Corruption of America’s Youth

The thing about books is that you have to be awfully careful about reading them. They might put ideas in your head. Plant a tiny seed of knowledge, and you just never know what might sprout up.

Dan Gutman, who wrote the “My Weird School” series, received an incredibly angry letter from a parent who was disgusted by the author’s books. Disgusted might actually be an understatement. The parent wrote, “When I read it I was shocked at the level of depravity that spewed out of almost every thought of the characters in this book. You have propagated a literary abomination.” He then attributed the school shootings of the world to this book, in which the character says, “I hate school.” The parent wrote, “With this kind of superficial, rude content it’s no wonder that young people are loading up with guns and going into schools and shooting everyone.” He then calls the book depraved a few times, before informing the author that he will be going to school boards in the area to ensure that the book is banned. Not only that, he is going to move his kid to a private school, which will “protect him from a society whose morals have been eroded to a level that this kind of acrimonious dribble would even be considered much less popular.”

I have to give this parent props for one thing: He has a better vocabulary than the average bear. I don’t expect a lot of parents could write letters using the words “depraved,” “acrimonious,” and “propagated.” Outside of that, though, I find the parent’s letter bordering somewhere between hilarious and terrifying. I have not read these books myself, and don’t tend to read much middle grade fiction, but my understanding is that they are humorous novels meant to spark the interests of reluctant readers, who (let’s face it) don’t usually like school. Now, I don’t have any research to back this up, but I would hazard a guess that the benefits of reading at all outweigh the drawbacks of reading about a character who uses the word “hate.”I would also contend that it is more dangerous to live in a world in which such books are pulled from the shelves than one in which individual parents have the right to choose what is acceptable for their children, and their children alone, to read.

In an article for the School Library Journal, Gutman and many of his writing friends offer their thoughts on censorship and book banning. Gutman appeals to librarians to not do the easy thing of taking the books off the shelves, because in doing so, the book banners win, and we “end up with writers who are afraid to write, publishers who are afraid to publish, and children who are not challenged to use their minds.”

This is an important article to read for anyone who is interested in censorship and limitations on intellectual freedom. I wish that category encompassed everyone. Read the article at How I Corrupted America’s Youth: Getting angry letters is no laughing matter—and the same goes for censorship.


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