After considering challenges to dozens of books in its middle and high school libraries, the Canby School District has chosen to remove just one: Russian American novelist Vladimir Nabokov’s celebrated and frequently banned “Lolita.” Four other books were restricted to Canby High School students.
“The district followed our policy and procedure, establishing a committee made up of community partners, parents, district principals and district teachers to review the books,” the district wrote in a short statement. The process “concluded when the committee decided to continue use in district libraries of all books except one.”
The four books restricted to high school use are “A Court of Mist and Fury,” “A Court of Silver Flames,” and “A Court of Wings and Ruin,” by Sarah J. Maas and “Out of Darkness,” by Ashley Hope Perez.
I don’t have a particular problem restricting books to high school libraries. Surely it’s obvious that something at is age appropriate for 15-18 year-olds might not be for younger kids.
I also take a relatively broad view of what constitutes “educational,” though I concede that some works fail even this standard. I’m not advocating Hustler magazine for high school libraries. (I will advocate it for public libraries though. I see no reason to ban works of any kind from public libraries.)
Those two arguments, age appropriateness and educational value, are the only two I can think of that should lead to a ban or restriction. Other arguments like parental control of school materials, protecting moral values, and maintaining order and discipline are comparatively weak. Parents can opt their own kids out of a curriculum, but they don’t get to decide what everybody reads. Similarly, I don’t need a school district deciding what moral values are paramount in literature. I also have a heard time imagining a read assignment that breaks school order or discipline any more than it’s currently broken.
So I think banning “Lolita” is a mistake:
Often ranked among the greatest novels ever written, “Lolita” is framed as a fictional memoir and confessions of a middle aged professor obsessed with his 12-year-old stepdaughter. The book has inspired two film adaptations, including the Academy Award-nominated 1962 version directed by Stanley Kubrick. On Sunday, The New York Times wrote that “Lolita” may “constitute the most dazzling advertisement for the English language ever composed.”
I guess the Canby District is arguing what? No educational value? They don’t actually say what the rationale is. And that’s a problem too.