Censorship In Today’s World.

One of the cornerstones of our American society freedom of thought; a freedom to access ideas. I’ve come across another article of a book being banned from schools. Apparently some parents were outraged that the book, Sherman Alexie’s “The Absolutely True Diary Of A Part Time Indian”, discusses masturbation. These parents were shocked, SHOCKED, that sixth graders think about sex.

 Bowing to pressure from the outraged parents and after inquiries from the Daily News, the principal of Public School/Middle School 114 in Rockaway Park announced Wednesday that “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” was no longer required reading.   By / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS PUBLISHED: THURSDAY, AUGUST 1, 2013

The headline for the piece was “Queens sixth-graders no longer must read racy ‘Diary of Part-Time Indian’. Really? Racy? The book IN ITS ENTIRETY is a fictionalized account of Alexie’s own coming of age, including the hardships he faced as a teen torn between two worlds. If we don’t expose our children to injustice, it doesn’t exist, it seems.  The novel addresses other subjects also, such as; alcoholism, bullying and poverty.

Hardly the trash story as it was described:

“It’s about . . . masturbation — which is not appropriate for my child to learn at 11,” said Kelly-Ann McMullan-Preiss, 39, of Belle Harbor, who refused to let her son read the book. “It was like ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ for kids.”

Fifty Shades? I hardly think so. “Fifty Shades of Grey” was at its outset meant to be an erotic novel that was panned by critics for among other things its poor structure and poor style.

Alexie’s book, on the other hand, won several awards including:

Wikipedia: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian

The comparison doesn’t hold water.

So what is it then? I’m left wondering if the parents that objected to the book weren’t given the chance to have a different book assigned to their own children. Did they even ask? If the parents involved didn’t ask for an alternate assignment or refused one that was given, what was it then?

I’m of a notion that this brouhaha is over something more insidious. Something that can best be summed up as, “I find this objectionable so your child can’t read this.” An extremely loud, extreme minority of a mind that it has the right to make parenting decisions for the majority. Talk about arrogance!

It’s the same mentality that gives the supposed right to a minority to make decisions about entertainment that other adults can have access to. “I find this lewd or obscene so you can’t consume it.” Often without seeing, reading or hearing the material in question. Ignorance and arrogance are a dangerous combination.

Freedom of access to ideas truly is central to our society. Without it how can we hope to correct what our problems are? This includes introducing our children to things that aren’t the best, shining facets of what we are. Let’s teach kids the disappearing art critical thinking early.

Censorship ends in logical completeness when nobody is allowed to read any books except the books that nobody reads.George Bernard Shaw



Magnetars? Opinions?

So where does the title for this blog come from, anyway? What gives?

The title, such as it is, is an acknowledgement of my curiosity in all its forms. I love reading about scientific discoveries. That’s where the “Magnetars” bit comes in. I have always been interested in science but for some reason lacked the mathematical aptitude for pursuit into a scientific field. Ah well, we can’t all be Carolyn Porco. My gut feeling is that if more average people, like me, would have even a passing interest in science, technology, art, criticism and the like we wouldn’t be seeing the assault on education and intellectualism that the US seems to constructing. This blog is just a reflection of that opinion.

And speaking of opinion; that brings me to the other bit of my title “Opinions” comes from. I’ve come to understand that the best journalists keep as much bias as humanly possible out of his or her journalistic pieces. Unless of course it’s an op-ed piece. Lucky for me I’ve designed this as my own personal opinion/ editorial forum. My own bias can injected into anything I write here. Pretty smart, huh? I’m over half Irish and my dad always said “You can always tell an Irishman. You just can’t tell him much.” Irish and being opinionated run in the family it seems.

While growing up in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, my dad would walk to a small corner store on Main Street to pick up the daily Chicago Tribune. Not only was it a much better newspaper than the local daily but it had something no other paper in the world had: Mike Royko. It was reading the Royko columns that I began to appreciate the importance of editorial pieces and how these would give insight regarding  the newspaper men and women. And very few came close to the quality of Mr. Royko.

And none came close to Kurt Vonnegut, my other writer-hero, whose quote opens this blog at its header. The New York Times once described Vonnegut as “A laughing prophet of doom.” He had the ability to take the sublime of the human condition and break it down to the ridiculous. Whether it was the horrors of war, our reliance on runaway technology or his disbelief in organized religion he had the ability to make his readers think.

I’m hoping that I can write within the shadow of these two greats, but even to say so might be to insult them both. My hope here it that I develop a writing style of my own that others will enjoy reading. In doing so, my desire is to sharpen my craft to the point where a book isn’t out of the question. But for now I hope to write a few pieces that you, my readers, will enjoy.