Quick Hit; Speechless

So, it’s Banned Book Week, right?

This week, my students will be addressing two quotes about the banning of books; Ray Bradbury’s, “You don’t need to burn books to destroy a culture; just get people to stop reading them,” and Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Every burned book illuminates the world.”

I gave the Bradbury quote to my Away College kids this morning.  Since they’re basic writing students and don’t have a whole lot of experience with critical thinking, we did some chatting about it first.  It was during that chat that one of my kids uttered this exact sentiment:

I don’t mind if they ban books; I don’t read, anyway, so it doesn’t matter to me.

How I managed to not completely lose my shit is still a mystery to me.  Aside from this being a STUNNINGLY ignorant thing to say, it astonishes me that my young man has literally no concept about how vulnerable (and easily manipulated and controlled) his ignorance – and his willingness to forgo his freedom of access to information –  makes him.

I think I managed to get them all to consider the idea that no one else should be making decisions for them about what they can and cannot see, hear, learn, or read.  I’m not certain, though, that most of those kids feels entitled to the kind of knowledge that others might try to keep from them.

I have a lot of work to do.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Quick Hit; Speechless

  1. I am still trying to get over the school board in (NC?) that banned Invisible Man. Why the fear of black literature? I have a few thoughts I hope to draft soon. More time spent on this and not on other crap.

  2. Sounds like an opportunity for some sort of simulation…I wonder if there’s one out there. Congrats on not totally losing it. I admire your restraint. “Stunningly ignorant” probably would have fallen out of my mouth.

  3. Eddie, I think the answer to “why the fear of black literature” lies somewhere in this passage from the letter I wrote to a student after she asked me to find an alternative to Native Son for her to read:

    One of the central ideas of this work is the brutality of the life that Bigger (and by extension, other oppressed people) live EVERY SINGLE DAY. We don’t want to look at the ugliness; we don’t want to look at the desperation and the despair and the fear and the rage that are an everyday reality for people who find themselves in impossible situations with impossible choices. We, as members of a privileged class – you and I are white, educated, reasonably wealthy people living in stable families in a reasonably safe and clean and well-appointed environment – can say we understand how other people live, but we really don’t see it; we can only imagine it. It’s uncomfortable when we’re presented – full-on and in our faces – with the hard and cruel and brutal that other people have to live around all the time. It’s supposed to be uncomfortable; it’s supposed to make you uneasy. I want for you to use the skills of critical and professional distance that we’ve been practicing all year to take a step back from those scenes. The point isn’t the graphic descriptions (though I know they’re hard to get around): the point is that Bigger doesn’t believe he has any other choices.

    We who are privileged (whether we acknowledge that privilege or not – perhaps especially if we do not) are deeply and wordlessly troubled by the fact of others’ brutal reality. Consider all the “post racial” talk that vibrated through the country after Obama’s first election (and then observe the stunning displays of overt racism we’ve been dealing with ever since). We want to THINK that we’re “beyond” all the vile and ugly that attended the 50s and 60s and that we can abdicate ourselves of the responsibilities of continuing to perpetuate a society that continues to brutally oppress certain people. We can’t.

  4. M

    You are a far better person than I am. I would have said some things I would have really regretted later…while I was explaining my word choice to the principal.

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