In honor of tonight’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship, we bring you basketball-themed book censorship. Indeed, a story about a basketball star really is at the heart of a controversy in Council Bluffs, Iowa, where one parent has challenged Hoops by Walter Dean Myers. But the basketball itself doesn’t seem to be the main problem. The parent objects to profanity and derogatory language and sexual content in the book. Her twin sons, both sixth graders, brought the book home from their elementary school. (Sixth grade is part of elementary school in the district.)
The boys chose the book as part of a guided reading program for their Reading/Language Arts class. Although the parent was offered alternative assignments, she is asking that the book be banned throughout the district because she says it is not “age-appropriate.” A committee is reviewing the book and will meet next week to decide whether to keep, remove, or restrict it.
As the Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil noted in an editorial on Thursday:
The types of behavior chronicled in the book do occur, and simply banning the book from the school district’s shelves will not bring an end to those behaviors. …
At first blush, Wheeldon’s compromise – limiting the book to age-appropriate grade levels, providing the book is removed from elementary schools – might appear an appropriate solution. But who decides what is “age appropriate.”
Well said. While parents may request alternative reading for their children, they don’t have a right to make choices for all parents and students. Library and classroom materials should be selected on the basis of objective, educational criteria, and not a particular viewpoint. We urge the committee to keep the book in the library and on classroom reading lists, available to all.