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Community => General Discussion => Topic started by: KyriakosCH on 28 Dec 2020, 07:11

Title: Banning books is the dumb way to go
Post by: KyriakosCH on 28 Dec 2020, 07:11
Apparently schools in the US (and elsewhere) ban books written "more than 70 years ago", arguing that they include racist and other corrupt ideas which will harm the children.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/even-homer-gets-mobbed-11609095872?mod=hp_opin_pos_1

Quote from: Wall Street Journal article
A sustained effort is under way to deny children access to literature. Under the slogan #DisruptTexts, critical-theory ideologues, schoolteachers and Twitter agitators are purging and propagandizing against classic texts—everything from Homer to F. Scott Fitzgerald to Dr. Seuss.

Their ethos holds that children shouldn’t have to read stories written in anything other than the present-day vernacular—especially those “in which racism, sexism, ableism, anti-Semitism, and other forms of hate are the norm,” as young-adult novelist Padma Venkatraman writes in School Library Journal. No author is valuable enough to spare, Ms. Venkatraman instructs: “Absolving Shakespeare of responsibility by mentioning that he lived at a time when hate-ridden sentiments prevailed, risks sending a subliminal message that academic excellence outweighs hateful rhetoric.”

The subtle complexities of literature are being reduced to the crude clanking of “intersectional” power struggles. Thus Seattle English teacher Evin Shinn tweeted in 2018 that he’d “rather die” than teach “The Scarlet Letter,” unless Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel is used to “fight against misogyny and slut-shaming.”

Outsiders got a glimpse of the intensity of the #DisruptTexts campaign recently when self-described “antiracist teacher” Lorena Germán complained that many classics were written more than 70 years ago: “Think of US society before then & the values that shaped this nation afterwards. THAT is what is in those books.”

Jessica Cluess, an author of young-adult fiction, shot back: “If you think Hawthorne was on the side of the judgmental Puritans . . . then you are an absolute idiot and should not have the title of educator in your twitter bio.”

An online horde descended, accused Ms. Cluess of racism and “violence,” and demanded that Penguin Random House cancel her contract. The publisher hasn’t complied, perhaps because Ms. Cluess tweeted a ritual self-denunciation: “I take full responsibility for my unprovoked anger toward Lorena Germán. . . . I am committed to learning more about Ms. Germán’s important work with #DisruptTexts. . . . I will strive to do better.” That didn’t stop Ms. Cluess’s literary agent, Brooks Sherman, from denouncing her “racist and unacceptable” opinions and terminating their professional relationship.

The demands for censorship appear to be getting results. “Be like Odysseus and embrace the long haul to liberation (and then take the Odyssey out of your curriculum because it’s trash),” tweeted Shea Martin in June. “Hahaha,” replied Heather Levine, an English teacher at Lawrence (Mass.) High School. “Very proud to say we got the Odyssey removed from the curriculum this year!” When I contacted Ms. Levine to confirm this, she replied that she found the inquiry “invasive.” The English Department chairman of Lawrence Public Schools, Richard Gorham, didn’t respond to emails.

“It’s a tragedy that this anti-intellectual movement of canceling the classics is gaining traction among educators and the mainstream publishing industry,” says science-fiction writer Jon Del Arroz, one of the rare industry voices to defend Ms. Cluess. “Erasing the history of great works only limits the ability of children to become literate.”

He’s right. If there is harm in classic literature, it comes from not teaching it. Students excused from reading foundational texts may imagine themselves lucky to get away with YA novels instead—that’s what the #DisruptTexts people want—but compared with their better-educated peers they will suffer a poverty of language and cultural reference. Worse, they won’t even know it.

Mrs. Gurdon writes the Journal’s Children’s Books column.

Literature isn't politics. If you limit what children read to "books published less than 70 years ago" you just teach something not valuable next to what others would be learning. Besides, you can't erase any notion, at best you'll block the refined expression of it and leave your students with their own means; one has to suppose the smarter ones will just dismiss your books, but they wouldn't have better models to work with.
Maybe they should also ban math stuff produced less than 70 years ago, it'd be an equally good idea.

One would do well to realize that if an idea is more valuable, it will still shine through others. Banning books cause you are afraid they may influence people is just the fear of the incompetent.
Also reminds me of the nice starting paragraph of Borges' story "The Theologians":

Quote from: J.L.Borges
After having razed the garden and profaned the chalices and altars, the Huns entered the monastery library on horseback and trampled the incomprehensible books and vituperated and burned them, perhaps fearful that the letters concealed blasphemies against their god, which was an iron scimitar.
Title: Re: Banning books is the dumb way to go
Post by: Mandle on 28 Dec 2020, 07:43
I really hope, and suspect, that this is just a clickbait article concerning some fringe idiots who will go ignored, but published for the meanwhile to stir up some outrage and views.
Title: Re: Banning books is the dumb way to go
Post by: TheFrighter on 28 Dec 2020, 08:44

Clickbait from Wall Street Journal... who knows.

Funny thing that one of the books that could be banned in 2021 is The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe... a children's favourite!  :-\

_
Title: Re: Banning books is the dumb way to go
Post by: Khris on 28 Dec 2020, 13:16
WSJ seems biased here: https://twitter.com/DisruptTexts/status/1294468450895769600

Their official mission statement: https://disrupttexts.org/lets-get-to-work/
Title: Re: Banning books is the dumb way to go
Post by: Babar on 28 Dec 2020, 15:06
I don't think 'schools in the US (and elsewhere) ban books written "more than 70 years ago"' is a factual statement- apparent or not, from what little of the article I could read, or the links Khris provided.
Title: Re: Banning books is the dumb way to go
Post by: Danvzare on 28 Dec 2020, 15:45
I really hope, and suspect, that this is just a clickbait article concerning some fringe idiots who will go ignored, but published for the meanwhile to stir up some outrage and views.

9 times out of 10, stuff like this usually is just bait.  (nod)
It wouldn't surprise me if it was true though. Not that it would mean anything. I doubt any kid in the US is going to read a 70 year old book (or any book for that matter) unless they're forced to.  (laugh)
Title: Re: Banning books is the dumb way to go
Post by: Snarky on 28 Dec 2020, 17:05
"Ban" (or "deny children access to literature") seems a pretty extreme term for something that appears to be more accurately described as "exclude from the curriculum" — or, at most, "remove from the school library."

And we may agree or disagree with the arguments for and against specific books, but school reading lists have always been shaped by moral, political and didactic agendas and views about what is appropriate for children of a particular age. A hundred years ago there's no way they would give schoolchildren a book to read with the word "fuck" in it (of course, a hundred years ago it was almost impossible to have such a book printed in the first place), and it's similarly reasonable to decide today, for example, that we won't use any book with the N-word in class. Because we are influenced by what we read, children in particular.

That said, I do think schools should teach texts that reflect worldviews that differ from mainstream modern thought, both because you otherwise throw out a lot of great and culturally significant literature, and because it is important to show that people did think differently in the past, including that some prejudices were commonly accepted. And I definitely don't think you should exclude works that are in themselves unobjectionable simply because the author may have written or said other things we would find offensive. (So, for example, even if you decide against teaching The Merchant of Venice, that doesn't mean Shakespeare should be excluded from the curriculum altogether; nor should you throw out all books by Roald Dahl.)

Also, while I don't trust the WSJ to provide an unbiased summary of events, I definitely have misgivings about "cancel culture" when it goes after people who aren't "in the game" (pundits, political activists, etc.) with full force, including online harassment and threats to their careers, to punish stray comments.
Title: Re: Banning books is the dumb way to go
Post by: Crimson Wizard on 28 Dec 2020, 18:04
This reminds me, some of the books of classic Russian authors (like Gogol, and probably Pushkin too, although my memories are vague on this) are today published with slight edits, for example the word for "jew" used in original text is considered a slur today, so it is often replaced with contemporary name.
Title: Re: Banning books is the dumb way to go
Post by: KyriakosCH on 28 Dec 2020, 19:19
Imo Gogol was one of the greatest writers of all time, and the best of the russian iron century.
Some of his stories are amazing. Particularly (of course) the Overcoat, but also the Dream of a Madman and a couple of others.
Too bad he had a Pessoa vibe and collapsed.
Title: Re: Banning books is the dumb way to go
Post by: Crimson Wizard on 28 Dec 2020, 19:23
Imo Gogol was one of the greatest writers of all time, and the best of the russian iron century.

"Iron century"? Unless that's a typo, I must admit to never hear the term used in this context. In relation to literature we call it "golden age", maybe it is similar meaning?
Title: Re: Banning books is the dumb way to go
Post by: KyriakosCH on 28 Dec 2020, 19:29
Imo Gogol was one of the greatest writers of all time, and the best of the russian iron century.

"Iron century"? Unless that's a typo, I must admit to never hear the term used in this context. In relation to literature we call it "golden age", maybe it is similar meaning?

Just translating literally from the term used in greek. I suspected in turn that it was some french term; less likely it became an expression in 19th century Greece to contrast with the "golden century" which is the ancient name for Perikles leadership of Athens  :=
It was also a typo too, since the actual expression is "silver aeon" (αργυρούς αιών)...
Title: Re: Banning books is the dumb way to go
Post by: Blondbraid on 28 Dec 2020, 23:13
"Ban" (or "deny children access to literature") seems a pretty extreme term for something that appears to be more accurately described as "exclude from the curriculum" — or, at most, "remove from the school library."

And we may agree or disagree with the arguments for and against specific books, but school reading lists have always been shaped by moral, political and didactic agendas and views about what is appropriate for children of a particular age. A hundred years ago there's no way they would give schoolchildren a book to read with the word "fuck" in it (of course, a hundred years ago it was almost impossible to have such a book printed in the first place), and it's similarly reasonable to decide today, for example, that we won't use any book with the N-word in class. Because we are influenced by what we read, children in particular.

That said, I do think schools should teach texts that reflect worldviews that differ from mainstream modern thought, both because you otherwise throw out a lot of great and culturally significant literature, and because it is important to show that people did think differently in the past, including that some prejudices were commonly accepted. And I definitely don't think you should exclude works that are in themselves unobjectionable simply because the author may have written or said other things we would find offensive. (So, for example, even if you decide against teaching The Merchant of Venice, that doesn't mean Shakespeare should be excluded from the curriculum altogether; nor should you throw out all books by Roald Dahl.)

Also, while I don't trust the WSJ to provide an unbiased summary of events, I definitely have misgivings about "cancel culture" when it goes after people who aren't "in the game" (pundits, political activists, etc.) with full force, including online harassment and threats to their careers, to punish stray comments.
I think that summons up my problem with these kinds of discussions perfectly.
It reminds me of Jim Sterling's video on editing versus censorship:
Title: Re: Banning books is the dumb way to go
Post by: Ali on 28 Dec 2020, 23:46
Syllabi and school libraries are limited by necessity. I think it's better to be arguing for the inclusion of a writer rather than against the inclusion of another writer. But in many cases, adding one thing means taking away another. Saying, "lets have more black writers" is no more "banning" texts than saying "no, let's keep it the same" is.

Here's one of the tweets they're talking about: https://twitter.com/nenagerman/status/1333449963401924609 It has fewer than 200 retweets.

Here's one of the other teachers, refuting the claim that she celebrated the "banning" of the Odyssey: https://twitter.com/MrsHLevine/status/1343404408684617730

Obviously, the women quoted in this article are now receiving abusive and racist messages. This is pearl-clutching at best. At worst, it casts school teachers of no particular influence as Stalinist totalitarians, and puts them in the sights of some of the most unpleasant reactionary racists on the internet.
Title: Re: Banning books is the dumb way to go
Post by: KyriakosCH on 29 Dec 2020, 05:12
(https://i.imgur.com/z4f5YM4.png)

That tweeter causes problems for people posting is nothing new, including harassment. Then again sometimes the idiocy of the original post doesn't help.

(https://i.imgur.com/yiJ7nUQ.png)

If one just wants to say something colorful, with no consequences, they should just post in a web forum about some game  ;)
Title: Re: Banning books is the dumb way to go
Post by: Ali on 29 Dec 2020, 10:18
Okay, so are we saying that "cancel culture" is acceptable when educators are abused for de-contectualised tweets that got 3 likes, but unacceptable when educators try to influence the curriculum they teach?

The Odyssey wasn't on the curriculum when I went to school (but I have read it because it wasn't banned). I don't see why removing it should scandalise anyone.
Title: Re: Banning books is the dumb way to go
Post by: KyriakosCH on 29 Dec 2020, 11:32
I think it is not very good if one is a teacher, to say nonsense of the kind "I'd rather die before teaching Homer (or Shakespeare) again!".
Tbh, anyone so clueless about the text would be doing more harm "teaching" it. I do suspect this is what it's about, though - namely that those teachers are just not able to do what they are paid to do, so opt for some lame text they think they can grasp instead. But it's really terrible to be proud of being bad at your work, or mask that as something supposedly positive. Maybe the myth of the fox and the grapes, by Aesop, should be banned too; it's not that the fox can't reach the high grapes, they must be sour.
Obviously those works they don't want to teach will stay important long after these teachers have shuffled off this mortal coil.
Title: Re: Banning books is the dumb way to go
Post by: Ali on 29 Dec 2020, 12:10
I'm not aware of anyone flatly refusing to teach Shakespeare or Homer because they're too stupid or too bored, or because they want to replace it with something 'lame'. It's insulting for you to insist on that, and it's bizarre that you keep repeating the article's false assertion that classics are being banned. You seem to be deliberately ignoring what the people you disagree with have actually written.

We can all get nice and cross about imaginary scenarios that upset us, but whipping up anger against real people over utter flim-flam is dangerous.
Title: Re: Banning books is the dumb way to go
Post by: heltenjon on 29 Dec 2020, 12:39
The Odyssey is hardly on the curriculum in Norway either, but the pupils are taught some things about the contents of the work. A discussion such as this is fruitless if there is no context. What age group are we taling about, and what country? I guess that Greek children ought to know more about the Odyssey than others - it's part of their national/historical heritage to a greater degree than in other parts of the world.

My view is that young pupils should get text they may enjoy and understand, in order to teach them reading and hopefully give them a good experience. Then they should gradually be introduced to more complexity. The goal shouldn't be that they like everything, but that they know that it exists and can make an informed choice when they are of age. Let's face it, reading the classics in old language editions are for the specially interested.
Title: Re: Banning books is the dumb way to go
Post by: KyriakosCH on 29 Dec 2020, 13:10
I'm not aware of anyone flatly refusing to teach Shakespeare or Homer because they're too stupid or too bored, or because they want to replace it with something 'lame'. It's insulting for you to insist on that, and it's bizarre that you keep repeating the article's false assertion that classics are being banned. You seem to be deliberately ignoring what the people you disagree with have actually written.

We can all get nice and cross about imaginary scenarios that upset us, but whipping up anger against real people over utter flim-flam is dangerous.

Hey, I am sometimes a little theatrical in my web posting. But it's part of the point: we are discussing this in a web forum, we aren't making announcements on twitter nor are we using our job titles linked to the announcement. Different scope and responsibility, surely?  :)

@Heltenjon: yes, although one has to suppose that the Odyssey has a place in any literature class; they don't need to present the entire work (actually we didn't get the whole epic poem presented to us either when in the first year of highschool; actually I think it's "middleschool" in the US; when we were 13).
Title: Re: Banning books is the dumb way to go
Post by: Ali on 29 Dec 2020, 13:51
I don't see how posting on a forum is any different to tweeting from an account with relatively few followers to very little engagement. Even if the teachers had behaved irresponsibly (they haven't), digging up the tweets of people with no profile and publishing them in a national newspaper can be ethically troubling even when the content of the tweets is genuinely disturbing.

To be clear, the Odyssey could have a place in any literature class, but it definitely does not have a place on lots of curriculums. This is an absurd and calculated overreaction from anti-intellectual conservatives.
Title: Re: Banning books is the dumb way to go
Post by: Reiter on 29 Dec 2020, 14:58
Truly, articles such as these are built for people like I to read, and go wild over. However, that same reason also means that I am particularly distrustful to such articles. This seems too outrageous to be entirely true. As the likely intended fish for this bait, I find it mediocre, odious and irresponsible.

Although I will concede that I think that if you, an English teacher, consider the Odyssey 'trash', then I jolly well think you have no blasted business what-ever in that field. Most children will likely find it quite boring, but it is their inheritance. Withholding it, even if they do not care for it, is frankly abominable. This matters. It is not but a past-time. It is a legacy, and such things are invaluable, no matter how ugly or stodgy. That is, if someone did say that. It seems unclear. This is a slanderous thing to say, if they have not. And even if they did say so, it does not warrant what this article has done.
I am particularly distressed that someone who, allegedly, said so, is presented with a full name but without context. It is simply not done. Particularly if the veracity of that claim is doubtful. Pundits and political figures, entities in 'the great game', can be 'called out'. What is effectively a civilian cannot.

I am sufficiently irritated by the very idea that Homer is outdated 'trash', and that anyone who professes to teach language seems to hold pride in the idea of getting those works scratched off the curriculum, that I would very much like to give them a piece of my mind – but I will not. What good would it do? None for me, none for them, what-ever. What good has this done, but given some very unpleasant people a place to pour bile? Particularly if it is not even quite true.
If that 'service' is intended for me, to give me something to shout at, then I decline it. Even if I do care, even if I will not take one step back on the question of Homer, this trial by pillory is utterly unworthy. Frankly, I find it irresponsible. Much more so than the individuals quoted.

Cancel culture is an odious and abominable phenomenon, but the best way to keep it in check is to not participate in it. This irresponsible article does, and it is most unimpressive. It is just about tempting people to succumb to poor form. Taking the necessary but also quite destructive need to speak your mind and turning it into a cudgel.

Now, more generally, curriculum and school literature is always a fine line. Indeed, some would wonder what is the use of teaching literature in the first place. What to teach, and why? What can a child read without damage? What to replace it with? And what is the good and proper thing to read now, at this time?
Of course, that will always be changing. As will the curriculum and the tolerable books. Is the point of teaching literature to give the children an idea of its history, of their legacy? Is the point to give them a certain outlook on life and literature? Is it about giving them a joy of reading, an appreciation of the written word's beauty? All? None?

It is an impossible equation, and yet we bungle on with it all the time. Much like schooling in general, I suppose, but it does mostly work. Agree or disagree on the particulars – I cannot imagine that anyone would not wish to give children their legacy, the knowledge that they are owed, the possibilities within that knowledge, and a glimpse of the beauty of all things.


The school library, however, is a different question.

I am forever hearing that tablets and reading devices are the future, since they can hold theoretically infinite books. Where they (or an economic substitute) are available and feasible, they could be a great boon for the school library.
Space is not an object – only the devices and the infrastructure, both of which seems to rapidly become a necessity for a 21st century school anyway.
If age appropriate content is an issue, then the pupils could, theoretically, unlock access to more problematic works with age. They could come with warnings, disclaimers, a switch between sanitised and original text. They could come with context, or additional information.
All of which would take work, but it would be work well spent – more so than thrashing out which books to bin and which to keep every other year.
With electric books available, and armed with some sort of ratings and warning system, I believe a vast cornucopia of books can be provided to all pupils who seeks them. It does not solve the question of curriculum, but it helps.

I don't see how posting on a forum is any different to tweeting from an account with relatively few followers to very little engagement. Even if the teachers had behaved irresponsibly (they haven't), digging up the tweets of people with no profile and publishing them in a national newspaper can be ethically troubling even when the content of the tweets is genuinely disturbing.

To be clear, the Odyssey could have a place in any literature class, but it definitely does not have a place on lots of curriculums. This is an absurd and calculated overreaction from anti-intellectual conservatives.

I disagree. I think that it is a vital part of a curriculum in the west. However, using the internet outrage phenomenon as a weapon simply because I disagree with you or someone else on this matter would be beastly, that is a certainty. That I do agree with you; that it is quite simply not good tone to mark out civilians as targets on the internet – not now, not at this time, not now that the internet has become what it is.
Title: Re: Banning books is the dumb way to go
Post by: KyriakosCH on 29 Dec 2020, 15:01
I don't see how posting on a forum is any different to tweeting from an account with relatively few followers to very little engagement. Even if the teachers had behaved irresponsibly (they haven't), digging up the tweets of people with no profile and publishing them in a national newspaper can be ethically troubling even when the content of the tweets is genuinely disturbing.

To be clear, the Odyssey could have a place in any literature class, but it definitely does not have a place on lots of curriculums. This is an absurd and calculated overreaction from anti-intellectual conservatives.

I represent Homer, and as the ancient greek saying goes: "every non-greek is a barbarian"  :=

Seriously, though, as the above poster also said, you can't be a teacher of literature and say nonsense like "I'd rather die before teaching Homer again" & "hahahaha, I finally managed to take Homer out!" - you clearly lack the skills for the job. If kids don't get it, your job is to teach them what of value is there; if you don't see anything of value, it'd be fine if you weren't teaching literature but not fine as things are.

Bonus text:

THE WORM AND THE ANGEL
by Lord Dunsany

As he crawled from the tombs of the fallen a worm met with an angel.

And together they looked upon the kings and kingdoms, and youths and maidens and the cities of men. They saw the old men heavy in their chairs and heard the children singing in the fields. They saw far wars and warriors and walled towns, wisdom and wickedness, and the pomp of kings, and the people of all the lands that the sunlight knew.

And the worm spake to the angel saying: "Behold my food."

"Be dakeon para Thina poluphloisboio Thalassaes,"* murmured the angel, for they walked by the sea, "and can you destroy that too?"

And the worm paled in his anger to a greyness ill to behold, for for three thousand years he had tried to destroy that line and still its melody was ringing in his head.

*It's from the first book of the Iliad. About someone walking silently on the edge of the noisy and tempestuous sea.
Title: Re: Banning books is the dumb way to go
Post by: Reiter on 29 Dec 2020, 15:15
I don't see how posting on a forum is any different to tweeting from an account with relatively few followers to very little engagement. Even if the teachers had behaved irresponsibly (they haven't), digging up the tweets of people with no profile and publishing them in a national newspaper can be ethically troubling even when the content of the tweets is genuinely disturbing.

To be clear, the Odyssey could have a place in any literature class, but it definitely does not have a place on lots of curriculums. This is an absurd and calculated overreaction from anti-intellectual conservatives.

I represent Homer, and as the ancient greek saying goes: "every non-greek is a barbarian"  :=

Seriously, though, as the above poster also said, you can't be a teacher of literature and say nonsense like "I'd rather die before teaching Homer again" & "hahahaha, I finally managed to take Homer out!" - you clearly lack the skills for the job. If kids don't get it, your job is to teach them what of value is there; if you don't see anything of value, it'd be fine if you weren't teaching literature but not fine as things are.

Oh, indeed. Of course, all pre-faced by the fact that it is my opinion on the matter. I consider it entirely correct, but it is reasonable to disagree.

To re-iterate, however, such a hideous attitude towards Homer and their very profession - IF it is TRUE - is still not reason for inviting an internet hate barrage. Very poor form. A veil of anonymity would have been the decent thing to do, in this article. Truly, if I ever do write articles myself, I shall remember this principle.

(As for the barbarian question - it is an amusing quote! But with the vast influence of the greeks upon the world that came after them, could it not be said that everyone is greek? :3 )
Title: Re: Banning books is the dumb way to go
Post by: KyriakosCH on 29 Dec 2020, 15:22
^_^
Title: Re: Banning books is the dumb way to go
Post by: Ali on 29 Dec 2020, 15:51
Seriously, though, as the above poster also said, you can't be a teacher of literature and say nonsense like "I'd rather die before teaching Homer again" & "hahahaha, I finally managed to take Homer out!" - you clearly lack the skills for the job. If kids don't get it, your job is to teach them what of value is there; if you don't see anything of value, it'd be fine if you weren't teaching literature but not fine as things are.

Yes, but the important thing is that no one is saying that. What they're saying (even if you disagree with it) is entirely different in context. It's not a direct or representative quote, and I would expect a literature enthusiast to take more care about what they read. You're tilting at windmills (see, I've read books).

I don't see how posting on a forum is any different to tweeting from an account with relatively few followers to very little engagement. Even if the teachers had behaved irresponsibly (they haven't), digging up the tweets of people with no profile and publishing them in a national newspaper can be ethically troubling even when the content of the tweets is genuinely disturbing.

To be clear, the Odyssey could have a place in any literature class, but it definitely does not have a place on lots of curriculums. This is an absurd and calculated overreaction from anti-intellectual conservatives.

I disagree. I think that it is a vital part of a curriculum in the west. However, using the internet outrage phenomenon as a weapon simply because I disagree with you or someone else on this matter would be beastly, that is a certainty. That I do agree with you; that it is quite simply not good tone to mark out civilians as targets on the internet – not now, not at this time, not now that the internet has become what it is.

I disagree with you, Reiter, but I respect the fact that you're taking a consistent stance against online abuse.

However, it's simply a matter of fact that the Odyssey is not on every western curriculum. Many people (including me) went through school without studying it, and society has not collapsed so far.
Title: Re: Banning books is the dumb way to go
Post by: Snarky on 29 Dec 2020, 16:47
I am pretty sure I was not taught a single line of Homer throughout all my school days (I listened to the Iliad and parts of the Odyssey as audio books in my twenties, in Fagles' translation — given the oral history of the poems I feel that was a good format), though we may have had some of the stories via retellings for children: at least my primary school library had a whole series of retellings of Greek mythology. (I also rather suspect that I picked up the gist of the Odyssey mainly from those Italian Donald Duck stories that use various classics as their basis.) We did do one or two Greek tragedies and some bits of Plato's dialogues, though.

Honestly I don't think Homer should be a priority for the literature curriculum. Certainly not in Norway, and probably not in the US. (If you want kids to do it in Greece, that's fine.)

As stories they are far removed from having any relevance to modern Norwegian school children (with the important exception of any that are boat migrants or refugees from warn-torn areas). At most the kids will appreciate parts of the Odyssey as somewhat amusing fairy tales about outwitting giants and sailors being transformed into pigs by a witch, etc., but honestly they'll have heard plenty of local fairy tales that are just as good (you don't even get the Trojan Horse bit!). As poetry they are obviously not accessible in the original, so you're left with whatever literary merits the translations have. And even if the translation is brilliant, a faithful rendering will be dense reading, with the unfamiliar form and all the epithets and allusions to mythology, so unless you devoted at least a semester to it (meaning other texts couldn't be covered), you wouldn't be able to get through more than a few stanzas because of all the background you'd have to explain.

Sure, Homer has historical importance, so there are arguments why he should be taught. But there are so many worthwhile texts in our literary history that the vast majority of texts that might merit inclusion in a school curriculum will inevitably have to be excluded. In my case we read Lord of the Flies and Hamlet and Snorre and Ibsen and Undset and Hamsun (among others), and I feel strongly that I got more out of those than I would have from Homer, so I'm happy that we didn't cut any of them from the curriculum just to cover some episodes from the Odyssey.

I don't know what the teachers have against Homer to celebrate his exclusion from the curriculum, but certainly the epics reflect a system of values very different from ours that would need to be addressed in teaching them. If anything, I would say Agamemnon, Achilles, Odysseus and the other Achaeans have a lot in common with the Huns in Borges' story. (The Huns, of course, are themselves represented in epic poetry via the sagas and lays of the Niebelungen, where Attila the Hun is an important character.)
Title: Re: Banning books is the dumb way to go
Post by: Ali on 29 Dec 2020, 17:09
As an adult, I read the Odyssey in Chapman's 17th C. English translation, which I suspect is not particularly faithful. It maintained the verse, but Romanized the gods. I get the impression the translator made an effort to Christianize the representation of Jove/Zeus, casting the other gods as facets of him. At school we might have heard the story of the Cyclops, but we certainly didn't engage with Homer's writing at any point.
Title: Re: Banning books is the dumb way to go
Post by: Reiter on 29 Dec 2020, 18:18

Well, no. It is not a catastrophic omission, as it were. It is, however, a mistake. A pity. A mighty archetype that has been with us so long, and a window into another world, and a point of reference through the ages – it is a gift withheld. Its absence will not collapse our world, but it makes it poorer.

Relevancy, I think, does not matter. Not, at least, as what that term implies. Most novels do not feature telephones or the internet, and is thus woefully irrelevant to the life of a child today. And yet, of course, they are, for so little has truly changed. Something that literature helps to bring across. Something that I think it should bring across. A modern child in a smart villa in, say, Bergen - Norway, would soon discover that they are more closely united to Oliver Twist than either would know, despite their circumstances. Ink on paper is a splendid way to discover this.
Indeed, relevancy is an illusion for what is relevant to you changes as you observe something.
For instance, Arabian poetry may not have seem relevant to me, but having had the opportunity to examine it in manhood, I see how it is universal. Indeed, Arabian literature is a trove of treasures I am just now discovering, and it is splendid. That is how the written word is so radiant; it breaches all types of relevancies, and yet you meet the same things in it, wherever you go.

I would agree that that curriculum seems to have been an excellent, solid piece nonetheless, although I remain unconvinced as to why they left such an important part of it out, even though it certainly did make up the difference. Homer is, of course, a hard digest, but the act of learning to read what is sometimes difficult and stodgy texts, to understand references you might not just at once – or indeed circumnavigating something that you do not have the frame of reference to understand – is as valuable knowledge that much exceeds the historical importance of the text.

As for the difference in value between Homer and modernity, I would say that is part of the point to teach it. Such things change, and I do believe even children benefit from being made aware of this, of seeing it. Knowing that the values of Agamemnon's men and those of we who live now differ – and knowing why – is very important. Addressing it is not only a necessity, it is the point. Relevancy and understanding.
As an early surviving archetype, it stands tall still, and the gifts from trying to understand it is greater than the sum of the tale itself. And truly, what I mean by legacy does not limit it for Greeks alone, or that it is of less value to a Norwegian, as it is sufficiently old and vast that it transcends the modern nation-state. But I admit, if I had my way, Chinese and Indian epics would get their time on the bench here, too.

Now. I shall admit that having now threshed the matter through for a while, I see the impossibility. There is too much splendour, too much importance, to press into the teaching machine. It is impossible. There will always be glaring omissions, for want of time. What of Snorre Sturlasson? What of the Mahabharta? What of Milton, and Confucius? There will never be time, not even if I got to run my own public school!

Provided, of course, it is for a want of time that works are omitted, rather than foolish notions of what is appropriate and what is relevant and what is dangerous.

It is uplifting, in a way. That this vast treasure hoard around us is too great to survey, and hopeless to choose from. We can only pick which choice pieces to display.
But if such is the case, I argue that the most important part of literature in school is to point to this vast field and say 'Look. Take it! It is yours!', and open the pupil's eyes to this beauty, and to make them brave in the face of its hideousness.


To me, Homer is of greater importance than a 'mere' book. It is an archetype, a guide to a vast tradition, and a place to cut your teeth. But I see now that it may not be as utterly indispensable as I imagine, IF its replacement fits the same profile.

And, most importantly, that this replacement is not taught 'simply' as a book to know about. It is greater than that. If it can be replaced with just about anything on paper, what would be the point on spending school time studying books? If it should be taken off the curriculum for being distressing or problematic, how would one expect the pupils to learn what to do when they encounter such things in the wild? One would think it would be critical to the 'anti-biased' thinking that this here Disrupt Text movement seem to want.

Then again, I now remember when I recently watched some literature show on television, where one of the culture big-wigs in the studio said, very earnestly, that there was no inherent value in reading. In short, sending and receiving on the telephone or simply watching The Name of the Rose on Netflix is just as good, and books have no inherent value. He was met with general agreement, I seem to recall.

I myself and what I want literature and its reading to be may simply be wrong. I do not quite know anymore.

Still, it is mighty fun to thresh it out!
Title: Re: Banning books is the dumb way to go
Post by: Ali on 29 Dec 2020, 19:15
I think it's correct to regard an effort to change the curriculum as a politically motivated act, but it's huge mistake to regard efforts to keep the curriculum the same as politically neutral. They're both political, and neither of them shows greater respect towards abstract notions of literary or cultural value. Regarding the curriculum as if it were a monolithic and unchanging syllabus of Great Texts is an appealing conservative fantasy, but it's also clearly nonsense.

I agree, we shouldn't necessarily hide books which are deemed 'dangerous'. But which books does society deem dangerous? Is anyone afraid of Homer or Shakespeare? Or are the readers of the Wall Street Journal terrified that anti-racist (or pro-gay or pro-trans) literature will appear on the syllabus?
Title: Re: Banning books is the dumb way to go
Post by: Snarky on 29 Dec 2020, 20:22
Well, if there's one thing to be said for the Greek classics, they are at least not anti-gay. (Though unless I misremember, Achilles's love for Patroclus is not explicitly sexual in Homer.)
Title: Re: Banning books is the dumb way to go
Post by: KyriakosCH on 29 Dec 2020, 20:32
Depends on the text :) I'd say it's more common to find such works in the early roman period, for example that work about a trip to Knidos to see the famous statue of Aphrodite, which was supposedly (but afaik not in reality- it's not at all his style either) written by the great Lucian of Samosata.
Then again, other famous latin works are against homosexuality, for example that of the latin Lucian (of Apulia), about the youth who got transformed into a donkey.
I don't recall any reference to homosexuality in the romance "The Ethiopika" - not that those romances were high-brow literature, they seem to have been the penny-dreadful of the hellenistic era.

I do recall a story of an athenian boy who killed himself (don't recall if the story is in Plutarch; if so, obviously it was written half a millenium after the time) so as to avoid King Demetrios' advances (rape attempt). Demetrios was the ruler of Macedonia at the time.

Anyway, there was also infatuation with spartan women, who (due to the way their state was set) controlled all the money, and apparently were mostly interested in looking very hot and athletic. After all, the first woman to win in the olympic games was from Sparta.
Title: Re: Banning books is the dumb way to go
Post by: Snarky on 29 Dec 2020, 21:36
Relevancy, I think, does not matter. Not, at least, as what that term implies. Most novels do not feature telephones or the internet, and is thus woefully irrelevant to the life of a child today.

I think you take a different meaning from "relevance" (or "relevancy") than I do. Relevance does not imply complete identity or recognition, but rather some ability to relate: to connect it to one's own experience (external or internal, personal or second-hand). I believe that pre-modern literature has a higher threshold to achieve that connection because it rarely features any kind of psychological realism, which when present offers a ready bridge. Few readers will have faced a situation like Hamlet's, but we can emotionally relate — directly or indirectly — to his resentment of a stepfather, to his indecision in the face of a moral dilemma, to the way he lashes out in anger and grief, etc. Achilles's petulant refusal to fight, and his uncontrollable rage after Patroclus's death, on the other hand, are more opaque to us, more alien. In the Odyssey, I can only hesitantly identify Odysseus's experience of dislocation upon his return, and perhaps Telemachus's absence from growing up without a father, as points of connection for a contemporary audience.

(On the other hand, a number of interpreters have retold the stories in various ways to bring out some of the emotion perhaps latent in the original. I'm thinking particularly of The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood, The Lost Books of the Odyssey by Zachary Mason and Circe by Madeline Miller. They do however rely on some pretty heavy revisionism. Oh, and as I've just learned, the poem by Tennyson (https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45392/ulysses), which turns out to be the source of a number of lines I recognize, apparently in part from Skyfall, and which I find rather good: "Yet all experience is an arch wherethro' / Gleams that untravell'd world whose margin fades / For ever and forever when I move.")

For instance, Arabian poetry may not have seem relevant to me, but having had the opportunity to examine it in manhood, I see how it is universal. Indeed, Arabian literature is a trove of treasures I am just now discovering, and it is splendid. That is how the written word is so radiant; it breaches all types of relevancies, and yet you meet the same things in it, wherever you go.

Oh, interesting. I recently read The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyám by Edward FitzGerald for the first time (not the most faithful rendering, I'm told, but I thought the interpreter might help smooth the way into the text). I must admit that my appreciation was limited. Do you have any recommendations for what I could try, given that I'm limited to English translations?

I would agree that that curriculum seems to have been an excellent, solid piece nonetheless, although I remain unconvinced as to why they left such an important part of it out, even though it certainly did make up the difference.

At a guess, the "classic epic poetry" quota was taken up by selections from the Norse corpus (themselves not very extensive).

Homer is, of course, a hard digest, but the act of learning to read what is sometimes difficult and stodgy texts, to understand references you might not just at once – or indeed circumnavigating something that you do not have the frame of reference to understand – is as valuable knowledge that much exceeds the historical importance of the text.

As for the difference in value between Homer and modernity, I would say that is part of the point to teach it. Such things change, and I do believe even children benefit from being made aware of this, of seeing it. Knowing that the values of Agamemnon's men and those of we who live now differ – and knowing why – is very important. Addressing it is not only a necessity, it is the point. Relevancy and understanding.

Indeed, but I don't think either of those lessons require Homer specifically.

But I will not argue that you are wrong. Something is no doubt lost when command of the classics (as traditionally conceived) is no longer expected of students, and it is valid to regret that loss. However, as Ali correctly points out, to instill that knowledge comes at an opportunity cost of learning other things, of opening up to reading other kinds of texts, and we should not be blind to that cost simply because it has been the traditional choice.
Title: Re: Banning books is the dumb way to go
Post by: heltenjon on 29 Dec 2020, 23:25
The major problem when deciding a curriculum will be time. I don't know if pupils or students in other countries mostly read novels or complete works; in Norway the norm is short stories or excerpts from larger works, and the occasional full work. Thus, even in Ibsen's home country, you may go through school and only have read/watched one or two of Ibsen's plays. The Norwegian subject is not fully a literature class, however. There're all kinds of writing and reading skills, analysis, grammar and extended culture (because it doesn't fit anywhere else, I suppose).

Many students think that a typical short story is much shorter than the norm, simply because their school textbooks mostly contain short stories only a few pages long. Again, it seems that time is the criteria used for choosing this text over that. I think it will be difficult to find a course that delves into the actual text and poetry of the greek classics in any depth below university level here in my country.
Title: Re: Banning books is the dumb way to go
Post by: Blondbraid on 29 Dec 2020, 23:43
If we're talking about the Odyssey, I don't remember ever being asked to read it in full in school, and personally, I don't see why it should be either. There are several million books in existence,
and I personally think there are lots of books that can spark more interesting discussions than a work whose biggest influence on western society was giving filmmakers some ideas on what monsters to put in their blockbusters.

But even if you disagree and think the Odyssey is one of the greatest books ever, from my experience, our teachers were so pressed for time we could barely fit one book into a school year,
so that would just mean excluding another work if they were to choose the entirety of the Odyssey as part of the curriculum. I for one think Right-Wing Women by Andrea Dworkin is one of
the most eye-opening books I've ever read and I'd wish everyone would read it, but I'm not going to say it's censorship because it isn't part of every school curriculum.
Title: Re: Banning books is the dumb way to go
Post by: Reiter on 30 Dec 2020, 00:46
I think it's correct to regard an effort to change the curriculum as a politically motivated act, but it's huge mistake to regard efforts to keep the curriculum the same as politically neutral. They're both political, and neither of them shows greater respect towards abstract notions of literary or cultural value. Regarding the curriculum as if it were a monolithic and unchanging syllabus of Great Texts is an appealing conservative fantasy, but it's also clearly nonsense.

I agree, we shouldn't necessarily hide books which are deemed 'dangerous'. But which books does society deem dangerous? Is anyone afraid of Homer or Shakespeare? Or are the readers of the Wall Street Journal terrified that anti-racist (or pro-gay or pro-trans) literature will appear on the syllabus?

Oho! I understand what you mean. I lay no claim to neutrality in this question. There is no such thing, truly. I understand that there is a political motivation, of a kind, in my wish to keep the classics in the curriculum, and my severe reticence in seeing it changed. And, indeed, there is no such thing as stasis. Things do change, over time. It is a tempting thing, to pretend to belong to the old sensible in the face of a vast, lunatic modernity coming to rip it all down and replace it with vapid fashions of now. It is, of course, much more complicated than that, and I do my damnedest to remember that.

As for outright dangerous works, I admit they are few. Neither of the examples would be. 'Dangerous' was the wrong word to use, as it carries a certain emergency and fear with it. Works that are considered malinfluential, problematic, odious or hateful, at a first glance, or as a basic reaction.
The works that were to replace them are not a danger, either. They would well have merits beyond being what the current climate demands, and they, too, deserve their time at the desk, but I am wary of them becoming a replacement, and being treated as an improvement – an an idea that all books are the same, and what matters is that they are a good fit for the present.

Now, I suppose 'The Anarchist's Cookbook' or some other insurgency manuals are the only truly dangerous books, and I could understand why they would make no appearance – but the question of such books and their availability is a different matter, I suppose. Ironically, an old CIA-issue bomb making leaflet or some-such on the loose would probably be considerably more dangerous than a traceable and supervised darknet site. Intriguing, how it falls sometimes.

I think you take a different meaning from "relevance" (or "relevancy") than I do. Relevance does not imply complete identity or recognition, but rather some ability to relate: to connect it to one's own experience (external or internal, personal or second-hand). I believe that pre-modern literature has a higher threshold to achieve that connection because it rarely features any kind of psychological realism, which when present offers a ready bridge. Few readers will have faced a situation like Hamlet's, but we can emotionally relate — directly or indirectly — to his resentment of a stepfather, to his indecision in the face of a moral dilemma, to the way he lashes out in anger and grief, etc. Achilles's petulant refusal to fight, and his uncontrollable rage after Patroclus's death, on the other hand, are more opaque to us, more alien. In the Odyssey, I can only hesitantly identify Odysseus's experience of dislocation upon his return, and perhaps Telemachus's absence from growing up without a father, as points of connection for a contemporary audience.

(On the other hand, a number of interpreters have retold the stories in various ways to bring out some of the emotion perhaps latent in the original. I'm thinking particularly of The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood, The Lost Books of the Odyssey by Zachary Mason and Circe by Madeline Miller. They do however rely on some pretty heavy revisionism. Oh, and as I've just learned, the poem by Tennyson (https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45392/ulysses), which turns out to be the source of a number of lines I recognize, apparently in part from Skyfall, and which I find rather good: "Yet all experience is an arch wherethro' / Gleams that untravell'd world whose margin fades / For ever and forever when I move.")

I see what you mean, in the matter of relating. That is a different question, and I do agree that there is need to tread carefully. It is easier for someone young to see themselves in, say, a trodden and beaten little boy suddenly getting a whole new life and going off to a wizard school than in a warrior leaving his team because he feels unfairly treated when the king takes away his slave. Even so, there is things to recognise in Achilles and the men and women around them, and with some training, any distance can be bridged, and what was alien to the reader become familiar. Personal experiences are important, but to look beyond even them..! Oh, splendour, the world is greater than comprehension will allow!
It is another power of the word; that we can be invited into the hide of anything and anyone, eventually. Some works makes it easy, some are very difficult. I do think the young should be encouraged to try this, however. It is splendour, and one of the requirements of modern civility and life is the ability to look beyond the self and into the condition of the other. Learning to relate, first in familiar surroundings and then in hallowed or horrid or alien circumstances, will be of immeasurable help.
I may over-estimate the contemporary audience, particularly the young. But I want to believe that I am not, that anyone can step over. Far better it is than to not push them enough. Indeed, with so much other media all around them, making the fantastical familiar, I imagine the young of today can, with practice, put their eyes and heart where-ever they choose.

And, truly, thank you for that link! It is a delightful poem, and I am happy to know of that web-site now.


For instance, Arabian poetry may not have seem relevant to me, but having had the opportunity to examine it in manhood, I see how it is universal. Indeed, Arabian literature is a trove of treasures I am just now discovering, and it is splendid. That is how the written word is so radiant; it breaches all types of relevancies, and yet you meet the same things in it, wherever you go.

Oh, interesting. I recently read The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyám by Edward FitzGerald for the first time (not the most faithful rendering, I'm told, but I thought the interpreter might help smooth the way into the text). I must admit that my appreciation was limited. Do you have any recommendations for what I could try, given that I'm limited to English translations?



Oh, goodness, no! I am still very much a beginner, and you are likely far more versed in it than myself. I can only recommend hunting for a wide selection, and see what takes your fancy from there. It is a vast field! I, too, rely on translations. Arabic is a fascinating language (or family of languages, I am still not sure), but it is beyond my reach for now. If I find a promising vein, I shall get in touch.

At a guess, the "classic epic poetry" quota was taken up by selections from the Norse corpus (themselves not very extensive).

That is time well spent, I shall say, although it is a pity that there must be a choice. I barely recall my school days, but I do remember a disappointing lack of Norse verse in it. Although, the Nordic mythology lessons did a lot to fill the gap. I may have been too cyclopean (ha!) previous. There are, after all, other lessons, that may make up for what the literature lessons simply do not have time for. Nonetheless, there was a glaring omission of Beowulf, I recall now.

Speaking of omissions, Johan Ludvig Runeberg was absent. And in that case, I do suspect that the reasoning may have been political. He is certainly not a hard read or unrelatable. I imagine that he was simply considered a bit 'icky' – martial and nationalistic – when they were pruning the curriculum, so poor old Runeberg had to bite it. A pity, really, considering the joint heritage he represents.

Homer is, of course, a hard digest, but the act of learning to read what is sometimes difficult and stodgy texts, to understand references you might not just at once – or indeed circumnavigating something that you do not have the frame of reference to understand – is as valuable knowledge that much exceeds the historical importance of the text.

As for the difference in value between Homer and modernity, I would say that is part of the point to teach it. Such things change, and I do believe even children benefit from being made aware of this, of seeing it. Knowing that the values of Agamemnon's men and those of we who live now differ – and knowing why – is very important. Addressing it is not only a necessity, it is the point. Relevancy and understanding.

Indeed, but I don't think either of those lessons require Homer specifically.

But I will not argue that you are wrong. Something is no doubt lost when command of the classics (as traditionally conceived) is no longer expected of students, and it is valid to regret that loss. However, as Ali correctly points out, to instill that knowledge comes at an opportunity cost of learning other things, of opening up to reading other kinds of texts, and we should not be blind to that cost simply because it has been the traditional choice.

Perhaps... Perhaps. It is a good point. With a holistic (is that the right word) method of education, where each part links and aids the others is the best. Tradition, I hold as very important, but there may indeed be a time when the gains taken at its expense outweighs the loss. I suppose that I am simply unconvinced that the exchange will be any good, but I am always prepared to be surprised.

Well, if there's one thing to be said for the Greek classics, they are at least not anti-gay. (Though unless I misremember, Achilles's love for Patroclus is not explicitly sexual in Homer.)


It is important to remember that the way we see these things are always changing. Truly, antiquity were no less bothered and baffled by sexual matters than we are now, I would wager, only that their peculiarities and distinctions are different. It is very complicated, and I do not think a direct adaption to modern culture can be made without some misunderstandings along the way.

If we're talking about the Odyssey, I don't remember ever being asked to read it in full in school, and personally, I don't see why it should be either. There are several million books in existence,
and I personally think there are lots of books that can spark more interesting discussions than a work whose biggest influence on western society was giving filmmakers some ideas on what monsters to put in their blockbusters.

But even if you disagree and think the Odyssey is one of the greatest books ever, from my experience, our teachers were so pressed for time we could barely fit one book into a school year,
so that would just mean excluding another work if they were to choose the entirety of the Odyssey as part of the curriculum. I for one think Right-Wing Women by Andrea Dworkin is one of
the most eye-opening books I've ever read and I'd wish everyone would read it, but I'm not going to say it's censorship because it isn't part of every school curriculum.

I disagree, on the premise that it is not only a book (if there was ever such a thing as 'only' a book), as it carries so much more else with it, and have meant so much more than merely an inspiration for monster-makers (as an aside, consider the Aeneid! The implications and inspirations of that work, and what it meant to Rome, which could be monstrous for two!).

As I mentioned earlier, the songs of Homer is a gateway, a glimpse into an old world, and a reflexion to our own, and an excellent place to cut reading teeth. As a story, on its own amongst untold millions, it is not much. It is the all-reaching legacy it represents, the timelessness, and the lineage, which is this archetype of a work's true value. As a book amongst others, it is mediocre. As an inheritance, and more importantly as a great gateway, it is invaluable.
Now, reading the Iliad and the Odyssey, back to back, in their entirety, would of course be too much, but that is not, in my mind, what should be done with this sort of literature. A few, choice verses, and a greater view of the picture, is all that it takes.

I remember so little from my school days, but I do remember that classics from antiquity were part of it. It was a very brief visit, shorter than it should have been, but it did awaken the interest, the understanding. Which is, of course, what literary studies should do, particularly if pressed for time.
What matters most in such studies, now that I think of it, is not to read great works to their final line and letter, but to grasp them. To learn what they mean, what they represent, what they are. For it is a fact of life that the most important reading you will do is not done in the school bench, but on your own – out in your own life.
I am grateful for having been introduced to so much splendour by the curriculum, but the books that have truly mattered to me have – of course – almost all been off the curriculum. The literature classes simply pointed me in their direction and gave me what I needed to hunt for them.

Now, I shall see about Andrea Dworkin. She seems quite intriguing, and I can never have enough books to read!
Title: Re: Banning books is the dumb way to go
Post by: Danvzare on 30 Dec 2020, 16:48
I feel like I've stumbled upon one of the most meaningless hotly debatable topics in the world.
Because despite your views on the matter, the fact is, we're talking about books in schools.  (roll)

To re-iterate what others have already said, schools don't exactly have their students read books all of the time, and there are way too many books for anyone to agree as to what should be read by everyone. So arguing about censorship sounds like a moot point. There's no room for the discussion of censorship in that environment, as it quickly boils down to either:
"This should be censored!" "Yay! But it wasn't going to get read anyway!"
or
"This shouldn't be censored!" "Yay! But it's not going to get read anyway!"

I personally think there's more purpose to arguing whether or not Batman should be depicted as killing people or not.
Title: Re: Banning books is the dumb way to go
Post by: Reiter on 30 Dec 2020, 18:15
And books in school matters, Sir. At least I think they should.

It is a slogging and difficult threshing to sort this business out, but it is well worth doing. Otherwise, what is the point? Disband literature classes all together, and spend the time saved on learning to draft C.V.s or make pie charts on the computer.

I suppose that is a greater discussion, however. What is school and education for? And where does 'non-practical' subjects and things like gymnastics and art classes fit into it?

Intriguing discussion, nonetheless. As for the example, I thought that bat-man did not kill people out of principle. Except, I imagine, 'by accident', now and then.
Title: Re: Banning books is the dumb way to go
Post by: Tampere on 01 Jan 2021, 18:20
Getting yourself acquainted with the Odyssey and the Iliad — even if in a shallow manner — gives you a body of references which will help you understand, experience and enjoy a trove of artistic works. The influence Homer has had on the western cultural fabric is so pervasive that I can name off the top of my head at least a dozen «things» (among movies, books, songs, operas, computer games, product labels, a server name, so many paintings etc.) I "participated in" in the last month that have a direct connection (mostly character references, but not only) with those two books.
The achievement is so immense that is difficult to even put it into scale: towering and extremely popular writers (Virgil, Austen, Tolstoj, Cervantes, Rilke, Camus…) — their tales inextricably part of our collective spirit — do not come close to Homer (maybe One Thousand and One Nights).
On top of that (and themes of such a narrative significance that are still being discussed today) you have: tests, friendship, betrayals, ominous gods, assorted violence, passion, laments & some joy. So yeah, it seems to me an excellent bang for the buck.

Thank Zeus, because the above mentioned ubiquity, one does not need a willing professor to discover Homer by themselves (and awaken the interest in reading).
Nobody will die by axing the Iliad from the curriculum, but I would argue it is a mistake.
Title: Re: Banning books is the dumb way to go
Post by: Blondbraid on 02 Jan 2021, 18:27
Now, I shall see about Andrea Dworkin. She seems quite intriguing, and I can never have enough books to read!
Well, there's a free PDF of the full book here (http://radfem.org/category/andrea-dworkin/).
Title: Re: Banning books is the dumb way to go
Post by: Reiter on 09 Jan 2021, 13:08
Thank you kindly! Most intriguing - it shall be an interesting read. Happy to see it available free of charge. I seem to remember hearing of her in connexion to Ordeal, but she seems a most fascinating writer, with an intriguing perspective.

I complain so much about the internet, but I cannot argue that it makes sourcing books ever so much simpler.
Title: Re: Banning books is the dumb way to go
Post by: Blondbraid on 09 Jan 2021, 14:48
Thank you kindly! Most intriguing - it shall be an interesting read. Happy to see it available free of charge. I seem to remember hearing of her in connexion to Ordeal, but she seems a most fascinating writer, with an intriguing perspective.

I complain so much about the internet, but I cannot argue that it makes sourcing books ever so much simpler.
Glad to be of help, I hope you have an interesting read!