For the second time in less than two weeks, someone has called for a book to be removed from Northern Guilford High School.
And for the second time, the school board rightly said no.
Banning books is bad policy, especially when there are alternatives for parents or students who oppose it.
In this case, ER Frank’s novel “Life is Funny” was not class reading. It was offered in the school library.
So the logical recourse for someone who doesn’t want to read it is, well, don’t check it.
“Life is Funny” tells the overlapping stories of a diverse cast of 11 teenagers living in Brooklyn.
As for the story that unfolded here, the hearing followed a familiar pattern. A Northern Guilford parent who questioned the sexual content of the book read a passage aloud to illustrate his point.
People are also reading…
At least in this case the parent, Jim Morris, hasn’t asked for the book to be removed altogether. He has asked that “Life is Funny” be made available only when parents have given prior approval for their children to read it.
Like the book unsuccessfully submitted a week earlier, “Salvage the Bones” by Jesmyn Ward, this selection was also appealed to the highest authority, the Board of Education, after previous complaints were rejected at the school level and by the review board. of the district.
School board member Linda Welborn also voiced her concerns Thursday about “Life is Funny,” just as she had about “Salvage the Bones,” a National Book Award winner being taught at an AP English Literature at Northern.
In addition to the sexual content, Welborn cited references in “Life is Funny” to self-harm and suicide. Welborn supported Morris’s suggestion that they seek parental approval and implement an alarm system.
But that would have been a solution looking for a problem.
As noted earlier, Guilford County’s school books policy is already quite reasonable and flexible. Students can choose not to read books that they or their parents find offensive or too explicit. They can read the books and skip questionable passages. Or they can choose an alternative reading task.
Ultimately the board voted 5-1 for the book to remain on the shelves without further restrictions. Better to err on the side of accessibility in a politically charged climate where all kinds of books have been questioned in recent years, from Toni Morrison’s ‘The Bluest Eye’ to ‘The Holy Bible’.
Nor is it a coincidence that book bans and challenges have recently escalated nationwide as part of a political movement that accuses school boards and school systems of attempting to indoctrinate students into a “woke” agenda and critical theory of race.
Incidentally, Publishers Weekly recommends “Life is Funny,” which it describes as “awesome,” for ages 12 and up. “The language is gritty and some of the storylines will be intense for young readers,” says a Publishers Weekly review, “but this is ultimately an uplifting book about resilience, loyalty, and courage.”
Says Booklist in a starred review: “First novelist Frank breaks new ground with a realistic and lyrical novel about eleven teenagers in Brooklyn Now. … Their speech is painful, rough, sexy, funny, fearful, furious, kind. Each chapter, each panel within a chapter, reaches its climax and the stories intertwine to surprise you.
At least the appeal in this case was more measured and less feverish than that regarding “Salvage the Bones,” in which some parents invoked heavy words like “pornographic” and “grooming” to describe its contents.
In the end, Frank’s book turns out to be right. Life is fun.
An attempt to limit the book may only have increased awareness of it.
It has been checked a total of only three times since 2013, noted school board vice president Winston McGregor.