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Opening Arguments

Not banned in Delphi

The Delphi school board, based on a parental complaint and after months of debate and appeals, voted 5-1 to NOT remove three books from the 11th-grade advanced English curriculum because of sex and language and yada, yada. The vote came after a public hearing attended by about 150 people, during which 44 of them spoke either for or against the books. And here's the amazing part: Everybody had their say and listened respectfully to other people having their say. Nobody called anybody names.

This was an interesting line in the story:

Others spoke of the slippery slope created when any book is removed from the classroom. Some commented on the importance of the exposure to real-life issues.

But the slippery slope works both ways, doesn't it? If removing one book from the classroom could gradually lead to more judgmentalism and greater censorship, then leaving a controversial one in the classroom could gradually lead to a complete lack of standards and no control by educators at all.

One of the parents who spoke against the books said he didn't consider the vote a defeat -- his object was to go through the process and make his objections known, which sounds pretty mature. If I had kids in school, I'd like to know what they're being taught and that if I had any objections I would at least be listened to. I wouldn't necessarily expect my complaints to be acted on, just acknowleged.

One of the books, by the way, is "Chinese Handcuffs," which a Scardsdale, N.Y. reader describes this way on amazon.com:

There are enough plots here to fuel a soap opera for a year. Dillon Hemingway is a brilliant student and athlete whose older brother, Preston, gets involved with a motorcycle gang, loses his legs in a bike accident, and later blows his head away in full view of his younger brother. Dillon writes long letters to his dead brother to tell him about Stacy, who was Preston's girl and the mother of their child but who may secretly love Dillon, and Jennifer, star basketball player, whose father sexually abused her and whose stepfather, a madman, also abuses her. Dillon's mother walked out on his family some years before. So much for the beginning. Beyond the first chapters there are scenes in which Dillon sprinkles his brother's ashes into the gas tanks of the cyclists who corrupted Preston and in which Stacy uses the school public address system to announce that she is indeed the mother of Preston's child. Dogs are crushed by cars, the Vietnam War is rehashed. Characters keep asking "can we talk" and then prattle on with enormous presence and wisdom about the evils of society, their parents, all adults, their own sorry lot in life, and love ("There are so many crazy things, dangerous things sometimes, that we're taught to call love"). Jesus Christ is at one point called "a heroic dude." Dillon is too much in control of himself and the other characters to be believable. The ending, in which Dillon single-handedly drives Jennifer's crazed step-father out of town, is contrived. There's a place in fiction for teenage problems, but surely not all in one novel.

Whew. Makes me tired to just read that. By comparison, Holden Caulfield seems like a damn, whiny, slacker wimp, doesn't he?