Let’s Sanitize Everything

There must be something in the air that is making people over-react to things. First it was the school system in California pulling all the Meriam Webster Dictionaries because they contain words that are not age appropriate. Now a Virginia school system is taking a book off school library shelves for similar reasons.

Apparently a parent complained about sexual references in a version of Anne Frank’s diary, and the response by the Culpeper County school system was to pull all copies of the book.

The book has been printed in more than one edition, and the one in question is “The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition. A spokesman for the county said the school system will use an alternative version of the diary that does not contain such references.

As I said in my commentary about the issue with the dictionary, this is a lot of unnecessary furor. The Diary of Anne Frank is a book of particular historical and social importance, and when teachers are using it as a reference book, I am sure the focus is on something other than sexual encounters. The diary chronicles the life of a young Jewish girl who hid from the Nazis from July 1942 until she was arrested in August 1944. She died in a German concentration camp.

The parents who object to the sexual references in that book are probably the same parents who let their kids watch prime time television, which is filled with sexual references. So it is okay to watch a couple “getting it on” on Desperate Housewives, but it is not okay for a student to learn that rape is a part of any war, or that soldiers take advantage of young prisoners?

I don’t know what the sexual material is in the book. All I remember from reading it is the plight of this teenage girl, the courage of the family that helped her, and the atrocities of that war and those concentration camps.

That is what students today should remember long after reading the book. And parents should talk to their children about the sensitive subjects instead of trying to sanitize everything the child reads.

3 thoughts on “Let’s Sanitize Everything”

  1. The first time I heard a “dirty” joke was in the second grade. Granted, we really didn’t know what it really meant, but still …
    At the same time, most second graders aren’t able to comprehend everything about a book like this one, either.
    This isn’t the first time the diary has been banned and I’m sure it won’t be the last. I have a real problem with “censuring” books, but maybe that’s the journalist in me (freedom of speech and all that).
    Then again, I was reading at college level by the time I was in the fifth grade and had to be in a special advanced class. The teacher I had explained a lot of the parts of the books we read. For example, when the characters said a “cuss” word, such as “damn,” she gave us the true definitions so we would understand why that word was being used in that particular case. We weren’t offended and there was no giggling or smirking. We were trusted to show the maturity that went along with our reading abilities.
    In the case of Anne Frank’s diary, this is a key piece of the history of the world. It tells a fascinating story and helps the reader understand a little better the consequences of Hitler’s rise to power.
    I say, leave the book on the shelf. Let the parent decide if he or she wants her child to read it or not. Just like the TV, the parents can take the initiative and put the remote away if they don’t want their child watching a particular show.

  2. You are so right, LuAnn. In the right setting with the right guidance, young students can handle most touchy subjects. The hews story I read did not say what age student prompted the protest of the book, but I really doubt is is used for students in early elementary. I know students are more advanced than when I was in school, but still, even the historical material seems more suited for high school or middle school.

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