Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Read a Damn Book!

I've been wanting to do an early 2012 post (fail) on reading in general, so I'll do a future post on interesting books that are least somewhat related to distance running. I've seen some fellow runners with goals of reading a book (or more) per month, etc., which is great. As people who value regular fitness and health, and the examples it might provide for others, I think reading is similarly important for intellectual health.

But a direct threat to both running and reading, with a Colorado angle as well, is this controversy from the South, in which the appropriateness of the famous CU cross-country biography, "Running with the Buffaloes," is questioned because of swear words.. Now I can entertain arguments about which books might be best for a Middle School library, given finite resources and space. But the argument offered by the student and the mother wasn't just that they were personally offended, but that they hoped no other students would be able to read it, either.
"I think they should ban every book that has words like that in it," dictated the 8th-grader.

Where to begin? The book is a detailed look into a talented group of runners. The swears come in handy with the reality of injuries, hard work, and (mini spoiler alert) a horrible tragedy that hits the team. In this way, the swearing is a raw reflection of the reality of these runners, meaning that any reality-based biography (also sometimes called "history") is not appropriate for middle schoolers.

While this mother focuses on the swear words, why is there no similar focus on the positive messages of inspiration and dedication to pursuing excellence and physical fitness? I'm dancing around stronger words, but watch the video: Dropping swear words doesn't save lives the way that dropping severely excess weight does.

And that's one of the main functions of the written word: anybody, including the most backward parts of the Union, can have equal access to messages and information that aren't provided at home, escaping prejudices and biases and ignorance that might have been in-bred for generations.

So I don't know if the books necessarily has to be in the library, but by God, it is appropriate for some 8th graders to be allowed to read it. I recall middle school as the time to move up into the "big books," when I started reading Stephen King and Dean Koontz, no worse for the wear...and I remember discussing favorites with my 8th grade English teacher. I remember that as a turning point of being able to walk in the library or used book store (we had a good one in town!) and feeling like any book was fair game. To that, I owe my parents, as well as the local librarians, booksellers, and English teachers alike a big thank you.

While I haven't read horror books like that in ages, I am absolutely terrified at the state of reading in this country. That's scary enough.


  1. Pretty sure Ms. Allen was more offended by all the physical activity in the book than she was by the curse words.

  2. Running with the Buffaloes was a damn good book. Literally had a hard time putting it down.

    If you haven't read Stephen King in awhile, you should check out 11/22/63. Another damn good book. Be forewarned, though, there are swear words *gasp*.