Book Banning in Nashua

This week the Nashua school board was faced with a challenge, to ban a book or not to ban a book from their school system.

The book in question is called "The Giver" published in 1993.  (spoilers in the plot ahead) The book is about a future society in which 12 year olds are assigned their careers, parents are screened and selected then given children who are birthed by birth mothers who's jobs are to create the babies.  All societies problems are solved, no worries, no fears.  Everyone is living in perfect sameness.

The controversy lies in part of the story in which those who don't fit in are "released", which is they are given lethal injections and put to death. One of the elementary school children who had this story read to them went home troubled by the mature subject.  As a result her mother complained to the school and pushed to have the book taken from the elementary school library and moved to either the middle school or high school where the students would be mature enough to handle such a subject.

The Nashua school board after reviewing the matter choice to create a new policy in which parents must be informed before the book is read in any class and given an option to opt their child out of hearing it.

In looking at this situation there are plenty of different angles it can be examined from.

First from a parental stand point, parents should know what is being taught in their children's classrooms.  Since parents do not have real choice in what schools their children attend, unless of course they have enough money for a private school tuition on top of what they pay in taxes for public schools, then they should at the very least have the ability to object when subject matter of a controversial nature is introduced in that public classroom.  Euthanasia and suicide as discussed in this book is not subjects many elementary school children are ready to deal with.  I remember when Mr. Hooper from Sesame Street died and it was greatly discussed how they would handle it and explain his leaving to the kids.  This book does not take the sensitive approach Big Bird did in asking why Mr. Hooper isn't coming back to which Gorden finally had to answer "Because, just because." leaving them hugging and crying.  Given a toxic needle because someone didn't lock step with society is a little bit more intense.

Granted there are books dealing with intense death, even murder, read in every school in America.  Most books I'm sure you've read yourself.  Nearly anything by Shakespeare involves a whole list of controversial subject ranging from murder, incest, suicide, and what not.  The Lord of the Flies features a very gruesome murder.  However most read these books in high school or junior high.  I was in 9th grade when I was first exposed to such material.  So the key question here is when are kids old enough to handle such a subject.

Over all I think the school board had to valid choices.  Either move the book to a library in a high level school or give parents advanced warning about the subject matter being taught with an option to opt their child out.  Ideally parents should know in advance what kind of material and what books are being featured in the classroom and in a true open market parents would have the choice of which class they would like their child in but we don't have that other then for those wealthy enough to afford private school on top of the public school taxes.  So over all I'd say this was handled very well by the school board and I hope it opens up more conversations about what is being taught in each child's class so parents can have more control over what's in their own children's best interest.