Volume 90, Issue 75

Thursday, February 06, 1997



EDITORIAL: Blast from the past

High schools banning books. Christian religious activists lobbying high schools to ban books. The education minister, himself without a high school diploma, pressuring the school board to be sensitive to the activists crusade to ban books.

Hopefully, most students find this to be wrong, if not frightening. In Milton Ont., a group of activists called Parents Against Corrupt Teaching is doing its darndest to have the Halton Board of Education ban Joyce Carol Oates' Foxfire from their local high school's Grade 12 curriculum.

The reason? Because the book centres around teenage female gangs and employs profanity and a graphic rape scene. While the scenes in Foxfire may not depict a pleasant reality, they do reveal a reality nonetheless. A reality that many high school students live every day. PACT trying to keep these issues out of sight to keep them out of mind, only serves to deny the world around them.

Many of these students having their educational fate decided for them by the religious right, are 18-years old. That means they can see restricted movies, buy pornography and even die for their country. A fate more upsetting than anything in Foxfire.

Censorship is a precarious proposition. How can youth learn the difference between what is right and what is wrong if what is wrong is hidden from them? Having any group tell a people what they can and cannot read is giving the former group a dangerous power of control. No one is infallible enough to censor a book from adults, especially a group which tries to violate constitutional rights by imposing their religious beliefs on others.

The potential banning adds fuel to a fire growing hot with the censorship of other literary classics. Pulling Foxfire from the high school because of its graphic language and violent sex scene is comparable to the removal of Huckleberry Finn for its racial slurs, or The Merchant of Venice for its anti-semitic content. It also has the same result. Hiding these issues from students – and in effect teaching them that these realities do not exist. A child raised in ignorance is much worse off than one who learns the harsh realities of this world.

Instead of these parents devoting their time and energy to banning literature, perhaps they should try teaching their students what this book is really about. Maybe then these parents would find something useful in Foxfire and would help their children understand what is wrong about the issues presented instead of merely denying their existence.

To Contact The Editorial Department: gazed@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1997