Thursday, June 15, 2006


Mothers for Morality

Justin Kendall of The Pitch, Kansas City's alternative newsweekly, has a good story on a new tactic employed by those who would censor books on the reading list in the Blue Valley School District.

They come to board meetings to read the parts that RSR used to mark -- so we could find them again -- by folding down a corner of the page.

Heidi Harper, writes Kendall, "finds objectionable passages and recites them with inflection, with the zeal of someone who was an actor in high school."

The vicarious thrill must be irresistible for tightly wound fundamentalists such as Harper. She not only gets to wallow in the prurience, but she also gets to do her "their holier than thou" act in front of a room full of people.

The best part, is that she doesn't have to read the rest of the book, which might call into question the blighted narrowness of the fundamentalist vision.

It's win-win as they say in the advice book biz.

When RSR was getting his master's in English, we used to bemoan the fact that there were so few black authors in the cannon.

More black authors are now being read in high school and college literature courses and that, apparently, troubles the mothers for morality who want these books off the shelves. An inordinately high percentage of the books they oppose are by black or Hispanic authors.

Toni Morrison's Beloved -- recently named the best work of American fiction published in the past quarter century by a panel of writers chosen by the The New York Times Book Review, has been a particular target of the would be censors.

The Blue Valley book policy includes periodic reviews of books on the reading list by groups of teachers, administrators, students, and parents. The opposition continues even though the books have been approved time and again. Even though there's an opt out policy. Even though most of these books are on the reading list for advanced placement classes -- in other words college level courses.

It's just another example of how the religious right demands the right to control every aspect of our lives -- even what we can and can't read.


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