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Censorship and Sensibility

I had an interesting conversation with a colleague the other day about curriculum. I know what you're thinking: "Wait, I thought you said interesting..."

Don't worry, I'm not so far gone that curriculum is my favorite topic. But we were really talking about censorship, sex, and literature. Now do I have your attention?

There are some compelling new reads out there that some schools are brave enough to broach with their high school teens, among them 19 Minutes, Speak, and A Northern Light. Meanwhile, other high schools continue to play it safe with classics like The Scarlet Letter. I don't have much in common with teenagers, however, I felt just as linguistically-alienated by the writing of Nathaniel Hawthorne 15 years ago as our juniors do today. And really, for a guy born in 1804, what's a decade or two more?

When words like "condom", "rape", or "school shooting" show up in literature, we balk. We will, instead, spend our time arduously dragging 16 and 17 year-olds through a piece written over a century and a half ago. Meanwhile, if we listen carefully in our hallways, we can hear lively and immersive discussions on controversial adolescent issues. If not in school, where do young people enjoy a forum to decide how to work through the very real issues that face them in the modern world?

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