A quick and disjointed post for advice and of confusion. You can tell I’m sorting things out in my head because I resort to numbered lists.
- I am in possession of a book that I believe would be harmful to my students — namely, in that it is rape apology and that it perpetuates rape culture. We have enough of that going on already.
- I am also in possession of a life philosophy that doesn’t condone censorship.
- I am in the habit of transferring my already read (and second-hand purchased) young adult (and some adult) novels to my classroom shelf of free books.
I suppose I could make an exception to this policy, but I don’t like to set a precedent of keeping my students from books. I suspect that many of them don’t read as much as I’d like and that a major reason for this is the lack of accessible relevant reading material. That’s a problem, and I want to be part of the solution.
That said, rape culture is also a problem, and I want to be part of that solution. Placing this book on my classroom shelf — which is a small shelf, and where so-placed books are assumed to have my implicit endorsement, despite my disclaimers otherwise — without any kind of advisory might well perpetuate rape culture, which is already too entrenched in and unquestioned by society. Nor am I necessarily in a position to discuss the novel with whoever might happen to pick it up.
And in a broader sense, I’m not sure how much my decision matters. Students will have some access to interesting reading material regardless of what I decide about this novel. Similarly, though perhaps more pessimistically, students will be inundated with rape apology regardless of what I decide about this novel.
Still and all, I can’t just place it on my shelf. But I can’t not place it.
My thoughts about my choices:
- Put it on my shelf, regardless of my reservations. It’s more important that students have free access to a range of reading material.
- Put it on my shelf with a written disclaimer (maybe in the form of a bookmark) stating my concerns about the novel and advising that students who read it consider talking the book over with a trusted adult. This of course assumes: a) the student has a trusted adult; b) the adult of choice recognizes and speaks against rape apology.
- Donate the book to my school library, speaking to my librarian about my concerns. Allow the librarian to make the final call with what happens to the book.
- Don’t bring the book to school at all.
Unless there are choices I’ve overlooked (which is likely true), I think the middle options are the only two acceptable compromises for me. In a perfect world, I’d prefer option number two, as that might afford a better opportunity to interact with the eventual next reader of said book. But we don’t live in a perfect world, and option three affords me a greater degree of professional protection — in a world where “professional protection” is semi-synonymous with distance.
It would be the best option for me, certainly. But it’s a different matter entirely on whether it would be the best option for my students.