The Cape Henlopen School Board took emily m. danforth’s critically-acclaimed novel The Miseducation of Cameron Post off the summer reading list for 9th grade students, ostensibly for containing a word that rhymes with duck – then, facing controversy, decided to ditch the summer reading list altogether. NCAC asked students in Delaware to submit essays explaining to the School Board the importance of having books like Cameron Post on school reading lists.
“We were overwhelmed and inspired by the submissions we received,” said NCAC Executive Director Joan Bertin. “The essays showed that teenagers can be mature and thoughtful in their approach to books that some adults consider controversial and inappropriate. They also suggest that these students have a greater appreciation and respect for the value of literature and intellectual freedom than some members of the school board, who voted to remove the book as a summer reading option without having read it.” Winning students received cash prizes of $250, $150, and $100, respectively, made possible by a generous donation from Rob Spicer, the father of a gay Cape Henlopen graduate.
1st Place Winner Hannah Lowe's Essay
The Miseducation of Cape Henlopen High School
It is the natural instinct for adults to look out for children; to shield young people from what grown-ups view as evil in the world. However, this parental guidance can grow into over protection – and in no case more so than the Cape Henlopen Board of Education removing The Miseducation of Cameron Post from the freshman summer reading list.
Cameron Post, by emily m. danforth, tells the story of a young lesbian navigating the stormy seas of adolescence. It highlights homophobia and intolerance in Montana, while artfully abstaining from glorifying the protagonists or vilifying the antagonists. While the Board can be forgiven for balking at some of the content – swearing, teenage sexuality, underage drinking and smoking – the removal of the book from the list was a poor decision.
The official reason for the censorship of Cameron Post is "Obscenity". During the deciding meetings on the controversy, damning excerpts were read: passages from the book featuring a host of colorful swears and inappropriate content. The novel was made out to be the perfect manual for corrupting teens. However, the passages used to illustrate Cameron Post’s “obscenity” were taken out of context, twisted into a dishonest portrayal of a book that offers profound observations on life and morality, a complex story of sin and virtue in the teenage world.
In addition: there was, without a shadow of doubt, a religious and personal agenda furthered by those involved in the controversy. Beliefs were expressed that have no place in public schools; education is not the playing field for personal, political, or religious ideologies. Teenagers do not appreciate our educations being turned into battlegrounds for opposing opinions, especially when we are never consulted or our voices heard.
Finally, while adults may be uncomfortable with literature that accurately portrays the formative years of modern youth, teenagers find characters with which we identify. In such literature as Cameron Post, we read ourselves speaking back to us through the pages, telling us how they sorted through the problems we share. In novels such asCameron Post, dealing with sexual identity, questioning teens see portrayals of people like them – a very encouraging thing for a young, queer teen. Parents reading the book might also be led to an understanding of their LGBTQ+ child, as well. Unfortunately, this content can be offensive to certain groups in our community. These close-minded people leap into action to censor our literature, without realizing that we benefit from reading it, and that they cannot censor the world around us. All that censorship will provide is a lack of relatable literature.
In conclusion, the removal of The Miseducation of Cameron Post was a mistake. It was a decision that sets us back as community and teaches young people intolerance instead of acceptance. Censorship allows prejudice to flourish instead of diminish. After all, narrowing the world of media for teens will only narrow the world we grow up to create.
To read the rest of the winning essays, visit NCAC's website, where this post originally apperared.