Q: Why is it that when I am on vacation and have more time to write, I don’t write at all?
A 1: When I’m teaching, I’m thinking. When I’m thinking, I usually have something to say about it eventually.
A 2: I thrive on being busy / I have not mastered the art of leisure.
Well, here goes. One thing I have been planning to write about for a long time is censorship.
Also known as: which books are appropriate to teach in Catholic schools? How do we determine “appropriateness”?
This question came to my attention this past year when a parent strongly objected to teaching Homer’s Iliad in another teacher’s class because of some “vulgar language” contained in the translation.
As in, the parent demanded that The Iliad be taken completely off the reading list.
My guess is that this request came from ignorance and fear than rational concern, but it certainly got me thinking again.
The question had arisen earlier as well during my job interview. I was asked which books I would be unwilling to teach in a Catholic school, and was strongly pushed toward excluding anything by Toni Morrison.
I am no fan of Morrison, but quite honestly, if I were asked to teach one of her books, I would not have any moral qualms doing so.
Here is my abbreviated answer, in which I replied in as measured a tone as I could muster:
“Well, my usual approach is to be unafraid of controversial literature. I believe all works can be studied with a Catholic perspective, even if the work itself challenges Church teaching. Especially at the high school level, students are being bombarded constantly by anti-Christian propaganda. Sheltering them from this is very unwise. It would be far better to teach them how to encounter and wrestle with such texts.”
This of course is not to say that ALL texts are appropriate for secondary school.
This is also not to say that all texts merit serious reading at all. There is plenty of trash out there that we can rule out.
The real question arises, I believe, when you are confronted with a work of literary merit that rather obstinately challenges Church teaching or, worse, advocates an anti-Catholic worldview.
It’s difficult (and, I believe, rather unhelpful) to talk about this question too abstractly. So, what books do you think are especially relevant to this question in terms of the Catholic high school classroom?