Letter to the School Board of Strasburg High School (Colorado)

To the School Board:

As a parent, as a lover of books, as a Colorado native, the movement to “cleanse” this book list is (unfortunately) not that shocking, but wholly saddening and unnecessary.  I am certain there are hundreds of letters similar to mine which you will read, so I am going to keep this brief with my points on why you should not allow the list to be altered from its current state:
1.  This class is an elective.  It is not required.  Any parent who feels that strongly about not allowing their child to read these books is within their right to keep their child from taking it.
2.  No matter what your personal thoughts are about them, foul language, violence, and sexual imagery are a part of our everyday life.  You cannot go anywhere public without being exposed to them.  Using these as an excuse to not let students read a book, but giving the OK for them to watch R rated movies or most commercials for clothing or alcohol, play video games like Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty, walk through any mall and pass an Abercrombie & Fitch or Victoria’s Secret, is hypocrisy, in my opinion.
3.  Taking “offensive” scenes or language out of the context of the novel in which they were written to use them against the book itself shows ignorance and unwillingness to see beyond one’s own beliefs and (probable) narrow-mindedness.  
4.  At its base level, Romeo and Juliet is about a 13 year old and a 17 year old who know each other for three days and then kill themselves because they can’t imagine life without each other.  If you break down many of the classics like this, you’ll find some parents would see them as “offensive” and abhorrent.  But that is not how and why we read.  That book is a classic because of its challenging themes, its prose, and its historical significance.  Imagine that some of these books, years from now, will have that same significance.
5.  Lastly, and most importantly, the point of reading is to expand one’s horizons, challenge one’s thinking, and think critically to form one’s own opinions.  This is something that is imperative for our young people to learn, and without the setting in which to do so, we are holding them back.  Open dialogue about important issues and questions is how things work in the adult world.  We can’t shelter our young people from everything.  All we can do is give them the tools to make the best choices.
I strongly encourage you to read some of these books yourselves and form your own opinions about what they truly mean; what they can teach these students about critical thinking, life experience, love, and loss.  And when you do, I hope you will side with us and refuse to let a minority speak for the multitudes.  Do not allow censorship to set a precedent in your district.  
Rebecca Vega
Highlands Ranch, CO

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