When Harry Potter came out and so many families deemed it unfit for their children, I was annoyed. I understand the point trying to be made regarding magic and all that, but goodness, should Emily not watch Cinderella? And yes, I read the 2006 Newberry award winner with the word scrotum on the first page, and I got over it. Not. A. Big. Deal. Both Harry Potter and The Higher Power of Lucky are sitting in my classroom.
I believe kids can be culturally aware without being consumed. Books with different ideas and messages birth conversations about beliefs that allow children to define themselves and their own beliefs... if parents are willing to allow that sort of independence. But it is this independence that grows a faith in oneself, grounded in the identity of the individual, not a reflection of a parental pair. Therefore, I have books in my classroom that reflect different viewpoints from what many hear at home, hear on the news, or even hear in other books. We read them, discuss them, and through much thinking, I believe kids in my class learn to develop their own beliefs regarding the material. Of course these beliefs are formed not just by the experience in our classroom, but I know the experience helped them own an idea that they might not have otherwise paid any attention. This makes them responsible thinkers who form opinions after reviewing different viewpoints.
However, there is a book that is getting a lot of attention lately because a movie coming out next week is based off of the trilogy. The movie is The Golden Compass, and the book trilogy begins with His Dark Materials, by Phillip Pullman. Now at first I got that simple comment from a friend about this book being "harmful to kids" and "it is against God" and such. And then I got the mass forwards talking about how irresponsible we would be to allow a child to watch the movie, or worse read the book. Honestly I thought this was another christian bandwagon to jump on, similar to Harry Potter. But I did some research and what I found was specific. Apparently this author wrote the series as a direct opposition to C.S. Lewis. The first was published in 1996 and the next two followed. In this book Pullman "kills God." Now I haven't read the book (though I think I will) but I read multiple reviews, and an article the BBC put out after interviewing Pullman. He says that he believes the world would be a better place without God, and that religious tyranny has caused much pain to the innocent. Yes, he is an atheist. It's not the beliefs that I have a problem with but it is that he says he needs a way to infiltrate the relationship between parent and child so that children won't be brainwashed into religion. Thus, the book. Hmmmm. Okay, so yes I have a problem with his motives, and of course I don't agree with his opinion of God or christians.
But here comes the hard part. Would I keep this book out of my library? I'm not saying I was even thinking about buying it before the controversy came about, because I had never heard of it. But would I make the choice to keep it out, or do I include it to offer an opposing viewpoint, similar to the books I have on both sides of other issues? And if I do keep it out is it because I would not be allowed, if the situation arose, to have a conversation with a child reading this book regarding religious beliefs as per the law regarding such? Or would I be keeping it out because it conflicted with my own personal beliefs about God? I ask because I seriously don't know. If my reasoning is because of separation between church and state, well then fine. I know I couldn't sit and chit chat with a student about religious beliefs. But if my reasoning is because it just makes me uncomfortable, well then I am not comfortable with that either.
Anyhow, it's been on my mind for a bit. Just curious as to your thoughts while I am trying to sort through my own.