For my hot topics, i try to stay impartial. Well, as impartial as I can. I try to present all sides of an argument and not really give my own opinion. most of the time it works...but sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes, when it's a topic that hits close to home, i can present the facts, sure, but i also feel it's a necessity to tell you how i really feel.
Halton's Catholic school board has pulled Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass from its library shelves. Apparently, an internal memo was sent to elementary principals that said "the book is apparently written by an atheist where the characters and text are anti-God, anti-Catholic and anti-religion." Principals were also directed not to distribute the December Scholastic flyer to students because The Golden Compass is available for order.
This has become a topic of great debate. People are getting very angry and feelings are being hurt. Now, I have opinions, of course, and i respect those of others. All i know here is what i believe.
This is what i believe.
As a writer and an editor, in general, I don't believe in book censorship or book banning. (There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. Would i want "Young Nazis for Dummies" to be removed from my children's library shelves? certainly. but would i want a book written by a Holocaust denier to be removed? No. I will, at some point, want my children to understand that there are people out there who deny that the Holocaust exists. It will be something I will have to discuss with my children. Something i WANT to discuss with them.) I believe that not allowing children access to a book only makes it all that more attractive and enticing to readers. Aren't we better off using the book, if the child even chooses to read it at all, as a starting point for discussion?
As a parent, I believe I have the right to choose what my children read. and what they don't read. but, i do not have the right to make that decision for someone else's child. The Golden Compass is an award-winning book that has received praise and critical acclaim. It is, in my opinion, an excellent piece of fiction literature for YA; something that is not easy to find these days, trust me. It challenges children to think. Isn't that what we want? (as a side note, Pullman's book was published in 1995. How come it's only now, in 2007, that the book is being reviewed? Where were all the school boards then?) If a parent decides that his child isn't ready to deal with concepts yet, that's up to the parent, NOT up to the school board.
As a Jew, with immediate family members who are atheists, agnostics, jews, and christians, i don't believe any book written by people of other faiths about other faiths (especially FANTASY stories) would turn my child on or off of any religion. Books don't do that. Faith comes from within...not from books. Children read the books for what they are...and it's probably only once they are older that they will really 'get' the religious or non-religious connections. It wasn't until i was much, much older that i even know of any sort of religious factor in The Chronicles of Narnia. As a kid, they were fantasy stories. About children and animals and different worlds. They were not about religion to me. And The Golden Compass will not be about anti-religion for many, many children.
Now, I know many people who have completely different views on this matter, including our very own Beck. She and I are friends online, and even a little bit offline (I know her kids' names...neener, neener). I respect her opinions, no question. And I assume she'll respect mine. So, I'm opening up the floor for some HEALTHY debate people. I, of course, respect people of all faiths and people without faith, and I know some of the lines are non exactly clear-cut.