Monday, June 27, 2005

Parents Gone Wild--and the kids pay for it

Laurie Taylor took it upon herself to excorcise the Fayetteville School District of books that might lead to fornication or bad thoughts. After what she termed a personal "audit," she filed 70 complaints against books like Rainbow Boys and Doing It. Oh yeah, and Forever, because puritanical witch-hunts aren't complete without the traditional attack on Judy Blume.

Usually censorship nuts go for well known books that have a lot written about them and are easy to attack without having to read them. To my mind a truly dangerous breed of book burner has emerged, one with a singly minded obsession with parental control. By making "naughty" books unavailable in school libaries, kids would no longer have access to books without parental assistance, either in taking them to the public library, or buying the books.

What is particularly problematic about this book restriction is that while Taylor believes that these books promote sexual promiscuity, they in fact are cautionary tales which may help curious students understand the risks of sexual associations, and give them better a undestanding of their feelings. If there was ever a book to warn girls away from flinging themselves at adolescent boys, "Doing It," would be a good choice.

Taylor seems to have been bolstered in her efforts by a timid school board who decided to move three books she had complained about earlier in the year to a parent shelf, where students wouldn't be able to get at them. I think she really wanted them publicly shredded, but that placing them in a restricted area was an "acceptable compromise."

Letter From Andrea

I recieved this missive from Sister Andrea only a few days ago, and I thought it might be of interest. I will soon be joining her in England, where she is studying ancient (and important) texts with the help of a lovely grant.

Who just got to spend a day transcribing a Latin song about a prior and an abbot getting completely drunk and puking all over the flowers? I did!

Man, I love my job.

Libraries like the one I visited today do give me a chance to practice some of my more unusual hobbies, like staring at other people's books. A woman behind me was looking at a lovely one with huge full-page full-color fifteenth-century heraldic signs. I didn't have a chance to gawk at that one very long, though, because then I noticed a man about my age who was looking back and forth between the manuscript on foam pads on his desk and two modern printed copies of The Book of Margery Kempe. (Margery Kempe is a famous fifteenth-century woman mystic, and there's only one copy of her manuscript in existence. I think I was three feet from it this afternoon.) Fortunately I managed to contain my enthusiasm. A scholarly reading room was just not the place for it.

London's lovely, even if much warmer than advertised. It's good to be back.

All's well,