Sunday, January 18, 2009
Handmaid's Tale Challenged
Another book challenge, this time not by one of neighbours to the south but a parent in Toronto. An article, Parent Seeks Ban on Atwood Novel, in the Saturday edition of the Windsor Star caught my eye and I immediately recognized a blog topic.
Apparently, this is not the first time this book, which, by the way, scared the pants off me the first time I read it (and upset me again the second time I read it), has been challenged. According to the article "Margaret Atwood's dystopic novel The Handmaid's Tale was No. 37 last year on the American Library Association's list of most frequently challenged books of the 1990s, but until now there has apparently been no recorded attempt to ban it in Canada."
Ok, I can understand that some people may be offended by the way that fundamentalist religion is portrayed, and that there is some sexual content. But the book has so many jumping off places for critical literacy discussions that it is a great book choice for Grade 12 Academic English.
We're talking about 17 and 18 year olds here, not young adults, but students who have grown up with with music videos, and all kinds of stuff on the Internet and cable/satellite TV. The goings on in Atwood's book are tame by comparison. However, as educators, we always respect the right of a parent of a student under the age of majority to choose what is appropriate for his child. The school, located in the Toronto DSB listened to the father's complaint and "the student was issued Aldous Huxley's Brave New World to read instead and will leave the classroom when Atwood's novel is being discussed." This is a reasonable course of action, one that most schools and teachers have no difficulty in doing. Alternative selections for literature study are always available to students at their request or their parent's.
But that's not good enough for this father. This father not only wants to censor his own kid but he wants to censor everyone's kid. "Unsatisfied with the school's resolution, the student's father then made a formal complaint to the school board, which has passed it along to a review committee for study and recommendation about whether the "learning resource" should be removed from the classroom."
I am always amazed when people do this. And I wonder what drives a person into thinking that he holds the knowledge to determine what is right for everyone, not just his own. Is there something in that book that acts as a mirror and he sees something in himself that he fears being revealed? Is it fear that drives that parent?