What do “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” “All Quiet on the Western Front,” the Bible, “Brave New World,” “The Canterbury Tales,” “The Diary of Anne Frank,” “Doctor Zhivago,” “The Grapes of Wrath,” “Green Eggs and Ham,” and “1984” have in common?
All have been banned by various school and public libraries worldwide, just as one substitute teacher is urging Marion schools to do with the 2004 novel “Crank.”
We won’t argue that “Crank” is a literary classic on the level of “Of Mice and Men,” which the same schools briefly banned 40 years ago. But we will say that the book, written as a cautionary tale by a bestselling author whose daughter fell into a hell of meth addiction, has received wide critical praise.
It also has been the target of campaigns, orchestrated by mass emails to well-meaning true believers, to get it removed from libraries across the nation. In fact, it ranks, along with “Brave New World,” “The Hunger Games,” and “Twilight,” the latter two recently having been made into hugely popular movies, as one of the 10 most targeted books of militant moralists this decade.
The notion that children have never heard of the raw world that some of these books represent is simply ludicrous. On the other hand, the notion that more than a few lives might be saved by safely exposing curious children to the truth about the harsh reality of drug abuse is well worth any risk.
Reading isn’t just for entertainment. It’s also for education. Learning about life — the good and the bad, not just the happily-ever-after image of life that some media or parents might provide — is part of growing up.
We applaud the school board for its restraint and Principal Missy Stubenhofer’s for her policy that allows individual parents to block their children from certain books but ensures that others will have those books available to read and learn from.
While some of us may prefer to stick our heads in the sand, a safer position may be to open our eyes to the dangers books like this realistically explore. Meanwhile, “Crank” has probably become one of the most popular books in the school library. Trying to ban a book usually is the best way to increase its readership. Galileo taught us that.
— ERIC MEYER