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SF Banned From Classroom

The science fiction novella Stories for Men by John Kessel has been banned from a high school English class in Seaside, Oregon.

I read this finalist for the 2004 novella Nebula Award about six months ago and rated it a 5 out of 5. The things I do remember about the story are not objectionable, but judge for yourself.

[via Locus Online]

About John DeNardo (13014 Articles)
<p>John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.</p>

7 Comments on SF Banned From Classroom

  1. Book banning is nothing new, but alas, it’s a fact of life in our prudish but free society. I haven’t read the work, but as everyone knows, it takes a lot to offend me.

    To the principal of Seaside High School, perhaps he can lead his school in a Book Burning exercise to purge the world of “offensive” literature starting with assorted works of D.H Lawrence…

    While we’re on the topic of censorship, the SFSignal filter has deemed that the above content objectionable, though it called it “questionable.” I had to use my administrative access to bypass the filter.

  2. Banning and/or burning of any books is so small minded that I cannot believe that we even consider ourselves advanced enough to realize that with freedom of speech – there will be things that some folks dont agree with. That goes with the whole freedom thing. Also, I am really not sure where Pete was going with his post, but maybe if he posted a “Guide to Pete’s Postings” we would all know 😛

  3. Sorry, I was being ironic/satirical in the 2nd paragraph. Basically, in my meandering but all too subtle way, I was commenting on the irony of the prevalence of events like book banning in contrast with our otherwise totally free society — one would think that the two would be mutually exclusive…

    The italicized part was just something humorous that happened: I was making THAT very post when SFSignal decided that its content was offensive and refused to let me post it — after talking to John and looking at the filters, neither one of us can come up with a reason why it refused me so I broke out the big guns and posted from “behind the scenes”…

    something is wrong, i couldn’t post this one either

  4. Unlike some of the clowns here, I’ve actually read the short story. While I agree there is nothing pornographic, or even graphic, in the story, the themes, questions and situations it covers are not for the younger set. I’d say this is a junior/senior level story because of that. Do we know what grade level this was taught in?

    As an aside, why couldn’t my high school have a SF-lit class? I’d have been all over that class, much like the ‘Advanced Reading’ class I took. And tried to convince the teacher her son ought to read Battlefield Earth. What can I say, I was a sophomore at the time.

    Yes, 20 years later I still live in the same school district…

  5. It was a high school class, JP. The link has been updated, so the story no longer appears. However…go, go gadget Google-Cache!

    Author speaks about censorship in the classroom

    by Stephathnie Scordia, Seaside Signal

    The right to intellectual freedom came under fire recently when a science-fiction short story was removed from an English class at Seaside High School. SHS English teacher Jan Priddy has taught her science-fiction course as an elective for several years. In the class, Priddy gives her students a choice between the short story “Stories for Men” by John Kessel, or a short story by Mark Twain. Because each student was able to choose which work they wished to read, the arrangement worked out well for everyone.

    This year, however, one of her students upset by the content of “Stories for Men,” shared the story with her mother, Kathy Wilson, who was similarly upset over the sexual content of the short story.

    Wilson contacted Seaside High School Principal Don Wickersham to discuss her concerns over the short story?s content. Initially, Wickersham was not familiar the work, but, after reading the passages in question, found them to be “inappropriate.” Wickersham next met with Priddy who “saw where it could be deemed inappropriate and chose to remove it from her class,” Wickersham said.

    As a result, “Stories for Men” is no longer available for any student to read in Priddy?s class, Wickersham said. Priddy refused to comment, but in an earlier statement to the press said that she was aware that some people might find portions of “Stories for Men” objectionable but that it is necessary to read the entire work to understand its meaning.

    Upon hearing of the situation here in Seaside, the work?s author, John Kessel, has offered to talk with parents, teachers and administrators, “should they wish to understand what I think this story is about and how I hope that it would cause young people to think about their attitudes toward men and women in society.”

    “It is unfortunate when students are prevented from reading and discussing work in the classroom,” Kessel continued. “The English classroom is one of the last places in our society where young people who are going to be the citizens of the future are challenged to think, to develop their values, to test their understanding of people and society against what thoughtful people have written in times before them and in our own.”

    The case against “Stories for Men” happened to occur during the American Library Association?s Banned Books Week. Banned Books Week was created in 1982 to celebrate the freedom to express one?s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular. According to the ALA Web site, Banned Books Week stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them, thus preserving intellectual freedom.

    Kessel believes that most good literature is meant to be provocative. “A good story?especially a good science fiction story?should make you question and think about things that you might otherwise take for granted.

    “It has never been my intent to offend readers for the sake of offending readers,” he continued, “it is unfortunate when students are prevented from reading and discussing work in the classroom.”

  6. I know it was high school, I wasn’t sure what grade. I think there are stories that would be appropriate for seniors, or even juniors, to read that I wouldn’t let freshmen read. This would be one of those stories. That said, I don’t think there is anything in this story to get terribly upset over.

    I would let my 17-18 year old read this with no problem. I might not let him (when he gets there) Altered Carbon at that age, as a for instance.

  7. By 17-18, he would seen what was depicted in Altered Carbon in full-color DVD quality video…

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