Ignorance Isn't Bliss

Ignorance Isn't Bliss

Writer S.A. Harazin and As if! (Authors Support Intellectual Freedom) both recently blogged about an Alabama teen taking young adult novel Sandpiper (by Ellen Wittlinger) out of her high school library and refusing to check it back in because she and her grandmother deemed it "sick." Today I also read about a Maine woman holding on to two library copies of acclaimed sex ed book It's Perfectly Normal (by Robie H. Harris). In a letter to one of the libraries the Maine woman complained that, "I have been sufficiently horrified of the illustrations and sexually graphic, amoral, abnormal contents. I will not be returning the books."

Aimed at kids, It's Perfectly Normal features frank info on sexual intercourse, birth control, sexually transmitted infections, sexual orientation and more. Cartoon-type illustrations of nudity accompany the text. According to a library media specialist for the Tuscaloosa County School system, Ellen Wittlinger's Sandpiper is intended for older teens and is "a cautionary tale for teenagers that oral sex is sex." You can read the first chapter at the bottom of this article and read Ellen Wittinger's thoughts on the matter at As if!

Sadly, it seems some people would prefer young people to be ignorant and fearful when it comes to sexuality—and what does that accomplish? In her sex ed guide for teens and college students, Scarleteen founder Heather Corinna notes that 26% of young adults supposedly practicing abstinence will become pregnant within one year, making it "less effective than the typical use rates for almost any other method of contraception." You can bet that STI rates are similarly high.

You don't have to agree with the main character's actions in Sandpiper or approve of the gamut of sexual behaviour described in Robie Harris' book, but withholding such materials from young people leaves them without crucial info they need to make intelligent, informed decisions. The fact is, all kids growing up in the Western world today live in a sexually charged environment, constantly bombarded by sexual images and messages. Reading thoughtful analysis/explorations of sexual matters can only help them sift through these messages. We need to keep that critical faculty turned on in kids, not discourage it, and people who would remove such books from libraries are not only deciding what their own children should be exposed to, but forcing their decision on others in their communities.

Lysa Harding and JoAn Karkos had the opportunity to read Sandpiper and It's Perfectly Normal and decide the books weren't for them. Other library patrons should have the same opportunity.
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