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Consider Reinstating Perks of Being a Wallflower

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky has been a controversial book for over a decade. There's no arguing that there are controversial moments in the novel, but the question becomes whether to remove this from the curriculum for freshman students in Wallingford.

This is not meant to be disrespectful towards the viewpoints of the few parents that have raised questions, but rather create a dialogue. Certain parts of the book (the mentions of drugs and sex, a scene of 12 year old Charlie witnessing a date rape, etc.) may be seen as inappropriate by some parties, but Chbosky has addressed the issue before. He argues that these passages are taken out of context, and that whenever the book is challenged, its opponents always cut to these specific scenes. Marty Beckerman, a journalist and published author, insists that despite the mentions of these topics, they are by no means glorified in the novel.

As a teenager, I have to be frank - these issues are not new. As a parent, whether you'd like to admit it or not, your daughter or son has heard of date rape. They know people who are sexually active and drink and use drugs, and any high school student in the country is surrounded by the issues brought up in this book. It’s something that adults may not be able to relate to, and subsequently not be able to understand its importance. Mariah Eakin of The A.V. Club says that the book “speaks to a more specific age range and does it well”.

The negative impact of removing this book is obvious. To begin with, it’s a novel that teens can relate to easily, it’s a novel that teens want to read. It’s “arguably the most beloved coming-of-age novel published in the last two decades” (The Stranger) and “will engage teen readers for years” (Francisca Goldsmith of The School Library Journal). While some parents don’t see the use for the book for their children, it’s not a blanket application. Many students do not have the complete support that young students should have. Most importantly, Perks serves as an unparalleled aid for students dealing with depression, mental illness, or suicidal thoughts. In fact, Truman State University in Missouri specifically uses the film during Mental Health Awareness week to precede the offering of mental health counseling to its students. Chbosky receives letters, phone calls, and tweets from hundreds of students praising how much his novel has helped them, and he claims to know of at least two teens, a 14 year old girl and 17 year old boy, whose lives have been directly saved from the novel. Considering suicide, both teens changed their minds after reading his book.

This is not simply a glorification of everything taboo. It’s a relatable piece of literature for high schoolers. The American Library Association re-evaluated the book and determined that there is “education value”. The organization’s deputy director of its Office for Intellectual Freedom maintains that Perks is intended for young adults, classified as a young adult novel, and is suitable for young adults.

The National Coalition Against Censorship has also voiced its opposition of Wallingford’s decision. Their communications director, Peter Hart, said they are preparing to take action to encourage the district to reinstate the novel into the curriculum.

This is not a common practice, adds Robert Angeli, Associate Superintendent of Meriden schools. He claims that in his ten years at the position, he cannot recall a single book that was removed from curriculum in his district.

While the book was not outright banned by Wallingford, it’s still censorship, per the dictionary definition. The teens that need this book the most are not the teens that check out books from the library, and they’re not the teens that are reading novels on their own. At the start of each year, a list of potential reading materials is sent home for parents to sign. As for those who do not believe their child needs this book, they would have no problem talking to the teacher or administrator and arranging to read alternative material.

Please sign this petition and urge the school board to reconsider the decision to remove Perks of Being a Wallflower from the Wallingford curriculum.



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