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Huck Finn Stays at Mansfield, and Other Takeaways from ACLU's Banned Book Report

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The ACLU of Texas released its annual compendium of books that school districts have pulled from their shelves for being too coarse, profane, sexual, or otherwise too interesting for our precious children, despite every Mom in America having a copy of 50 Shades of Gray by her nightstand.

There's good news to report, actually: Only 13 titles were yanked last year, compared with 17 the year before. And some of those were simply moved from, say, the elementary-school library to that of the middle school. It's the lowest number in a decade.

That's largely a result of improvements in the review process. More and more districts are using committees to review books that parents -- or in one case a school bus aide -- find objectionable. This year, 59 percent of districts reported having a review committee compared with fewer than half the year before.

This year brought many victories or semi-victories. Applause is due to Grand Prairie ISD for standing up to a parent's attempt to censor The Blood-Hungry Spleen, a book of body part-inspired poetry; to Sheldon ISD for keeping I'm Your Peanut Butter Big Brother despite cries that it was politically or racially offensive; and to Humble ISD, which kept Da Vinci and His Timesdespite concerns about the biography's -- wait for it -- instances of nudity.

In several cases, districts offered alternatives to Catcher in the Rye, Beloved, and A Farewell to Arms to hush up a whiny parent rather than banning them outright.

Linden-Kildare ISD did ban one book: Dean Koontz's Dark Rivers of the Heart. No word on whether it was banned for its adult themes, or on the account of it being written by Dean Koontz.

The rest of the banned books make up a rogue's gallery of blatant homosexuality (10,000 Dresses, about a boy who likes to wear dresses, was pulled by Cuero ISD); near-pornography (em>Dash and Lily's Book of Dares); and outright subversion (The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby, which contains name calling and a testing boycott).

No discussion of banned books is complete, of course, without mention of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. This year's annual challenge was brought by a parent in Mansfield ISD who objected, according to the ACLU report, to "the word 'nigger' over and over."

The district hadn't made a decision at the time the report was written, but it has now. Spokesman Richie Escovedo said a committee decided to keep the unedited book in the curriculum but will offer alternative texts if a parent objects. So, everybody wins, except the kid whose parents think that shielding the kid from bad words will make the bad words go away altogether. That kid is screwed.

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