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Cold Blooded Censorship

September 25th, 2011 by MomsLA

Bleep Bleep

This is too violent for you to read so we have exchanged those words with our own.

Are you fucking kidding me?!

My own Glendale Unified School Board wants to keep AP teacher Holly Ciotti from being able to allow her students to read Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood.

Ciotti describes the book as “Capote’s work is a great fit for the class, Ciotti said, because it introduces students to the American judicial system and the death penalty, among other contemporary topics. It is also superbly written and allows students to form their own opinions,” according to the Glendale News-Press.

Board member Mary Boger calls the book “chilling”.  DUH!  It is a true story of a gory quadruple murder that happened back in the 50’s.  It is not meant to be a walk in the park.

The book is being requested by Ciotti to teach to her 11th grade AP students.  Let me repeat that ELEVENTH GRADE ADVANCED PLACEMENT STUDENTS.  These are not namby pamby kids, these are the cream of the crop, these kids have probably read books, watched movies and played video games much worse than this book will ever be.  But with the book being read and DISCUSSED in the classroom it gives them a chance to talk about violence, to talk about and form opinions about the judicial system.  To talk about, form opinions about and HEAR other opinions on the aforementioned as well.  That right there is the most important part.

We need to talk to kids about everything!  Not only nice things, but bad things too; We need to be able to have open dialogue with kids and for them to be able to have open dialogue with us.  As educators we need to channel the conversation away from the initial violence and talk about the feelings and lessons involved.  That’s what educators do.  That’s what Holly Ciotti does.

I applaud Board Members Joylene Wagner and Nayiri Nahabedian for their realization that this book could do good things no matter how “chilling” it is.  I can only hope that Board Member Christine Walters will feel the same way after reserving her opinion until she reads the book.

Last year someone suggested we change Mark Twain’s writing -

“Undoubtedly the use of the word “nigger” – surely the most inflammatory word in the English language – makes Huckleberry Finn a tricky novel to teach. The book has recently repeatedly been judged as unsuitable for schoolchildren to study in the US educational system – and one can fully understand the feelings of anger and humiliation that many African American children and parents feel at having such a word repeatedly spoken in the classroom (the word appears 219 times in Twain’s book).” From The Guardian.

This resulted in millions of newly printed editions using the word “slave” and trying to obliterate a huge piece of American History.

Good bad or indifferent, history is history and if we change it before we teach our children about it we are doing them a huge disservice.

Update 9/28 - During an interview with KPCC on September 28, 2011, Board Member Mary Boger said she will abstain from the upcoming vote, because although she doesn’t want to hold something back from the students she “fundamentally” can not approve this book.

In my personal opinion an abstention is a wussy move.  Either you approve it or you don’t.  If you think the students should not read it than say so and stick by it.  But don’t be a Charlie Brown and go wishy washy.

Checking my calendar for the election next April, Mary.

Adrienne Van Houten writes over at Adrienne’s House.  Her two children were educated by the Glendale Unified School District and her grand daughter is currently enrolled.  She is a former employee of the District.

MomsLA (495 Posts)


7 comments

  1. It always amazes – and horrifies – me that so many adults (the kind that achieve it by numbers only) do not understand the concept of “context.” Small children understand it; all we have to say is “This is how things used to be long ago; we know much better now,” etc, and a child nods and comprehends. Adults are another story. So many are suspicious of anything they do not personally understand, and when this kind of person doesn’t understand, they just straightaway assume it’s bad and they condemn it.

    The saddest part of all is that so many of these stunted, limited people are in charge of the education of our children.

    School is for thinking, learning, SOARING, examining, experimenting, discussing, and stretching our brains beyond those of the previous generation. How sad that so many old people (heh) fear knowledge and therefore try their utmost to limit how much our children might be allowed to know.

    They are cowards. And I won’t back down or euphemize it. Cowards.

  2. Adrienne, thanks for posting this! I can’t believe it’s happening in this day and age. Haven’t we learned anything? I totally agree with you about talking to our kids about the good and the bad. That’s the point – we need to be their filter on those things. That’s part of the job of Parent.

  3. Adrienne Van Houten

    All to often “parents” don’t do any filtering, which is why educators need to teach their students how to filter themselves. If we don’t use examples how can we teach?

  4. So true about doing our children a disservice by changing history. “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it”

  5. Thanks for this post. I get incredibly frustrating hearing that a classic piece of American literature is possibly banned from a classroom of advanced students when TV, movies and even billboards consistently provoke a shock value with sex and violence.

    My daughter is a sophomore in high school. A huge part of her Communications class curriculum focuses on media literacy. Much needed skills for kids today.

    Last year her English class read the play 12 Angry Men and had deep discussions on justice, the death penalty and class differences.

    Let’s get kids thinking. Give them difficult material and then guide them through it by asking questions and supporting their exploration into tough issues.

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