In high school, I had an excellent English teacher, Mrs. Fort. She was tough with students and passionate about her job. Every year she had to do battle with the conservative Texas school board. Because of her, I was able to read and discuss Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man in a classroom setting. However, she wasn’t able to win every fight.
On graduation day, the Valedictorian gave a speech criticizing censorship in our schools, and mentioned both William Golding’s The Lord of the Flies and Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles as books that got cut from our reading lists. Before I fell asleep (I was the second person across the stage in a graduating class of 400), I determined that I would go back and read both of those books.
Flash forward two decades: I finally cracked open Lord of the Flies a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, I can’t actually review it here, since I don’t remember much about it except that I considered it a hard but worthwhile read.
I do remember being somewhat conflicted, though; I wasn’t sure I would have had the maturity or perspective to appreciate the book in high school. If the school board had said that they simply didn’t consider it suitable for high school students (and they might very well have; I wasn’t there for the debate, of course), would I have a problem with that or even consider it censorship?
If someone tried to assign Lord of the Flies to an elementary school class, I would agree with a school board stopping that, and certainly wouldn’t consider it censorship. On the other hand, isn’t part of an English teacher’s job to know which books his or her class can handle? Who knows how much more I would have gotten out of Lord of the Flies if it had been open to a classroom discussion led by a knowledgeable teacher?
Anyway, in honor of Banned Books Week and this new blog, this week I will finally read The Martian Chronicles, and hopefully post a review before the week is over. My copy is only 175 pages, but it isn’t a quick read by any means, so I’m not making any promises.