Slaughterhouse-Five banned by US school
Kurt Vonnegut’s celebrated second world war satire censored along with teen novel Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler
Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five and young adult novel Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler have both been banned from a school curriculum and library in a Missouri school following complaints from a local professor about children being exposed to “shocking material”.
Ockler’s novel, which tells of a girl’s summer romance as she attempts to get over the death of her first love a year earlier, is being removed from the school curriculum and library in Republic, Missouri, along with Kurt Vonnegut’s classic novel Slaughterhouse-Five. The ban follows a complaint from Wesley Scroggins, a professor at Missouri State University, who wrote in a column for a local paper last year claiming that Vonnegut’s novel “contains so much profane language, it would make a sailor blush with shame”. He said that Ockler’s book, described by Kirkus Reviews as a “sincere, romantic tearjerker”, “glorifies drunken teen parties, where teen girls lose their clothes in games of strip beer pong”, and laid into Laurie Halse Anderson’s acclaimed novel Speak, which he felt “should be classified as soft pornography”.
Scroggins’s complaints sparked a review by the district school board, which voted this week to keep Speak but to remove the novels by Vonnegut and Ockler. Twenty Boy Summer focused on “sensationalising sexual promiscuity”, Superintendent Vern Minor told the News-Leader. “I just don’t think it’s a good book. I don’t think it’s consistent with these standards and the kind of message that we want to send,” he said. “If the book had ended on a different note, I might have thought differently.” Slaughterhouse-Five, meanwhile, contains “really, really intense” language and does not have “any place in high school”, according to Minor.
Following the decision to remove her novel from school shelves in Missouri, Ockler said that “you can ban my books from every damn district in the country — I’m still not going to write to send messages or make teens feel guilty because they’ve made choices that some people want to pretend don’t exist. That’s my choice. And I’ll never be ashamed of my choice to write about real issues.”
Writing on her blog, Ockler was adamant that “not every teen who has sex or experiments with drinking feels remorseful about it. Not every teen who has sex gets pregnant, gets someone pregnant, or contracts an STD. Not every teen who has sex does so while in a serious relationship. Not every teen who has sex outside of a relationship feels guilty, shameful, or regretful later on.”
The “crazy train”, she added, “has finally derailed” following the Missouri ban. “Look, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a million times more. I get that my book isn’t appropriate for all teens, and that some parents are opposed to the content. That’s fine. Read it and decide for your own family. I wish more parents would do that — get involved in their kids’ reading and discuss the issues the books portray. But don’t make that decision for everyone else’s family by limiting a book’s availability and burying the issue under guise of a ‘curriculum discussion’.”
Scroggins, meanwhile, told the News Leader that while it was “unfortunate [the board] chose to keep the other book [Speak] … I congratulate them for doing what’s right and removing the two books”.