East Wake’s School of Engineering Systems will no longer allow students to read “The Bluest Eye” as part of a class assignment. The Toni Morrison novel, with its graphic description of child rape, is certainly not appropriate for every child to read, but the decision to ban material based on its subject matter is a harmful regression from the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.
Banning a book – no matter the harshness of its content – serves no useful purpose. It is folly to think that children of a high school age are not aware that such activities happen, or that some people espouse thoughts that are reprehensible to the mainstream of society.
Book bans eliminate the opportunity for mature, reasoned discussion and consideration of the larger themes represented by what may be a distasteful narrative.
School leaders would have served their students better by enacting some restrictions on the use of the book as a classroom assignment. Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple” was treated with a much more reasoned approach. The book wasn’t banned, but additional rules were put into place to ensure that parents are part of the decision-making process before a child reads a book of a sensitive nature.
That approach works because parents have the opportunity to determine for themselves whether their child is mature enough to handle the subject matter and react to it in an appropriate way. But it stops short of making a broad determination that no student is capable of handling the material properly.
If, as most educators hope, high school is a stopping point to higher education, it seems to us students would be better served if they are exposed to some of the same kinds of materials and the same kinds of expectations they will see in an institution of higher learning. Education leaders at that level learned long ago that book bans are not the best way to go when it comes to dealing with objectionable material.
In this case, we wish East Wake leaders had taken a similar approach.