If you read many blogs, you’ll know that this story is all over the internet. You can check out John Green’s post about it here, but the gist of the story is that his brilliant debut novel, Looking For Alaska, was challenged as part of an eleventh-grade English class’s curriculum. Parents had already given their permission for kids to read the book, but then one mother (of a ninth grader, I think, not even a kid in the class) said that it should not be in school at all. She said it was disgusting and pornographic.
This is ridiculous on so many levels. First of all, on the more general level, censorship is just wrong. People should have the right to read what they want, and even if parents regulate what their own kid reads (which I think is a bad idea, but I guess that’s their right), they have no right whatsoever to regulate what other kids read! Looking for Alaska would, in my opinion, be a valuable addition to an English class. People might actually read it. Sorry to English teachers out there, but I’m in eleventh grade and more kids in my English class probably read Sparknotes than actually read the books. It’s hard to relate to a lot of the stuff we read in there, if you can even understand it properly. Who in the world understands Shakespeare on the first reading? I don’t care if they are timeless stories, no teenager has any clue what he’s rambling on about the first time they read his work (unless they watch the movies). You’ve got to analyze it, learn what half the words mean, and read it more than once. Contemporary literature is a lot easier to relate to and understand, and still communicates a lot of the important themes and literary techniques and everything that we talk about with the classics.
Also, the content of Looking For Alaska that is being questioned is realistic. Has this woman met many high schoolers? This isn’t true of all of us (it’s not true of me), but there are certainly a lot of teenagers for whom sex and alcohol and other things are a part of their real lives. Putting this in a contemporary context, in a realistic, relatable context, in the safety of an English class, is a good opportunity for discussion.
And Looking For Alaska is an amazing book, and this woman is trying to deprive people of the opportunity to read it! Many people, even those who read the assigned books for English class, don’t read for pleasure. Teaching it could be the only way they’ll ever be introduced to great authors like John Green!