public school libraries are now an ideological battleground. with children, book censorship is legitimate. unlike adults, there are materials, i.e. pornography, graphic violence and profanity, which are not meant for children’s consumption. as such, an elementary school library should not carry a subscription for playboy magazine. both parents and educators are caught up in a battle which now includes a culture war over ideology and sexuality being injected into public education. in the end, one must ask whether educators are lost as to “what children should be learning?”
with this question, i offer the stories of buddha and moses.
the buddha’s upbringing is one unlikely known by educators and parents. the buddha’s father, a ruler and wealthy individual, essentially kept his son locked in a palace. his son was to only experience the pleasures of life. he lived in a virtual garden of eden. buddha’s father did not want his son to see the real world of pain, suffering and death. sheltering his son from the human condition, however, turned out to be an impossible task. the buddha eventually visits the outside world and discovers pain, suffering and death. as a result, the buddha embarks on a life long journey to understand the human condition.
moses also grew up in a palace. as royalty, he watched his own brethren work as slaves. in doing so, he witnessed the cruelty associated with it. he, unprepared to address it, acted out in a violent fashion. he murdered a task master who had been torturing a slave. after this failure, he eventually, with god’s help, became a communicator. with this ability, he was able to express words that live with us today. those words being “let my people go.”
there is the famous line from the movie jurassic park, “life will find a way.” likewise, children will encounter the human condition. walking children through the nature of the human condition is important for them to live their lives. somehow they will see unhappiness, illness, violence and death. the human condition, as a topic, should never be censored.
with respect to the bible, it is an inappropriate book for young children. there is no need for its presence in elementary school libraries. as a religious instructor of young children, i never used the bible in the classroom. i used bible story books which were grade appropriate. the stories, while geared for children, still addressed the bible’s difficult topics. murder ( the story of cain and abel) bad people (the stories of noah and of sodom and gemorah) bullying (the story of joseph and his brothers) adultery and lying (joseph & potiphar) are all discussed. these topics can be even taught at the kindergarten level. the stories are simplified for children’s consumption. as such, there are bible story books, as opposed to the bible, appropriate to be on the shelves of elementary school public libraries.
with respect to the actual bible, teens arguably should be allowed to have access to it. jewish children, with their bar and bat mitzvah, traditionally read from the actual text. likewise, they are expected to give a speech concerning the particular section they read. as far as i am aware, no portion of the torah, no matter how salacious or violent, is off limits to a bnei mitzvah.
with respect to the recent keller independent school district library controversy, there are many interesting facts that have come out concerning the bible’s ban. , it is reported that “a complaint about the bible was that “it is a map to slavery, incest, sex between donkey and women, misogyny, murder, pedophilia you name it, it’s in there.” nypost.com i think that comment is a true compliment as to the bible’s comprehensiveness. it is truly a “go to” book to address a wide range of moral issues and concerns. it is also reported that “another parent indicated that “the other parent griped that, “religion doesn’t belong in public schools. this book also describes multiple acts of sexuality and violence. ” this complaint ignores that the bible is not only a religious text but one that documents history. further, how much will protection should children be afforded? is david slaying goliath an act of violence that children should be sheltered from?
currently, the bible, along with other books have been temporarily removed from the library as they have been challenged. these books will be reviewed as to whether they are in compliance with the school district’s policy. nypost.com
in the end, while censorship of some books even the bible, may be appropriate, “bubble wrapping” children on the troubles and struggles in life is a recipe for disaster. it will only lead to the creation of dysfunctional adults.
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