Here come the Puritans

Last week, several sources reported on Tara Schultz’s quest to have Persepolis, Fun HomeY: The Last Man (Vol. 1), and The Sandman (Vol. 2), banned from the English 250 course at Crafton Hills College in Yucaipa, California. This story is different from most of the book challenging stories I see in the news because 1) it’s at a college and 2) the student calling for the ban isn’t objecting because of triggering material. Schultz wants these graphic novels (all fantastic, by the way) removed from the curriculum because when she opened them to read them, she “expected Batman and Robin, not pornography” (Redland Daily Facts Newspaper). The same article further quotes Schultz, “At most I would like the books eradicated from the system. I don’t want them taught anymore. I don’t want anyone else to have to read this garbage.” It’s worth noting that English 250 is a class on graphic novels and the four books mentioned at the top of this paragraph represent 2/5 of the curriculum.

While I have worked my way around to understanding the need for trigger warnings (within reason), Schultz request to “eradicate” the books from the “system” sounds exactly like the calls from concerned parents to ban books from school and public libraries across the country. These calls I cannot abide. The students Schultz is trying to protect from “garbage” are old enough to vote, if not legally drink. Even if the students were minors, who is Schultz to put herself between them and books? To be honest, I have the same question for parents who want to prevent other people’s children from reading certain books.

My experience as a librarian and a reader is that every one is different. Not only do we have different tastes in genre and style, we also have our own boundaries when it comes to what we can tolerate when it comes to violence, language, sex, and other possibly offensive material. To make the same rules about what can and can’t be read for everyone is simply absurd. Maren Williams’s article for the Comic Books Legal Defense Fund quotes the instructor of Schultz’s class, Ryan Barlett, on his book selections:

I chose several highly acclaimed, award-winning graphic novels in my English 250 course not because they are purportedly racy but because each speaks to the struggles of the human condition. As Faulkner states, “The only thing worth writing about is the human heart in conflict with itself.” The same may be said about reading literature. The characters in the chosen graphic novels are all struggling with issues of morality, self discovery, heartbreak, etc. The course in question has also been supported by the faculty, administration and approved by the board.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

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4 thoughts on “Here come the Puritans

  1. What I love about content boundaries is, not only are they all different person to person, but they are all different medium to medium. If you were comparing my book boundaries versus my movie boundaries versus my audio boundaries it would make many laugh. I’m inconsistent within mediums as well, my fiction/non-fiction boundaries are hillarious. I cannot be consistent within myself, so how can I expect to pass along my judgements to anyone else.

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  2. I am completely speechless about such a controversy. That said, over here nobody would be given the chance to be put out of his/her comfort zone because such a class doesn’t exist in the curriculum at all unless you’re preparing for PhD.

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    1. Annie

      Interesting. Where is “over here,” if I might ask?

      I used the title “Here come the Puritans” for this post because things like this seem to be happening more and more often–or, at least, they’re being reported in the media more often. Americans seem to be sliding backwards socially…Which is why I think we–as a society–need to read books about other points of view and ways of life.

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      1. Over here is France actually. We have quite a conservative view on literature, although teachers profess that students should indeed broaden their horizon by reading different books (… or any book really, but that’s another point). The thing is that they wouldn’t suggest anything as far away from the main curriculum that remains very dead white males, such as Corneille, Molière, Voltaire and the likes, even when they enjoy reading books like Persepolis on their own free time. They might recommend titles to students or would try to lure students in by showing a graphic novel inspired by classics, but to spend a whole term on contemporary graphic novels such as Persepolis or others is unthinkable, even more getting credits towards your degree from it.

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