Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Shameless Words

Recently - March 28th, to be exact - the New York City public schools banned 50 particular words from going onto future tests, no matter the subject. Most of the words were banned for being deemed "offensive", the rest for being too distracting.

In a FOX News radio report, specific reasons for each of three of the 50 words were given:

"Dinosaur": it might offend those who don't believe in evolution.
"Halloween": Possible support of Paganism, might be offensive to some.
"Birthday": it is a celebration not recognized by Jehovah's Witnesses.

But the list becomes more outlandish, with the banning of words like "computer", "dancing", "celebrities", and even "homes with swimming pools", which they deem to be a word.

My thoughts on this are the same as if I were to be asked to give my opinion on the banning of classic literature. Words and events in books that are largely banned from school curriculum are banned for causes that generally can be linked to human shame. Why should schools ban Huckleberry Finn from the curriculum just because the "N" word makes people uneasy? Or because the use of curse words in As I Lay Dying might influence students to speak likewise? If a student is reading these stories, they will find that the story would lack loads of meaning should the "offensive" dialogue be taken out of it. Mark Twain was clearly not racist in writing Huckleberry Finn - as the events and how they unravel would entail. Each of the 219 "nigger" words in the book were placed exactly in the book where Twain wanted to elicit strong emotion in the reader. He wanted the reader to feel for Jim every time they heard this "offensive" word, and with those feelings we get a better picture of what Jim went through and what the surrounding characters felt about him.

In As I Lay Dying, we start to realize the differences in Jewel and figure out the mystery of him through the strong dialogue he provides. Without this explicit language, author William Faulkner would not have such a deep way of communicating to readers of the language that sets Jewel apart from the rest of his family.

With these two largely controversial banned books, we can see that the author's placement of the words and choice of words are what add to the dynamic of the books. To say that students cannot read a book because of explicit language is to rob them of books that have been made classic literature for a reason.

Who is to say that curse words, let alone the shameless words with which New York public schools have banned from tests, take away from our understanding of works and daily life? Words are words, and unless they are written for work that is meant for insightful purpose, they should be taken at face value.

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