Hey, Virginia: Your Censorship Bill is a Terrible Idea

People of Virginia: you have a job to do. Email, call, send telepathic messages to your state legislature and tell those politicians that you will not stand for idiotic, narrow-minded, absolutely f$%^ing ridiculous bills like HB516.

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What is this bill? It’s supposed to force schools to notify parents if teachers plan to distribute and discuss instructional material that contains “sexually explicit” passages, WHATEVER THAT MEANS. The parents will then be able to opt out and have their precious snowflakes read something else. I’m guessing Winnie the Pooh?

(It’s like that scene in the Little House on the Prairie show when a farmer comes barging into the schoolroom to protest the teaching of Renaissance art because it’s encouraging his son to look at picters o’ nood ladies.)

Yes, this bill would apply to English classes. So basically anything written between the beginning of time and the present would be on the chopping block because sex is a part of life, and books are about life, and so sex is in many books and oh no let me hide myself under a rock and believe that my kids don’t know about sex because they’re perfect pure bits of wonderfulness!

According to the Washington Post article, the person whose hand-wringing and high-pitched whining led to the writing of this bill was upset because her poor little high-school-senior son read Beloved and was…wait for it…traumatized.

Well, guess what, that’s the f&^*ing point. Great literature is supposed to rip you out of your comfort zone and force you to think about others’ experiences, including violent or disturbing ones.

There are so many things wrong with this bill, I don’t know where to start. To me, it falls into the category of “things we don’t need laws for.” So your kid is in a class that’s going to read, let’s say, The Kite-Runner. There’s a rape scene in this book, a scene that is crucial for understanding the rest of the story. Should a teacher stand up at the beginning of the semester and briefly discuss the books that will be read? Sure, why not. Should this teacher mention that The Kite-Runner has a brutal and disturbing scene? If the teacher thinks that that up-front information is important to share at that time. Should the teacher take time to discuss this scene when the students are reading this book, in order to discuss issues of rape and brutality and violence and conflict? Hells yes.

What makes this bill so dangerous is that it requires teachers to point out to parents anything “sexually explicit” included in course materials, which is basically like saying “hi parents, you’re totally cool with us talking about sex with your kids kthankxbai.” We know that many parents would be like “wut” and the knee-jerk reaction would be “hell no, that’s what sex ed is for, wait, I don’t want my kid to take sex ed.” I mean, we just know that this is what will happen.

Here’s the deal. Teachers can give parents a list of what will be read during the year. How about we just leave it at that? Does there really need to be a law? And then, how about we leave the teachers alone to do their damn jobs and let the parents who are squeamish about every little thing Jane or Billy reads to research the books on their own and decide if they have a problem with anything. Then, if they do, just quietly talk to the teacher about it and find a solution for their own kid. BAM. DONE. PROBLEM SOLVED.

Can you tell that I’m angry?

Oh, and it gets worse. The person with the bright idea for this bill also objected to Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Notice anything about this list? Yeah, I knew you would.

The African-American experience in this country has been marked by slavery, discrimination, bloodshed, rape, and injustice. Morrison and Ellison are trying to tell that story to the nation in general- both black and white, young and old, rich and poor. These are stories that must be told and remembered. And by the way, Beloved and Invisible Man are two of the greatest novels that America has given to the world.

So, Virginia legislature, when a loud and ignorant person throws her weight around lobbying for a bill that would inevitably encourage schools to drop important books from curricula (because you know that that’s the end game), many of which are written by people of color, you need to say to that person, “find a hobby and stop bothering us.” You do NOT say “oh yeah what a great idea!”

 

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