A Bone to Pick

27 April 2010

Are there still people out there that don’t realize that banning a book simply increases it’s popularity? I, for one, had never heard of the graphic novel series Bone until it was brought to my attention last week as a potential for banning.

Specifically, Ramona DeLay, wanted to get the books removed from District 196’s libraries (Rosemount, Apple Valley, Eagan). I don’t live within the borders of this district, but my friend Ryan does. He first told me about this throwback to medieval Europe last week in an article he’d read. He said there was going to be a hearing on the matter. So, today, he and I attended the hearing.

Ramona’s argument started out strongly enough: she first clarified that she only wanted the books banned from the elementary schools, that the books contain sexual encounters, and that the overt drinking and smoking in the books sent a conflicting message to students who were also being indoctrinated in the cult of DARE.

But then her argument kind of fell apart. She used the term “age appropriate” – which is too ambiguous to be of any use. She also claimed that the smoking in the novels caused her young son to question the practice, and she had to explain it to him. Which, to me, sounds like ideal parenting. My son, not even old enough for school yet, has likewise asked about smoking. I don’t get what’s so bad about that, and Ramona offered nothing to change that.

Next, the lead librarian for the district spoke. She argued that these books have received multiple accolades, and have been a venue for getting kids into reading for several years. She read a letter from the author in response to the motion, wherein the author explained that the smokers and heavy drinkers are the “bad guys” of the books, and those who gamble and swindle receive their just comeuppance. The author said he could not address the issue of sexual encounters because – get this: there are none.

The librarian, while certainly not shattering any stereotypes in her steady, metered speech and conservative dress, nevertheless concluded with a personal, impassioned plea that the district not go down the path of banning: if a parent chooses to keep a book out of their house, that is fine, but they mustn’t legislate morality for the other children in the district.

Then there was a discussion among the 11-member panel. My friend Ryan blogged about it, so go there to read some details. During the discussion, it quickly became obvious that the majority were in favor of keeping the books in the libraries.

The lone dissenting opinion was offered by the panel’s sole male. He argued that Ramona made some good points (she did) and that he was afraid the books might be too complex for some students, and others might wonder why a character’s hat caught on fire when he saw his lovely girlfriend bathing naked. (I actually wonder that, too – has this ever happened to any of you? If so, how old were you, who was the woman, and what style of hat were you wearing?) When he said he wasn’t sure that a book depicting smoking and drinking was the best we could offer our kids, his points were quickly rebutted. One mother on the panel said that, if we were to ban on the basis of drinking and smoking, then the Little House series would get the boot, too. A librarian argued that if she were to choose only the best-of-the-best for her students, she wouldn’t have a library…she would have merely a shelf. He also said he was concerned that, since the protagonists were adults, children might have trouble identifying with them, and might end up relating to the bad guys. You know, like the time you went to see Return of the Jedi and, in the confusion of adults like Luke, Leia, and Han, you ended up identifying with Jabba the Hutt, the rancor, or  the sarlacc.

After a ~45 minutes of discussion, a paper vote was taken. Victory for free speech by a 10 to 1 margin. The voting was anonymous, but I am ashamed to say the one person who kept it from being unanimous was certainly the one who belonged to my gender.

As Ryan and I discussed as we were leaving, unanimity would have been nice, but it’s good to know that the suburb we both grew up in is, at least, 91% sane.

I am putting “read Bone collection” on my ever increasing to-do list.

28 April 2010

My wife handed me a page-a-day calendar the other day, and I brought it to work to set on my desk. It’s a “green” calendar, offering tips, statistics, and quotes about caring for the environment and living sustainably. I’m a little torn about a calendar that promotes green living whilst creating trash in the form of a tear-off page each day, but I digress.

Today, the calendar says this:

90: The percentage of time Americans spend indoors.

I’m presuming they’re telling me this as if it’s a bad thing; the implication being that we should get outside more. Which is…very true, I guess. But I am wondering…

What is the ideal percentage of time I should be spending outside?

Does the 90% include sleep time? ‘Cause, if so, geez, give me a break already.

When I’m in the car – am I outside or insider? What about when I’m in a tent?

Does this statistic take into account the fact that many Americans live in freezing places? The time I spent outdoors in January is undoubtedly less than 10%, and I have no desire to change that anytime soon.

Anyway, just wondering. I did go take a walk (outside!) during lunch today, so the calendar’s already doing a good job with the guilt.

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4 Responses to A Bone to Pick

  1. Cory says:

    I smiled at your comment:

    “I’m a little torn about a calendar that promotes green living whilst creating trash in the form of a tear-off page each day”

    I am convinced that merchants are using the popularity of being eco-friendly to sell more junk. Stores do not care about saving the planet, they just want people to think when they buy their product it will relieve the environmental impact. They are playing into people’s sense of guilt in this country of having plenty and being wasteful.

    By the way, when I watched Star Wars as a kid I always thought Jabba the Hutt was a ideal role model. He was able to sit around all day and have servants feed him, dance for him, and come before him to bring him gifts. He had it great until that jedi guy came in and destroyed the place. I guess I came away from the movie with a entirely different viewpoint than you did.

  2. James says:

    I agree Cory.
    Sometimes, though, the corporations’ interests do line up with environmental consciousness, and then they are willing to do “the right thing.” For example, encouraging customers to bring in their own bags saves on paper/plastic, but it also saves the store money.

    (I used to identify with Salacious Crumb.)

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