Thursday, September 27, 2012

Banned Books Week

It's that time of year again. The last week of September each year is dedicated to the awareness and discussion of banned books in schools, libraries, everywhere.
I can't remember if I've posted anything on the subject before, but I thought it wouldn't hurt to talk about it again.
So a few years ago, I was taking a small four week writing class at my little home school and one of the subjects we were given to write about was Banned Book Week. It was the first time I'd ever heard of the subject. And it fascinated me. That there were people out there who wanted to stop the circulation of some books I hold very dear to my heart, like Harry Potter and To Kill A Mockingbird. And the I met people who actually wanted to censor books. At my church, at my school, everywhere. I'm not talking about parents not letting their kid read a book; that's fine. But people who were for the censorship of books. I'd even  heard a story about someone who had to read a banned book for summer reading at school and failed all the work on it because their mom wouldn't let them read it!
I find stuff like this appalling. Not to sound like your grandpa, but book bannning doesn't hold up to American values, or even just the basics of being a good human being.

I'm one to talk though. If I'm reading or watching something that makes me uncomfortable, I stop, and because of that, my parents don't have to keep a very tight leash on what I do. Even if something does make me slightly uncomfortable, I'll talk to them about it. And my mom does read a lot of the books I do. We've both really enjoyed Markus Zusak's Book Theif, The Hunger Games, Veronica Roth's Divergent novels, so on so forth. Other kids don't work like that.

I'm not saying that we should put Fifty Shades of Grey in a seven year old's hands. I'm just calling for a bit of reason.

So here's what I, along with thousands of others, believe about book censorship: It depends on  your kid. One fourteen year old could handle The Hunger Games or Laurie Halse Anderson's much challenged Speak. Another may not. It all depends on the level of maturity your on. There are probably grown adults who couldn't handle Speak or something like The Perks of Being A Wallflower. But never under any condition would I listen to someone who told  me that Harry Potter is inappropriate, or that I shouldn't read Twlight (although I'm not doing that again). It's mine and my parent's choices, not yours.



Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Things Public Schools Could Learn From Hogwarts

This post was partially inspired by Hank Green's fantastic Harry Potter song "This Isn't Hogwarts'.
In the video where he posts the song, he notes that the public school system could learn a thing or two from Hogwarts. Well, since I'm currently sitting by myself in a public school classroom (don't worry, we're on break), I thought I'd take a moment and write some things I think that my school could use from our wizard friends.

1. Cafeteria food. Do I even need to say so much. I get hungry every time I read or watch a Potter book or movie, just because the stupid house elves cook up all the good stuff. I'm not saying that we need to have Halloween feasts and stuff, but the stuff that gets served here is not exactly edible.

2. Experience learning. What do Hogwarts kids do when they're learning about potions? Make them. What happens when they're learning about plants? They go outside to actually work with the plants. What do you do when you learn about chemicals in high school? Write down some formulas and forget about it the next day. What do we do when we learn about businesses and how to dress for success? (I should mention that I have to take a business tech class. It's required.) Arguably, experience learning is the best way to learn. We should do more of it.

3. Houses. While the Hogwarts houses determine mostly where you live, I think that adding a house-like system with names and colors based on student interests might make for an interesting social experiment.  I know for me at least that it's really hard to make friends, because  the cliques from middle school are still effective because they all got classes together (I don't know if I ever published that thought but my mom once said that all the cliques are going to break up 'cause they'll all have different classes. They outsmarted us on that one). If we were sorted into something like houses, we'd have an immediate something to talk about with a lot of people and similar interests. I hate to put people in a box, but this might work, seeing as most high schoolers are pretty socially awkward.

What do you think? I'm probably just insane.


A Thought on The Hunger Games and The Hipster Complex

As most you know by this point, two years ago, I read a fantastic little novel called The Hunger Games. And then the novel became wildly popular and was made into a great movie and now girls around the world are wearing Team Peeta shirts.
While I love that I get to discuss such an awesome book/movie with so many people, something just seems really weird and meta about The Hunger Games popularity.
I've talked to my family a lot (They've all seen the movie or read the book) about how I think it's funny that the whole point of these books is that we force these children to fight each other in an arena until there's only one left and then they make celebrities, and yet that latter bit is kind of what we're doing in real life. Every time I see Mockingjay earbuds, or Katniss and Peeta cardboard cut-outs, I can't help but think of some similar instance in the book and think 'NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!" Something just seems incredibly off about this.
And that's when I realized I had a hipster complex.
Hipster complex (n)- A complex one develops when they've been involved with a group or fandom for longer than most fans. A hipster complex leads one to believe they have more of a say in how a fandom orchestrates itself because they've been around longer, even though most of the time they have no creative control over anything to do with the production of the movie/group/show/book/.
And I have one of those with The Hunger Games.Even though I know nobody on the production team (well, my mom had a class with Woody Harrelson in college, but that's beside the point), I somehow believe that I know more about this and care more deeply about it than other people. Not okay, I know. I need to get into some Hipster Complex Anonymous sessions.
But anyway, I did find a little point in this mess that still bothers me. And I'd to hear some reader's thoughts on this as well.
Do you think the Hunger Games is over-merchandised?
I get that we don't live in Panem. I understand that Katniss and Prim and Peeta and Gale and Haymitch and Effie and Cinna aren't real. But the whole point of these books was that this future might not be that far away. And I'm not saying it's wrong to own a Mockingjay pin or a t-shirt either. But the pillow cases and cardboard cutouts and whatnot are still a little creepy when put in context with the book.
But I digress. This is the last I shall ever speak/write of the subject, something my family is probably celebrating.  So when Girl Scout Camp comes around and we do a Hunger Games theme, I'll just roll with it.