Banned Books Week: Update on Slaughterhouse-Five Ban in Missouri plus Link to KVML Video
In July, the school board of a southwest Missouri school district voted to remove this Vonnegut classic from the high school library shelves and not include it in the curriculum. In response, the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library offered free copies to any of the students at Republic, Missouri’s high school. In addition, several national groups sent a letter to the superintendent and school board of the Republic School District asking school officials to revisit the removal.
On September 19, the board did revisit the issue but with unsatisfactory results. Slaughterhouse-Five is now housed in a secure area of the library. High school students may have access to it if a parent or guardian comes to the library to check it out for them. Needless to say, the Vonnegut library feels this is a false repeal. A statement from Julia Whitehead, the founder and Executive Director of KVML, follows:
The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library announced today that it will continue to offer one free copy of Slaughterhouse Five to students at a high school in Republic, Missouri. On Monday, the school board of Republic claimed to have voted to end the ban of Slaughterhouse Five and Sarah Ockler’s Twenty Boy Summer from the school library as the books were deemed “inappropriate” by the school board, based on a complaint by one person who both does not live in the Republic district and home schools his children.
“I was thrilled to see the headline that suggested the school board ended the ban of these books, although their action didn’t really end the ban,” said Julia Whitehead, Executive Director of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library. “What they’re doing is making books available to students only if parents or guardians physically come to the school library to check out the books. The books are otherwise being held in a “secure location” within the library, where students cannot access them. These barriers are tantamount to the banning of books and are clearly inconsistent with our democratic freedoms and the free flow of ideas represented by the 1st Amendment. How do we expect our children to grow up to be inquisitive, educated, participating citizens if we set up such barriers to accessing classic American literature, such as Slaughterhouse Five?”
The Vonnegut Library thanks the State of Indiana for supporting the teaching of one of its favorite sons, who looked at life with wisdom and humor, specifically in Slaughterhouse Five, through the eyes of a young soldier. Whitehead said it is ironic that this action has taken place in Missouri on the eve of the international Banned Book Week, when one of Missouri’s favorite sons, Harry Truman, warned that, “Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and this is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.”
The Vonnegut Library is pleased that part of its celebration for Banned Book Week will include a presentation by Sarah Ockler, the other author whose book was banned at Republic High. Additional programs sponsored during Banned Book Week can be found at www.vonnegutlibrary.org. Students and parents from Republic High School can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to receive a free copy of Slaughterhouse Five.
We are proud to report that, so far, 55 free copies have been given away to Republic high school students!
For those of you who are interested in learning more about the situation in Missouri as well as some background information on Slaughterhouse Five, please check out this new video featuring Julia Whitehead, which is airing on the YouTube Banned Books Week channel.
As Banned Books Week ends, the struggle against censorship continues.