The following was written by our own Ben Zoon, a talented Bookbyte employee and avid reader.
Ah, the start of the term, when countless shiny new textbooks are traded to college students in exchange for an arm and a leg. Meanwhile, last term’s books are being sold back for what seems like pennies on the dollar (unless you’re selling back to Bookbyte). It’s amazing how frequently textbooks get “updated” to new editions and seem to depreciate overnight. What then happens to all the old editions? They magically transform into some of the greatest bargains of our time!
Many modern college textbooks, especially the popular ones, are true works of art when you think about it. They’re overflowing with helpful pictures, diagrams, and charts. The text is written by some of the brightest educators in the country, whose passion truly shows through in their work. While I did my assigned reading in college, I would often find myself leafing forward a few chapters and marveling at the sheer quantity of blood, sweat, and tears that must have gone into producing it all.
Until recently, a Florida high school had a summer reading program that had everyone in the school, regardless of grade level, reading the same book. However, the school’s administration canned the program over the content of this year’s book, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow.
The reasoning is a bit odd. The school, or at least, the librarians and English teachers responsible for actually reading the book and writing discussion materials for the students, vetted it and found nothing inappropriate about it. The plug was pulled at the last minute by the school’s principal, who’s reasoning seems to be primarily based on online reviews. Those reviews mentioned that the book had a “positive view of questioning authority” and “lauding hacker culture.” The principal also said that he had received parent complaints about profanity, though the author insists the only profanity is one indirect reference.
(Even if the book was foul-mouthed, let’s all just admit that shielding 14- to 18-year-olds from naughty words is a losing battle. Personally, those were my peak cursing years.)
Book banning always struck me as a special kind of terrible. Not necessarily because of direct harm done — a student forbidden from reading, say Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, is not a different end result than just not having that book on the syllabus — but because of the principle. There’s no greater insult to the very idea of education and to the discerning capabilities of young minds than to say, “You students can’t handle this book. You need to be protected from it.” (more…)