Written by Ken Paulson
It’s rare that book banning makes me nostalgic. Yet the news last month that the Republic, Mo., school board banned Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse Five” brought me back to 1969, the year the book was published and my freshman year in high school.
“Slaughterhouse Five” was the cool new book and, along with the 1966 republication of “The Hobbit,” was destined to be seen under the arms of high school students everywhere. As a 15-year-old, I found the book to be very challenging; it explored difficult concepts such as free will and fate in an unconventional narrative. Forty-two years later, I still remember it as a thought-provoking and powerful novel.
Wesley Scroggins, a Republic resident and professor at Missouri State University, saw the book differently, and urged the school board to ban “Slaughterhouse Five,” along with Sarah Ockler’s “Twenty Boy Summer” and Laurie Halse Anderson’s “Speak.”
In a column for the Springfield News-Leader headlined “Filthy books demeaning to Republic education,” he wrote: “This is a book that contains so much profane language, it would make a sailor blush with shame. The ‘F-word’ is plastered on almost every other page. The content ranges from naked men and women in cages together so that others can watch them having sex to God telling people that they better not mess with his loser, bum of a son, named Jesus Christ.”
Scroggins’ stance raises a number of important questions. First of all, do sailors still blush?
Second, in a society in which movies rated for a high school audience include extensive profanity and violence, and where three of the top 10-selling songs featured the F-word in their titles, how can coarse language in a book published the year we first set foot on the moon be considered a threat? What’s next?