environment until aged 16. Boys were of course still on the agenda – through schools combining to hold discos, dances and balls. Anna’s clique were fully aware of those who gave out and those who didn’t.

    Now my eldest is in a co-educational environment where she happily shares a flat with two boys and one other girl.

    The best thing about a private expense (I chose to spend MY cash on her education) was that parents were listened to…because if we didn’t like something and we got together as a group…we were heard. After all we could take our selfishly earned pennies elsewhere…

    I am sorry you didn’t get any action but ya don’t suffer lasting damaged by getting no sex. You can if you get pregnant, disease infected or whatnot.

    In this country there has been a tendency to FIGHT to keep ol’ Wil Shakespeare on many schools’ agendas.

    …and in a democracy the majority holds sway so long as it does not infringe on a minority position. This, however, would not seem to be enough for some…liberals are evangelizing as well as anyone else it would appear to me.

    But my planet is the same as yours…

  27. Aw now Dan, here’s where you’ve confused yourself already.

    There’s a reason for vaccines to prevent spreading communicable & contagious diseases; it’s called public health & safety.

    That’s Good Judgement 101. 😉

    That’s different from a Nanny-Stater who think only they know what’s fit to be read and consumed. Besides, everyone knows that the moment something declared off-limits for children, then immediately they set out to attain it.

    Props to Jeff. It seems he gets it. It’s the parental discussion that follows afterwards.

    Btw, you talk about “elites” like it’s a bad thing. In my not-so-humble opinion, the people who complain about “elites” are the same ones who are lacking knowledge. In other words, they’re ignorant. That can be remedied by learning and knowledge. Afterall, it’s probably embarrassing for parents to find out their children are more sexually literate than they are, and for all the wrong reasons.

  28. DomPierre:

    “Elite” is one of those words that has become so semantically ambiguous that no one knows what it means, anymore. It is surely used to designate those that are born into wealth. It is also used to designate superior athletes. I think what you object to (and I do as well) is the idea that there is something wrong with being an elite intellect, learner, etc.

    It’s American populism in one of its less savory forms. Americans have always suspected that there is something wrong with those who know things as opposed to those who do things. And, of course, there is the deep suspicion among Americans that those who know things aren’t able to do things.

  29. Right. My issue with “elite” is whether you earned your way to the status or had it handed to you. George Bush was born elite. Abraham Lincoln was born dirt-poor and scratched and clawed his way to elite status. Ask me if I think there’s a difference between the two men.

    I’m a big believer in elite. That’s what education is all about – allowing us to earn our way to elite status. We need more “real” elites.

  30. You know JS and my good Doctor, I agree.

    I have a problem with dumbing things down for people who have no interest in wising up. These people are lazy.

    Everybody should be “elite” in something whether it’s skills –and / or– knowledge. Being good at stupid doesn’t count.

    Did I forget my blue collar middle class roots? Hell no. It’s very much ingrained into my core being. And I don’t forget it. Especially on the way up during my career.

    But since Reagan, the US has acquired an immense portion of the world’s stupidity reserves. And I certainly don’t care to go backwards. It’s the same people that idolize someone no questions asked (like the current batch of Republicans). If they had asked questions, maybe they’d have found out that Ronnie’s protection of cocaine trafficking by the Nicaraguan contras back in the 80s was contradictory to his public position.

  31. Elaine, sweet sweet Elaine.

    I’d like to see your first mother-daughter talk about sex. Only to see who’s more surprised. My money’s on you being more surprised. 😉

    I’ll reply to your long comment about my very short remark later today. In the meantime, amuse yourself with <a href=”http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/film/article3004449.ece”this.

  32. !Besides, everyone knows that the moment something declared off-limits for children, then immediately they set out to attain it. ”

    LOL but that does not mean you win your argument….

    I, like a twit, put chocolates on my celebratory seasonal (that means Christmas) Tree with instructions to a 3 (nearly 4 year old) not to touch them. Today, of her own accord she coughed up to eating them…telling me there was 1 left. I checked and the little minx had indeed been swiping them…but she had missed one round the back…so in fact there are two left.

    Now…I will put the rest out of her reach, keep her under closer surveillance…but will NOT ban the choccie baubles.

  33. I ain’t that sweet! 😉

    Anyway, our first proper sex talk occured at 3 (with my eldest) when she asked me what her private parts were called. I told her private parts…because I did NOT want her to be the only 3 year old knowing it was called a vagina in her group. Did you know that parents still talk to one another…and if kids of too young an age know the names of that little troublesome hole it raises eyebrows? Fitting in matters…

    With my eldest we talked all the way through her development properly from aged 8…and at age 18 she knows that I accept gay sex and would not legislate against it. Also that I am pro civil unions between same sex couples (for sexual health and reasons of true love more than anything) and abortion (her friend had just had one). Also, she was aware that I carry a blood donor card and that if she donated blood she would receive a battery of tests…doing good by donating plus keeping an eye on her health. Only about 6% of the Brit population bothers donating the precious liquid…

  34. Dan,
    To jump on JS’s bandwagon a bit I have another example for you to consider in your answer #7 that community is always right. Does that mean the views and censorship expressed and propagated by Nazi Germany were right after all the majority of that community agreed with what was said and done.

  35. I must confess, I was born at a very early age. But since that time, I’ve observed that “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.” (yes, those are a couple of quotes from the immortal Groucho Marx)

    My dearest dearest d-e-a-r-e-s-t Elaine. You still owe me a drink. 😉

    The heart of the argument is not about “sex”.

    It’s about “power” and “authority”, and those who want to control what can be seen and heard and taught, and how people can educate their kids. It’s about some people who think they know what’s best for everyone, and if they don’t like, they want to censor it. “Sex” can be substituted for “philosophy” or “mathematics” or “religion” or whatever they arbitrarily decide they don’t like today.

    Frankly, I can think for myself and I don’t need someone to do that for me.

    This whole canard about “community standards” is nonsense. It’s about small-minded people with too much time on their hands who want to run things like a neighborhood association in a subdivision. It’s about framing an issue one narrow way.

    If you’re talking to your girls, then great and props to you. But don’t think because people move to exclusive areas and private schools, it will stop kids from getting their hands on something if they’re determined. Social class and status aren’t a determinant in whether kids will be more or less promiscuous. They’ll always be curious about sex, and we can hope if they experiment, they’ll play safely (the “abstinence” argument has been proved a colossal failure).

    Knowledge in and of itself isn’t good or bad, and it can’t be stopped. It’s what’s done with afterwards that counts, and that’s where guidance comes in.

    Btw, I have my doubts that “conservatives” (or “liberals” for that matter”) make better parents, but if you have something to back that up, feel free to share it.

    Ps: And now for something completely different, if you like cooking, I can recommend this: http://www.cooksillustrated.com/

  36. 🙂

    “You still owe me a drink.”

    Is that Liberal logic at work? I get you hot and bothered on a previous occasion, then you want to take me out to dinner….and suddenly I owe you a drink. Conservative has to pay? 😉

    Ideas have existed since the beginning of time, good, bad, evil and indifferent. Humanity’s worst ideas are evidenced in Communism, unchecked Socialism (National Socialism aka the NAZI party of Germany) and Fascist groups (as in Italy). The TOTAL death toll of Communism I believe has yet to be beaten…the chilling National Socialism (SOCIALISM) is an idea to be studied very, very early in life.

    Sexual education is important but it is must be taught about in context with regard to relationship ‘ideals’, sexual and mental health. Political correctness prevents youngsters from being properly informed about the dangers of anal sex…for example. But hand out those condoms and be done with it.

    “Ideas” can be dangerous and should be introduced appropriately and at key stages of development. Many parents do an adequate job of raising their children without some jumped up little Liberal teacher trying to convert little Harry or Sally to PC ideas. Social engineering in the UK via the school system of the State pisses many parents off.

    There is much anecdotal evidence to suggest that the conservative type makes a better parent than the liberal type. Many women also will testify to the fact that when it comes to choosing a mate with whom to have a child and then RAISE AS A COUPLE she will look for a gorgeous and attractive and intelligent man/woman BUT he/she should also be faithful, stable, into monogamy and not have a tendency to sleep around…so affairs are deemed a threat to the coupledom status, marriage or union.

    Keeping your kit on works, is a choice and many of us do it…in spite of the temptations that exist. One doesn’t need to legislate…but one can steer a course through the tax system to ensure that both parents look after their child…together.

    Got to go…but in the meantime I leave you with this:

    http://www.slate.com/id/2173965

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/daniel_finkelstein/article2093514.ece

    http://www.bcft.co.uk/media.htm

    Final note:

    As for literature (modern) that is written for children today…I posted yesterday links as to how our examing boards, OFSTED organisation are operating…

    I shall now look at the link about cooking…!

  37. Elaine, I always charge when I have to listen to conservatives. Heh heh heh.

    Btw, do you know there are two kinds of people in the world. People who can only see two kinds of people and people who don’t. Which is why people get hung up on labels like “conservative” and “liberal”. And certainly I can’t be accused of political correctness with some of my previous controversial comments about a remedy for the the current crop of US conservatives.

    Last I checked, there were as many “conservatives” cheating on spouses as there are “liberals” as evidenced by the divorce rate. The thing there that ruins things is when one spouse is caught lying and ruins the trust between them. But then, monogamy is a natural state for people, as it isn’t with most species. See, I’ve always thought marriage ought to be a contract that’s renewable every five years, otherwise some people could view it as a life sentence ( “Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who wants to live in an institution?” ).

    Ps: I am fascinated by your fixation on anal sex though. 😉

  38. Not fixated…just concerned that young people are given ALL the information (in the UK they have a tendency to leave out information deemed to tricky to get across).

    I think you may be right about labelling. I am not sure anymore whether labels work but I always thought I was a left leaning conservative. 🙂

    Conservative usually pay because they have the dosh!

  39. No point in marrying if you cannot last the distance. It is a marathon…not a sprint to the shops and then purchase a few goods to then sell them off a few years later.

    Consumerism seems to be infecting everything these days…

    Many humans are like swans…others behave like lions and lionesses. I prefer the tribe that enjoys monogamy, promotes it and supports it. It is from this ‘tribe’ that I like my political leaders to be drawn.

  40. Political correctness prevents youngsters from being properly informed about the dangers of anal sex…for example.

    Whose ideas make those subjects taboo?

  41. Religious right types take an anti-view and preach against it – but they have an ever diminishing audience here in the UK. The majority of the population no longer attends church so a church that is anti-gay does not have a large audience…

    The POLITICIANS instruct/steer the EDUCATIONAL ESTABLISHMENT and neither sector wishes to appear discriminating against gay citizens (understandably). This results in patchy, poor sex education classes where the information is insufficient for young minds to make informed choices. The nuts and bolts of anal sex during sex education is not discussed – although the information is widely available and many Doctors would willingly demonstrate the harm that certain sexual practices can cause.

    Cup of tea with that condom…so very English an approach to sex in schools…still!

  42. Happy Hump Day! 😉

    The Mistress
    A husband and wife are having dinner at a fine restaurant when this absolutely stunning young woman comes over to their table, gives the husband a big open-mouthed kiss, then says she’ll see him later and walks away. The wife glares at her husband and says, “Who the hell was that?” “Oh,” replies the husband, “she’s my mistress.”

    “Well, that’s the last straw,” says the wife. “I’ve had enough, I want a divorce.” “I can understand that,” replies her husband, “but remember, if we get a divorce it will mean no more shopping trips to Paris, no more wintering in Barbados, no more summers in Tuscany, no more Infiniti or Lexus in the garage, and no more yacht club. But the decision is yours.”

    Just then, a mutual friend enters the restaurant with a gorgeous babe on his arm. “Who’s that woman with Jim?” asks the wife. “That’s his mistress,” says her husband. “Ours is prettier,” she replies.

  43. Nonetheless, it was a pretty good joke for Hump Day (as are these). Heh heh heh ha!

    *****

    DOOMSDAY

    It’s a few minutes before Sunday service.

    Without warning, Satan appears at the front of the church.

    Everyone starts screaming and running for an exit, trampling on each other in a bid to escape evil incarnate.

    Everyone except for one elderly gentleman, that is.

    He sits calmly, seemingly oblivious to the fact that God’s ultimate enemy was in front of him.
    Satan walks right up to the old man and says: “Don’t you know who I am?”

    The man replies: “Yep, sure do.”

    “Aren’t you afraid?” Satan asks.

    “Nope, sure ain’t,” says the old man.

    “Do you know I can kill you with a single word?” asks Satan.

    “Don’t doubt it for a minute,” retorts the old man, in an even tone.

    “Don’t you realise that I could cause you profound, horrifying agony for all eternity?” persists Satan.

    “Yep,” is the calm reply.

    “And yet you’re still not afraid?”

    “No.”

    Pertubed, Satan asks: “Well why aren’t you afraid of me?”

    The old man looks Satan right in the eye and calmly replies: “Been married to your sister for 52 years.”

    *****

    STRAIGHT-TALKING BIRDS

    A woman approaches her priest and tells him: “Father, I have a problem. I have two female talking parrots, but they only know how to say one thing.”

    “What do they say?” the priest inquires.

    “They only know how to say, ‘Hi, we’re prostitutes. Want to have some fun?'”

    “That’s terrible!” the priest exclaims. “But I have a solution to your problem. Bring your two female parrots over to my house and I will put them with my two male parrots, whom I have taught to pray and read the Bible. My parrots will teach you parrots to stop saying that terrible phrase and your female parrots will learn to praise and worship.”

    “Thank you!” the woman exclaims.

    The next day the woman brings her female parrots to the priest’s house. His two male parrots are holding beads and praying.

    When the lady puts her two female parrots in the cage with the two male parrots, her two say:

    “Hi! We’re prostitutes. Want to have some fun?”

    At which one male parrot looks at the other and shouts: “Put the beads away! Our prayers have been answered!”

  44. I do have a sense of humour and the first one…is funny. 🙂

    Here you go:

    There was a blonde who found herself sitting next to a Lawyer on an airplane. The lawyer just kept bugging the blonde wanting her to play a game of intelligence. Finally, the lawyer offered her 10 to 1 odds, and said every time the blonde could not answer one of his questions, she owed him $5, but every time he could not answer hers, he’d give her $50.00. The lawyer figured he could not lose, and the blonde reluctantly accepted.

    The lawyer first asked, “What is the distance between the Earth and the nearest star?”

    Without saying a word the blonde handed him $5. then the blonde asked, “What goes up a hill with 3 legs and comes back down the hill with 4 legs?”

    Well, the lawyer looked puzzled. He took several hours, looking up everything he could on his laptop and even placing numerous air-to-ground phone calls trying to find the answer. Finally, angry and frustrated, he gave up and paid the blonde $50.00

    The blonde put the $50 into her purse without comment, but the lawyer insisted, “What is the answer to your question?”

    Without saying a word, the blonde handed him $5.

  45. Heh heh heh. 😉 Smart blonde indeed!

    * * *
    “To My Dear Wife,

    You will surely understand that I have certain needs that you, being 54 years old, can no longer satisfy. I am very happy with you and I value you as a good wife. Therefore after reading this letter, I hope that you will not wrongly interpret the fact that I will be spending the evening with my 18 year old secretary at the Comfort Inn Hotel. Please don’t be upset – I shall be back home before midnight.”

    When the man came home late that night, he found the following letter on the dining room table:

    “My Dear Husband,

    I received your letter and thank you for your honesty about my being 54 years old. I would like to take this opportunity to remind you that you are also 54 years old. As you know , I am a math teacher at our local college. I would like to inform you that while you read this, I will be at the Hotel Fiesta with Michael, one of my students, who is also the assistant tennis coach. He is young, virile, and like your secretary, is 18 years old. As a successful businessman who has an excellent knowledge of Math, you will understand that we are in the same situation, although with one small difference. 18 goes into 54 a lot more times than 54 goes into 18. Therefore, I will not be back home until sometime tomorrow.”

  46. Dom,

    While I appreciate good jokes, there’s a time and a place for them. This ain’t it. If you have points to make on the content of the original post or the comments, I’d like to read those.

    Denny

  47. Elaine:

    Your bias against anal sex is clear, but it’s not based in fact. Many couples engage in anal intercourse on an occasional or regular basis and do so without harm. The human body is tougher than you seem to give it credit for, and your assertations (no pun intended) about bleeding and leakage seem to be based more in urban legend than in fact.

    Naturally, I’m not suggesting you abandon your preferences and start engaging in all the buttsex you can. You’re free to find it squicky, uncomfortable, undesirable, what have you and avoid it entirely. Same goes with your stated preference against giving oral sex. No one is trying to change your mind about what you like or don’t like sexually. You’re free to make those decisions for yourself for any reason or no reason at all.

    It’s important though to remember that these are your preferences, not universal truths. Go ahead and do whatever you want in bed so long as it’s consensual, and don’t do whatever you don’t want to do. More power to you. However, please allow others the freedom to make the same choices, and stop propagating myths that forms of sex you disapprove of are harmful and should be banned.

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