One Rainbow Rowell book has sparked a lot of controversy for an Oregon middle school.
Last week, KATU News reported that the Yamhill-Carlton school board voted to sever Rowell’s 2013 young adult novel, Eleanor & Park, from a middle school’s lesson plan. The New York Times bestseller, which follows the titular characters as they fall in love, discusses themes dealing with sex and sexual abuse. Apparently, it was decided the book should be pulled from class curriculums back in January after parents expressed their objection to their children reading a book of such adult subject matter.
At last Wednesday’s board meeting, parent’s voiced their concerns about Rowell’s controversial book being read in class. Among the myriad of complaints include issues of vulgar language, too-high maturity level ratings, and sexually suggestive undertones deemed inappropriate for eighth-grade classrooms.
With this in mind, the board settled to pull the book completely. However, their latest act stirred up even more unwanted controversy with teaching staff after the board broke one of their own rules by not investigating a book’s content before ruling it unfit for class curriculums. After the debate on policy, the board decided to readdress the move yesterday, February 13.
According to KATU, Vice-Chairman Tim Pfeifer issued an apology on behalf of the board for their hasty decision to ban Eleanor & Park, and for disregarding process protocol. “What I would like to apologize about is for not following the process we have in place, Pfeifer said. “I kind of stepped out of the weeds and went up to my knees. I decided I didn’t want the book in the classroom and kind of narrowed my vision.”
As of now, the fate of whether Eleanor & Park will be considered suitable for eighth-grade curriculum material will now be left to a reconsideration committee, which consists of both community and staff members, as well as one student.
As shocking as this all sounds, this isn’t the first time Rowell’s book made headlines for its subject material. In 2013, the Parents Action League targeted Eleanor & Park to be removed from shelves at Anoka County Library ahead of the author’s scheduled visit to her native Nebraska. She reportedly offered to do her stop through free of charge, though county officials never did follow up with her.
While the recent readdress has still left many parents uneasy about the possibility of children being made to read the book, namely their own, I can’t personally see the issue with reading a harmless young adult book. In fact, I think it’s pretty fair to assume kids—teenagers, especially—these days are already learning about these subjects in and out of school. Hell, the kids in my class talked about sex as early as the seventh grade where I come from… And at least it’s Eleanor & Park and not Lolita, amiright?
I’m not saying parents should not have agency over what their kids are and are not permitted to read in school. What I am saying is that book bans are completely unnecessary. It’s a book and it’s been published for a reason. In my opinion, if history has taught us anything about sheltering our children from harsh subjects, it’s that it does more bad than good.
What do you think about this ban pending on Eleanor & Park in Oregon?