Stop Condescending the Youth

Stop Condescending the Youth – my thought on banning books. Inspired by John Green, after reading one of his recent tumblr posts and watching a 2008 volg.

Parents should have a voice in their student’s education, and balanced curriculum is vital, but at the heart of any book banning discussion seems to be the perceived notion that the youth cannot handle the material. Is it any wonder that so many 18-20 year-olds make terrible choices once they leave the confines of parental oversight?

I would rather have my youth confront life while still at home than to have them face it for the first time when they are on their own. This philosophy has not made parenting easy, but I didn’t sign up for easy.

I grew up in a very conservative community where one very conservative religious group dominated the society and the politics. Yet, I still read books considered controversial, some that have been on banned lists elsewhere. The best classroom discussions came from these books and prepared me for the great human stories I went on to read in college. More importantly, these books have aided me throughout my years as a mother.

So my take on controversial reading material – Parents READ the books, and then DISCUSS them with your teen before they discuss them in class. The shock you will receive from the book is nothing compared to what your kid already faces or will face in school, particularly in college even if they attend a very conservative/religious college.

The material that seems to be at the heart of this latest controversy pales in comparison with what my son encountered while taking classes at a nearby school. It was not material addressed in class but was the conversations and actions outside of class, and it shocked the administration when my son finally reported the language and behaviors he encountered in non-classroom activities. As a parent, I assure you, I would have been much happier if my middle-school child would have had exposure due to “book discussion” rather than exposure due to normal youth behavior. Normal had changed since I was in school and since the administrators had been in school. We were all shocked, dismayed, and deeply troubled by what we learned.

Discussion of the issues and norms needs to be part of a youth’s education. Maybe if the older students had been more aware, more educated, then they could have acted where adults could not have. We need to stop condescending our youth and instead empower them with knowledge gained from discussing hard, controversial topics.

Since I am personally acquainted with the people behind the latest petition to remove books from school curriculum, I would ask that anyone reading this avoid emailing the people directly, but instead only contact the school district in question with comments. While my readership is small, only a minuscule fleck of dust compared to John Green’s, I would not wish to cause issue for the people involved. Comments of criticism and/or comments of support should ONLY be sent to the district. Edit – it appears John Green removed the link to the petitioners. Good.


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