Missouri School District Bans 'Slaughterhouse-Five' And 'Twenty Boy Summer'
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.
The superintendant of the Republic district, Vern Minor, was out of town and did not return emails and calls requesting comment, though he told UPI on Monday that Ockler's "Twenty Boy Summer" "promotes or sensationalizes sexual promiscuity," which contributed to the book's removal.
Outside of the Republic School District, "Summer" has received positive reviews, with Booklist and Kirkus both deeming it a mature, romantic work in the vein of Nicholas Sparks and Jodi Picoult.
After the banning was announced, the author took to her blog where she lambasted the decision.
"Not every teen who has sex outside of a relationship feels guilty, shameful, or regretful later on," Ockler wrote. "And you can ban my books from every damn district in the country -- I'm still not going to write to send messages or make teens feel guilty because they've made choices that some people want to pretend don't exist."
"That's my choice," Ockler continued. "And I'll never be ashamed of my choice to write about real issues."
"Slaughterhouse-Five" -- Vonnegut's satirical World War II, time-traveling saga -- was voted the 18th greatest English-language novel of the 20th century by the Modern Library and was featured in Time magazine's "100 Greatest Novels of the 20th Century" issue.
It's also one of the most frequently "challenged" books of the past few decades, according to the American Library Association.
In 2000, "Slaughterhouse-Five" was removed from the sophomore reading list at a Coventry, R.I., High School, after a parent complained that it "contains vulgar language, violent imagery, and sexual content." In 2006, the book was ultimately "retained" on the Northwest Suburban High School District 214 reading list in Arlington Heights, Ill., after a board member "elected amid promises to bring her Christian beliefs into all board decision-making," pointed out a few controversial excerpts she'd found on the Internet.
In 2007, "Slaughterhouse-Five" was challenged in a Howell, Mich., court to determine whether it violated laws against "distribution of sexually explicit materials to minors." The county's top prosecutor ultimately decided against any legal action.
"It is clear that the explicit passages illustrated a larger literary, artistic or political message and were not included solely to appeal to the prurient interests of minors," the prosecutor wrote.
It seems many parents and school board members are under the impression that their kids still get their "kicks" from reading classic, American novels, rather than going on the Internet, watching television, talking to their friends or doing any number of things.
Scroggins' original call to action, written in September 2010, questioned the values of the school board, and asked parents to get more involved with issues like this.
"This is unacceptable, considering that most of the school board members and administrators claim to be Christian. How can Christian men and women expose children to such immorality?" he wrote.
The award-winning children's author Judy Blume, whose books have frequently come under fire from schools, might have put it best when she wrote:
"It's not just the books under fire now that worry me. It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read. And all due to the fear of censorship.
"As always, young readers will be the real losers."