Reading this post in The Daily Dot this am, my own misreading of one sentence reminded me of a little publicized detail some data mining of library challenges/cries-for-bannings reveal.
First, my misreading: “One Facebook commenter assures the trans community that ‘if Ms. Klug had been assigned to high school, where the students are at better ages to understand,’ the parents would not have complained,” my hapless brain initially rendereded: “One Facebook commenter assures the trans community that ‘if Ms. Klug had been assigned to high school, where the parents are at better ages to understand,’ the parents would not have complained.”
Which brought to my mind (besides the nearly hourly reminder I send myself to read more carefully) the patterns discernible in the list of annually challenged titles published by ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom: parents, guardians and other “caregivers” appear to have the least tolerance for youthful intellectual freedom when said youth are at any of three specific developmental stages that, intererstingly, are tied directly to asserting independence from those same caregivers. Picture books, such as Sendak’s In the Night Kitchen, appeal to 4-year-olds who threaten to be aging out of tolerating 24 hour/day care provider oversight/interference–and might even have gone so far as to suggest they like the relative diversity of their friends/daycare buddies/neighboring families at least as well as the family that claims them as their own and provides the life that these experiences with those Other people allow. Next balloon on the reader audience age spectrum to warrant challenges by guardian adults encompasses those appealing to 11-year-olds (Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret may serve as a title many here can recognize), kids who just so happen to be entering that early adolescent development phase when they–horrors!–begin to prioritize peers above family members for their preferred social cohort. Next up: later adolescence, 16ish, an age synonymous in NA with drivers licensing, school sponsored dances that go til midnight, pairing up (ooo, we know what THAT can mean), and, not coincidentally, maturing analylitical capacity that prompts the reading of such undesirable texts as Morrison’s The Bluest Eye.
So, folks, it would seem that we have been going about this all wrong: we don’t need to protect kids from human diversity, from their own identity formation (including gender identification, sexual orientation, and whatever else each of us finds a necessary adjunct of who-the-hell-we-believe-ourselves-to-be-most-usness). It’s the fear and loathing of adults threatened by losing their personal power over their kids’ dependency we need to address.
Full disclosure: As a parent, I once told my–coincidentally then 11-year-old–to not explore some information independently. On the morning of September 11, 2001, he woke his parents to bring the news of the World Trade Towers bombing-by-passenger-jets, news he’d garnered when waking to the radio he had set to rouse himself with the morning news. Later that day, I had to travel, or chose to continue with my already made plans to travel, away from home for the night and he was well angry/fearful about my going then. And I told him to not watch television news, where I knew the morning’s multiple violences were being reviewed endlessly. (Ours was a home in which television news wasn’t watched as a matter of course, so my edict was demonstrably alerting to him in that fashion as well). Being a relatively respectful child, he did not turn on any television. Instead he hied himself off to the public library where he, with his trusty library card, got himself online to view the news on CNN via the Internet. Which led to my only moment of real outrage–not at him, but rather at the library staff member who recognized him and challenged him as to whether he had his parents’ approval to be viewing the news and then alerted me to his so doing. So, instead of sinking further into the slough of Sisyphean innocence protection, I instead wound up annoyed with a coworker for attempting to abrogate someone’s intellectual access and with trespassing on a library user’s privacy. Fortunately for said coworker and for myself, I kept these belated annoyances to myself.