Monday, February 13, 2006

National Dumbing-down of My Future Audience of Art Patrons

Missouri School Bans "Crucible" After "Grease" Fire

A high school in Missouri stages the musical "Grease." But the high school gets complaints, writers "complaining that scenes of drinking, smoking and a couple kissing went too far, and glorified conduct that the community tries to discourage. One letter, from someone who had not seen the show but only heard about it, criticized "immoral behavior veiled behind the excuse of acting out a play." The school superintendent "watched a video of the play, ultimately agreeing that 'Grease' was unsuitable for the high school, despite his having approved it beforehand, without looking at the script. Hoping to avoid similar complaints in the future, he decided to ban the scheduled spring play, 'The Crucible' by Arthur Miller." NY Times, 2/12/06

Originating from a small Missouri town, I am not surprised by acts of intermittent midwest censorship. However that does not mean I understand their continued ridiculousness. Throughout my childhood, “Grease” was a favorite. Something we watched every time it was on television, not unlike “The Wizard of Oz” (remember before VHS, when the Wizard was on once a year and it was a family event?). I find it hard to believe that the actual film was more tame than the high school play. Let’s get over our-prudish-selves... And the Crucible is too much for students, as well? Speaking for myself, I know that if it weren't for Miller's play, I wouldn't even have known about the Salem Witch Trials. Why? - because I didn't grow-up anywhere near Salem and that's how the world works. If you don't live there, it really doesn't affect you. I taught public school for a few years and I know for a fact that the youth of our nation are fully (scarily) aware of smoking, drugs, sex and vulgarity. Unfortunately, most are unaware of history and constitutional freedoms.

This study came out of the University of Indiana:

Survey of 112,003 high school students finds that 36% believe newspapers should get "government approval" of stories before publishing .... Asked whether the press enjoys "too much freedom," not enough or about the right amount, 32% say "too much," and 37% say it has the right amount.

So what legacy are we leaving America’s youth when newspapers refuse to print cartoons, schools ban books, censor plays, and run education through a series of “political correctness” and “conservative Christian” filters? It’s like the bumper sticker says:

If You’re Not Angry, You’re Not Paying Attention



Vin. said...

Good post. Man, growing up in Poplar Bluff really sucked, didn't it?

Anonymous said...

My husband thinks that if a country is ready to send is youth to face death, it should trust it's youth to face everything. I agree.
Good and courageous post Daniel!

Gaelon said...

Vin, I don't believe growing up in Poplar Bluff sucked. I am grateful for my experiences there and perhaps even the insulation small town life provided. I believe leaving and exploring our country and the world has given me the opportunity to correct a sense of social myopia that insulation creates.

I wished the irony of canceling The Crucible amused rather than frustrated me. Miller's allegory allows curious students the opportunity to explore the scars created by McCarthyism. Literature that informs beyond it's genre and discipline whiles still maintaining the ability to entertain is a treasure. When students connect the dots and find deeper meaning under the superficial story they are a step closer toward turning off the X-Box and opening a book.

I agree that much of Henry Miller's work should be hidden from young minds until college but The Crucible is no Tropic of Cancer.