Banned Books: What’s the No. 1 banned book in the last 10 years?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Banned Books
The American Library Association Banned Books Week

Want to find out more about the American Library Association’s plans to promote Banned Books Week this year? Click this ALA image to visit the group’s resource page for this year’s campaign.

Librarians nationwide already are getting ready for this year’s Banned Book Week—but are you ready? Can you identify the books that draw the most fire nationwide?

Recently, The Kite Runner and Chinese Handcuffs were on the educational chopping block at the public high school in Waukesha, Wisconsin, put there by a parent who objected to the “extreme violence” they depict. Just a few days ago, the Waukesha school committee rejected the parent’s challenge, keeping the books on the high-school reading list. But this is just the most recent challenge.

Do you know what book holds the top spot for the most frequently challenged and banned book? I’ll give you five choices. All of them made the Top 10 list of most frequently challenged books in the last decade. Can you spot No. 1?

  • The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  • Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey
  • Looking for Alaska by John Green

Data on these and other challenged books are complied by the Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association. (See the complete lists here.)

The most frequently challenged book—and the most banned—is the 4th one on my list of five books: Captain Underpants. It topped the list in 2012 and 2013. If you are not familiar with this series (it sold 70 million copies worldwide), here’s a brief synopsis from Wikipedia:

Captain Underpants is a children’s novel series by American author and illustrator Dav Pilkey. The series revolves around two fourth graders, George Beard and Harold Hutchins living in Piqua, Ohio—and Captain Underpants, an aptly named superhero from one of the boys’ homemade comic books, that accidentally becomes real when George and Harold hypnotize their megalomaniacal principal, Mr. Krupp.

The book was challenged (and banned) in many schools and libraries because it was considered insensitive, not appropriate for the age group, and it condoned (and even encourage) kids to disobey people in authority.

What do you think of the recent attempts to ban The Kite Runner and Chinese Handcuffs?

Are you surprised to learn that Captain Underpants is the #1 most banned book?

Are any books challenged or banned in your school district?

Banned Books: Should we burn ‘demonic’ books? Or, ‘obscene’ books?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Banned Books
Book burning fact and fiction Fahrenheit 451 and 1949 American comic book burning

BOOK BURNING FACT AND FICTION: Rad Bradbury’s novel and a later film called “Fahrenheit 451” envisioned a draconian government burning all books. But, in the lower photograph, church members in 1949 staged a mass burning of comic books in the American heartland.

Schools nationwide are starting a new academic year. Already choices have been made about what students can and cannot read. Today, I’m inviting you, our readers, to express yourself. Leave a comment below or share this column on social media (for example, use the blue-“f” Facebook button) and share your comments with friends. Either way, you’ve got an opportunity to be heard on this issue.

What would you do with books like the Twilight and the House of Night series that some are calling “demonic”? Should teens have access to these books in public libraries or schools?

If a Texas pastor has his way, they would be removed from the shelves of the local public library. Phillip Missick, pastor of King of Saints Tabernacle, argued in front of the Cleveland (TX) City Council that the public library offers too many books with demonic and occult themes, like Twilight and House of Night. Other religious leaders have joined in support, according to media accounts. These books are “dark,” Missick said. “There’s a sexual element. You have creatures that are not human. I think it’s dangerous for our kids.”

Some other local pastors agree with Missick: Reading these books will mess up the lives of teens.

The head librarian defended the library’s holdings, saying that books “should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.”

In Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury described a world in which book censorship ran its full course. It began with selective book banning at the disapproval of special-interest groups, and ended with mass book burnings and the prohibition of reading at all. The book’s title refers to the temperature at which book paper catches fire.

How about banning—or even burning—what some argue is the greatest novel of the 20th Century? That book is James Joyce’s Ulysses. It “was banned as obscene, officially or unofficially, throughout most of the English-speaking world for over a decade,” writes Kevin Birmingham in a new analysis of the book and its history, The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce’s Ulysses.

And, this “obscene” book was burned by government authorities—over 1,000 copies, says Birmingham.

Book banning and burning are microcosms of bigger issues. For Joyce’s Ulysses, says, Birmingham, “it was a dimension of the larger struggle between state power and individual freedom that intensified in the early 20th Century, when more people began to challenge governmental control over whatever speech the state considered harmful.”

Are today’s struggles over book censorship also the struggle between state (or religious) power and individual freedom?

Should we ban—or burn—books with demonic or occult themes?
Or, should all books be available?

Get Out the Vote: How much voter impersonation is there?

This entry is part 9 of 10 in the series Get Out the Vote
800px-Thomas_O'Neill_-_NARA_-_182078

Tip O’Neill in his prime.

NOTE FROM DR. WAYNE BAKER—Columnist Terry Gallagher has been exploring Americans’ voter apathy and challenges to raising the level of participation.

In Tip O’Neill’s autobiography, Man of the House, he used the phrase “Chinese hat trick” to describe a form of voting fraud.

On election day, a ward boss would hire Chinese men and have them vote repeatedly under different names. “Each time they came to the polls, however, they would be wearing a different hat, the idea being that to Caucasians, all Chinese people looked alike,” according to O’Neill.

But after winning a close race for re-election to the Massachusetts house, O’Neill introduced legislation to punish that kind of malarkey.

“I didn’t like people stealing elections–and I especially didn’t like people stealing them from me!” he wrote. “The bill passed easily, and that particular brand of corruption virtually disappeared from Massachusetts.”

Yesterday’s post looked at the growing political strategy called “voter suppression,” like requiring potential voters to show a photo ID, to reduce turnout among those who are likely to oppose your candidate. The common rationale is to prevent the kind of fraud O’Neill saw in Boston back in the day.

But how common is that really, where someone shows up at the polls pretending to be someone else?

Not very, according to an analysis reported in the Washington Post last week.

Loyola University Law School Prof. Justin Levitt looked at more a billion votes cast in elections across the country from 2000 through 2014, and found only 31 credible cases of voter impersonation.

“Election fraud happens,” Levitt wrote, including ballot-box stuffing by officials in on the scam. But those methods are not going to be stopped by requiring photo IDs.

When turnout is so low already, why would we make it more difficult to vote?

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS THIS SUMMER: Terry Gallagher has written about a wide range of topics. You can read more than 100 of his past columns by clicking on this link. Email us at [email protected] with suggestions for Terry. And Please, we always invite you to comment (below) or to share this column on Facebook (use the blue-“f” icons).

Get Out the Vote: For some, the real goal is voter suppression

This entry is part 8 of 10 in the series Get Out the Vote
2000 Florida presidential election ballot and box

The 2000 Florida presidential election is now so infamous that this voting stand, ballot and ballot box from that election is now an exhibit in the state’s museum in Tallahassee.

NOTE FROM DR. WAYNE BAKER—Columnist Terry Gallagher has been exploring Americans’ voter apathy and challenges to raising the level of participation.

While many observers bemoan low voting turnout, not everybody sees it as a problem.

In fact, some political types embrace “voter suppression” as the key to electoral victory.

Their goal is not to persuade more people to support their candidate or position, but instead to discourage their opponents from voting at all.

“The tactics of voter suppression can range from minor ‘dirty tricks’ that make voting inconvenient, up to blatantly illegal activities that physically intimidate prospective voters to prevent them from casting ballots,” according to Wikipedia. “Voter suppression could be particularly effective if a significant amount of voters are intimidated individually because the voter might not consider his or her single vote important.”

Voter suppression is far more than minor dirty tricks, though. In Florida in 2000, which proved decisive for George W. Bush’s election as president, the United States Commission on Civil Rights said that “statistical data, reinforced by credible anecdotal evidence, point to the widespread denial of voting rights. . . . . The disenfranchisement of Florida’s voters fell most harshly on the shoulders of black voters.”

One of the seemingly innocuous ways to suppress voting is to require potential voters to show photo identification to cast a ballot.

So what? Not a big deal for most of us.

Turns out that studies have shown that 18 percent of all seniors and 25 percent of African-Americans don’t have picture IDs.

Do too many people vote?
Why would we make it more difficult?

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS THIS SUMMER: Terry Gallagher has written about a wide range of topics. You can read more than 100 of his past columns by clicking on this link. Email us at [email protected] with suggestions for Terry. And Please, we always invite you to comment (below) or to share this column on Facebook (use the blue-“f” icons).

Get Out the Vote: 20 years after Motor Voter, should voting be even easier?

This entry is part 7 of 10 in the series Get Out the Vote

NOTE FROM DR. WAYNE BAKER—Columnist Terry Gallagher has been exploring Americans’ apparent voter apathy and, after last week’s low voter turnout, he is looking at some creative ideas for kick starting American interest in voting.

Congressional Research Service analysis of Motor Voter law

THE 1993 MOTOR VOTER ACT faced complex problems. On its 20th anniversary, Congress commissioned this 39-page analysis of the policy. Click to read that report.

When so many potential voters stay away from the polls—only around 20 percent of registered voters cast ballots in last week’s primaries—is that a problem that needs fixing?

“There could be a number of reasons for (low turnout), including general disgust with the tone of politics, less of a belief that a vote matters, or the fact many families have a number of other obligations competing for their attention,” a member of the Michigan legislature wrote in Bridge, an electronic publication, at the end of July.

Among his suggestions: allowing all voters to cast absentee ballots without giving a reason, allowing early voting, and requiring employers to give employees time to vote.

The last major initiative to expand participation was more than 20 years ago, the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, known as “Motor Voter” because, among other things, it requires states to offer voter registration to anyone who applies for a driver’s license.

After it took effect in 1995, the predictable result was that voter registration went up. The unpredicted result was that increased registration didn’t increase the voter participation rate.

“The voter rolls are now filled with chronic non-voters, most of who have never voted and have no intention of voting,” according to an analysis by scholars at Franklin & Marshall College. “These phantom voters . . . were asked to expend no effort to register—and they expend the same amount of effort casting a ballot on election day.”

If you care to dig even deeper into the impact of the 1993 Act, the Congressional Research Service published a 39-page analysis at the 20th anniversary of the law. The report says there are a lot of complex, unresolved issues in making the law work effectively.

Should we make it easier to vote?

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS THIS SUMMER: Terry Gallagher has written about a wide range of topics. You can read more than 100 of his past columns by clicking on this link. Email us at [email protected] with suggestions for Terry. And Please, we always invite you to comment (below) or to share this column on Facebook (use the blue-“f” icons).

Get Out the Vote: Can we kick start American voters?

This entry is part 6 of 10 in the series Get Out the Vote

Fairvote slide from curriculum to teach the value of voting

NOTE FROM DR. WAYNE BAKER—Columnist Terry Gallagher has been exploring Americans’ apparent voter apathy and, after last week’s low voter turnout, he will look at some creative ideas for kick starting American interest in voting.

Our recent primarily elections saw dismally low levels of voting participation.

And with the way that district boundaries are drawn these days, the primaries are increasingly important to determining who will get elected in November.

So our representatives in our state capitals and Washington are almost always chosen by a majority of the less than 20 percent of eligible voters who show up to vote in the primaries.

But so what? What difference does it make if people are so apathetic about the political process that they can’t be bothered to vote?

One simple reason to be distressed about low turnout is that it threatens democratic government itself: If more people do not participate, the government will be controlled by smaller and smaller groups with a vested interest in one candidate or policy.

“Robust voter turnout is fundamental to a healthy democracy,” according to organizations like the non-profit advocacy organization called FairVote: The Center for Voting and Democracy. They lament that “low turnout is usually attributed to political disengagement and the belief that voting for one candidate/party or another will do little to alter public policy.”

FairVote and numerous other groups have advocated dozens of ways to increase turnout, reforms like making voting registration easier; extending hours polling places are open and expanding opportunities for absentee voting; even on-line voting.

FairVote also recommends a new “National Curriculum” that could build fresh interest in voting. The curriculum includes lessons about how much voting mattered in the American civil rights movement—and it also includes images like “Voting Rocks” photo at the top of this column.

What do you think? Is low turnout a problem?
Should we make it easier for people to vote?
What reforms would you suggest?

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS THIS SUMMER: Terry Gallagher has written about a wide range of topics. You can read more than 100 of his past columns by clicking on this link. Email us at [email protected] with suggestions for Terry. And Please, we always invite you to comment (below) or to share this column on Facebook (use the blue-“f” icons).

Get Out the Vote: A minority of voters charts our future

This entry is part 4 of 10 in the series Get Out the Vote
An Onion story blaming low voter turnout on Zombie attacks

HUMOR MAGAZINE ‘THE ONION’ produced this classic zombies-cause-low-turnout story some years ago. It seemed funny at the time. Kidding aside, though, voter turnout continues to shrink.

NOTE FROM DR. WAYNE BAKER: Contributing columnist Terry Gallagher is exploring the values Americans place on voting. This is his fourth column …

The people have spoken.

At least some of them have.

This week, while primary elections were held across the country, we’ve been looking at how Americans vote and what it says about the value we place on our freedom to participate in the political process.

From the numbers, you might conclude that most Americans don’t think voting is all that important.

In Michigan, where I vote, more than 80 percent of the eligible voters didn’t cast a ballot this week. That’s not an all-time low, but still pretty dismal, especially when it’s likely that the primary winners will be shoo-ins in the November general election.

Political scientists have a number of theories about low turnout, and the possible reasons are all over the map: some people don’t vote because they believe that all politics is evil, while others don’t vote because they’re happy with the government we have now.

But one major reason that people don’t vote is because they believe it doesn’t matter, that their vote won’t change anything.

In fact, I thought that back when I was a teenage smart-aleck know-it-all. I thought that until I tried it out on the principal of my high school.

I told him that it didn’t really matter how I voted, that elections are rarely decided by a single vote anyhow.

“It matters to you,” he pointed out.

And now I think of that every time I walk into the polling place.

Why vote? Because it matters to you.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS THIS SUMMER: Terry Gallagher has written about a wide range of topics. You can read more than 100 of his past columns by clicking on this link. Email us at [email protected] with suggestions for Terry. And Please, we always invite you to comment (below) or to share this column on Facebook (use the blue-“f” icons).