Monday, July 23, 2007

Kids don't have the skills to filter offensive books

Vancouver Sun Letter
Monday, July 23, 2007

Re: It's not up to booksellers to censor offensive material, Guest Editorial, July 18

That's right: It's not up to private companies to determine and regulate offensive material. That is why concerned citizens, human-rights lawyers and the "anti-racism watchdog" in Britain are so important.

Cartoons with colonialist agendas are as hurtful and damaging as elitist fairy-tales and Disney films with sexist caricatures. They must be kept public, but out of children's sections and located in a context of critical perusing, i.e. as mature literature.

It is ultimately government's responsibility to control the display of educational material, of controlled literature (ref. Supreme Court Butler case), but a responsible big business can turn around and say, "Hey, it's in our best interest to file this next to The Merchant of Venice or Maus." For that much, I applaud Borders bookstores.

If it is impossible to "avoid offensive material and still be familiar with the classics," perhaps it is time for new classics and to change the way we read.

The B.C. Ministry of Education suggests that students should be competent at "reading strategically" and "making personal connections to texts" or "reading texts of different forms and genres" by Grades 5 according to the 2006 English curriculum. Are we expecting 10-year-olds to "get" the simian images and Eurocentric attitudes pervasive in Tintin in the Congo? The historical context?

The irony? That is silly. Tintin should still be read to kids, but by parents who can question why it is on the same shelf as Heart of Darkness.

Calen Nixon, Vancouver