(Photo courtesy of Vonnegut.com)
I think of it as Armpit, but it’s actually Republic, Missouri. Which makes everyone there a Republican. Just sayin’. Censorship always pisses me off, but especially this.
The school board in Republic, Mo., voted 4-0 to eliminate Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse-Five” and Sarah Ockler’s “Twenty Boy Summer” from the high school curriculum and library, respectively, after a local man led an effort to deem the novels inappropriate.
Wesley Scroggins, a business professor at Missouri State University, who also pioneered a movement to reshape middle school sex-education classes in Republic’s schools, wrote in a column last year that Vonnegut’s classic contained enough profanity to “make a sailor blush,” and warned that “Twenty Boy Summer” was similarly dangerous.
“In this book,” Scroggins wrote, “drunken teens also end up on the beach, where they use their condoms to have sex.”
Of the members of the school board who voted on the issue last Monday, according to UPI, only one — Melissa Duvall — had actually read either of the books in question.
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Those ignorant toads.
When I was in high school (in Missouri) back in the 1970s, teachers wanted me to read all sorts of books I don’t even remember, except for Lord of the Flies, which sucked. As did its author, who once attempted to rape a girl and who also, when a teacher, staged fights among his students — no doubt to improve the verisimilitude of his hellish story. Not that it should have been banned, mind you. I just think it should have been written as a jailhouse novel. A generation later, my kids had to read Lord of the Flies. They said it still sucked.
It will probably suck forever. The mark of great literature.
But while I was supposed to be reading such stuff, I was actually ripping through Kurt Vonnegut’s novels. Every one I could find. And then, when I read them all, I started reading literary criticism about his work. None of this for credit, but just because I wanted to. When Kurt Vonnegut appeared on the The Daily Show not long before his death, Jon Stewart thanked him for making his life “bearable” as an adolescent. I feel exactly the same way. Check out the clip of that apppearance.
Vonnegut is an important writer, and Slaughterhouse-Five is rightly judged one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century.
I went on to become a writer. I don’t write like he did, but Kurt Vonnegut’s work is one of the primary reasons I chose this path. (The idea that a smartass could make a living being a smartass was a tremendous motivation to a class clown who could spell.) So the idea that a high school would ban such an influential writer’s most famous work is an act of sacrilege to me. (Yes, I know that’s ironic, since Vonnegut was essentially an atheist.)
High school is a time for young people to move toward adulthood. Trying to retard their progress by banning books like Slaughterhouse-Five and Sarah Ockler’s Twenty Boy Summer does no one any good. One of the things about this story that really bothers me (and just about all of it does) is that a college professor was the one pushing the ban.
I’m putting the world on notice: I’m boycotting Republic, Missouri. Just as soon as I find out where it is. Actually, it’s near Springfield (in Christian County, no less), what we used to call “the buckle on the Bible Belt. (Then I moved to Macon, Georgia, which really IS the buckle on the Bible Belt.)
Hat tip to Kristina Grant, advocate of free speech (you have no idea).