Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Catcher in The Rye: To Read or Not to Read and the War On Neverending Cencorship

J.D. Salinger
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger  is one of my favorite books. I read it in high school and I enjoy it now just as much as I did back then. The story revolves around Holden Caulfield, a 16 year old rebellious outcast. The novel brings me back to those angst ridden emotions of the teenage years, and in my opinion makes Holden one of the most relatable protagonists in literature. The only argument concerned parents may have is that the novel uses an immense amount of profanity, and is sad underneath its cynical and sarcastic humor. Despite that, throughout the novel you get a sneak peek into the lingering consequences that death and trauma have on a teen, helping the reader to understand his somewhat of irrational actions. The novel also exposes the reality that social class and wealth does not create happiness but rather the loneliness and sense of being a social outcast it may bring.

Holden is significant to teens everywhere as we read about his struggle to fit in while remaining an individual among all the “phonies.” I think this is a book that will have all the students in class coming together to enjoy and relate to due to the narrator’s ability of being a spokesman for teens, even after so many generations. Even today it sparks my interest to reminisce the agony of adolescence. Although the book was published sixty years ago, adolescent alienation is something every future generation will never grow out of.

Reading the novel I can't help but notice the connection to power and wealth. The story revolves around a rich teen who goes from one expensive boarding school to another expensive boarding school and running a muck the city being a "spendthrift". Regardless of his wealth (or his parents), Holden is always unhappy and on the lookout for his identity. This is all just a reminder to me that money can't buy happiness, no matter how hard you try. 

Maybe it has to do with his gender, but as a male he is taught to hold in his feelings or face the consequence of being shunned by society. Unfortunately, this only adds to Holden's deteriorating emotional state throughout the novel.

This is a definite must read for our students, and something we should never hold back from teaching so the fact that there are people fighting to keep this story out of our classrooms is immensely disappointing.

We (are supposed to) live in a society that praises our right to freedom of speech and the freedom of press, but as teachers we are experiencing differently. We became teachers because we had a passion for writing and a love for reading. Yet in our classrooms today we are being used as political puppets to prove a point, and are being forbidden to teach outside our prearranged boxes and of letting our students think beyond the classroom.

How can we be told what and how our students read? Isn’t it the decision of the teacher how our students learn and how we prepare them for the future? Apparently not. Unfortunately, many of us are scared to challenge these committees and these parents who threaten and offensively question our ability to teach. We can’t even express our opinions on how absurd this censorship is because our careers are on the line, and who are we without these live changing careers?

Realistically, we are fighting against groups of biases: the political, the religious, the uneducated, the old fashioned and worst of all: the ignorant and unwilling to understand. How can we be told we can’t teach a classic novel because it may or may not suggest homosexuality, because the book uses words that make a group of people uncomfortable, or because the book expresses an emotion that we are often told to repress? These novels are the ones that inspired and motivated us to be the leaders of society today. These books deal with the real and often common issues our teens are experiencing and living through today; rape, death, relationships, abuse, gangs etc. We can’t shun them from the obstacles of life just because we want to protect them. We are only hurting them by doing so.

Our students look up to us for guidance, they look up to us to hear the truth, and they look up to us to prepare them for the real world. How can we do any of that when the real world is being censored? The issues that these books cover are real; they are raw and they need to be explored. We as teachers need to stand together and win this war over censorship. We can’t let this ridiculousness overcome us, because to live a lie, we might as well not be teachers at all…

1 comment:

  1. Maybel, great job connecting all of the readings from last week to Catcher in the Rye. You have a clear position on intellectual freedom for teachers in the classroom. I would love to see you unpack the following point: "Yet in our classrooms today we are being used as political puppets to prove a point, and are being forbidden to teach outside our prearranged boxes and of letting our students think beyond the classroom." Why do you think teachers are political puppets? Should the community have a say in what content is taught to their children? How can we balance intellectual freedom for teachers and the community's goals?