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Missouri school district bans Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse-Five”

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You may know Kurt Vonnegut as the author of Slaughterhouse-Five and other novels, or you may just know him as that dude that appeared in Back To School with Rodney Dangerfield, but the school board in Republic, Missouri knows him as the guy who apparently has a pernicious influence on their students. They voted four to zero to ban Vonnegut's time-travelling World War II satire, along with Sarah Ocker's Twenty Boy Summer, from the Republic High School curriculum and library, after a local parent (whose children are home-schooled) complained about the novel's excessive amount of sailor-blushing profanity and "principles contrary to the Bible."

That parent, Missouri State University business professor Wesley Scroggins, had written several letters to his daily newspaper bitching about the moral dry rot of the Missouri public-school system. Even though Slaughterhouse-Five was voted the eighteenth-greatest English-language novel of the twentieth century by the Modern Library, it was just too dirty for Scroggins, as was Ocker's Twenty Boy Summer, about which he wrote, "In this book, drunken teens also end up on the beach, where they use their condoms to have sex." I guess it's safe to say that you won't find copies of The Tropic of Cancer or Lady Chatterley's Lover in Scroggins' home library either.

Vonnegut is no longer around to defend himself, but Sarah Ocker is. She wrote on her blog:

"Look, I've said it before and I'll say it a million times more. I get that my book isn't appropriate for all teens, and that some parents are opposed to the content. That's fine. Read it and decide for your own family. But don't make that decision for everyone else's family by limiting a book's availability and burying the issue under guise of a "curriculum discussion." Not every teen who has sex or experiments with drinking feels remorseful about it. Not every teen who has sex outside of a relationship feels guilty, shameful, or regretful later on. And you can ban my books from every damn district in the country — I'm still not going to write to send messages or make teens feel guilty because they've made choices that some people want to pretend don't exist."

An interesting sidenote: only one of the four school-board members voting had actually read either of the books. This Footloose-like mentality puzzles me. We're talking about high schoolers here, not eight-year olds, who have ready access to much more explicit content on the internet. And we all know that banning something just makes people want to get their hands on it that much more. Slaughterhouse-Five has had previous run-ins with the forces of political correctness in various states, but I believe that the county's top prosecutor in Howell, Michigan, after deciding against any legal action in 2007, made the definitive statement on the book. He wrote that, "It is clear that the explicit passages illustrated a larger literary, artistic, or political message and were not included solely to appeal to the prurient interests of minors."