News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion
FRIDAY, MARCH 11, 2005


Limestone school board needs to rethink book ban

The Limestone County School Board voted 4-3 Monday night to remove the book "Whale Talk" from the Ardmore High School library.

The decision overrode a recommendation by a committee of teachers, parents and administrators to keep the book, which a parent had requested be removed because of its use of profanity.

The committee found that the book's message of forgiveness over revenge outweighed the use of the "F" word and other expletives, and said that the book provides a realistic view of life, including the "consequences of prejudice, outspoken and malicious people."

Board member James Shannon explained his vote to purge the library of the volume.

"We can't allow students to go down our halls and say those words, and we shouldn't let them read it," Mr. Shannon said.

Board member Charles Shoulders Jr. initially opposed the book after reading excerpts, but changed his mind when he was told of the book's overall message.

Mr. Shannon and Mr. Shoulders are both misguided in their thinking.

If Mr. Shannon believes the board can prevent — or even deter — schoolchildren's use of obscenities by removing a single book from the library, he should spend more time around teenagers.

While Mr. Shoulders voted to keep the book, his thought process is even more disturbing.

If the book's message were one opposed to Mr. Shoulders' philosophy, would he deem it appropriate to ban?

This is the problem with banning books and ideas from the marketplace of ideas, and especially from an education environment. Eventually, the only ideas out there are the ones promoted by power-wielding politicians. Those who fail to see the drawback of this approach need only look at Germany in the 1940s.

Limestone school officials had several alternatives available. The library could have placed a sticker on the book warning of the language content. The school could also require students to obtain parental permission to check out the book.

But teenagers are quite resourceful. Those who want to read "Whale Talk" will find a way to obtain a copy.

And it's a safe bet that more of them are interested in reading it now.

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