Recently, “The Tenth Circle” – a book introduced to sophomore students at Lincoln Community High School – has caused quite a stir among parents, teachers and kids.
The issue revolves around sexually explicit material and foul language contained within the book.
Some things never change throughout history.
The idea of banning books was around before William Shakespeare and other great authors wrote them.
Some of those Shakespeare pieces taught in high school, surprisingly, contain quite a bit of sexual content and innuendo. The language is different, but the message and issues remain the same.
By looking into past literary content, another message has been consistent throughout the years: Teens dealing with sexual issues, peer pressure and pregnancy.
This idea isn’t new to this generation, or even the generation of our grandparents. As long as teenagers have hormones, it will continue to be an area of discussion.
Undoubtedly, many of the situations contained in this book have been spoken about among students in high school. Even if your children and their friends aren’t the ones speaking about it, they are overhearing these type of discussins in the classrooms, the locker rooms and the hallways.
Because of this, they will begin – at some point – to naturally develop thoughts and questions about these issues.
Banning a particular book isn’t going to take this subject away from these students. Sexual content isn’t just presented to teens in rated-R movies and pornographic novels. Most of this content can be seen on regular television or movies rated PG-13.
Denying that they have likely been exposed to much of the content found in “The Tenth Circle” may be a little naïve.
Another question has been asked: Is LCHS an appropriate venue to talk about these issues?
Yes. An even more important venue, though, would be the students’ homes.
Parents should be the first line of defense in guarding against ill thought out decisions by students. Guarding against what they see and hear isn’t impossible, but most of the time, it’s a losing battle.
Those hormonal thoughts are – through the grace of Mother Nature – already beginning to loom inside the minds of young high school students. Whether they act on these thoughts depends on having nurturing adults around them, who feel comfortable about discussing these topics with the students.
What should be monitored more than the content of a book is the teacher presenting this content. If the content is presented in an appropriate manner, and dealt with in an arena where adults are present and the students feel safe, it can only be considered healthy.
We highly doubt the subject matter was solely introduced through the book in question, the question is: Should we outlaw the content to prevent further exposure, or use the book to encourage students to speak about something already affecting their lives or the lives of their peers?
We feel if students are exposed to it, which they likely have been in other arenas, talking about it under an educator’s guidance is an appropriate step.
Providing an alternative reading, though, is also an important step. Some students determined they didn’t want to read “The Tenth Circle” because of its content. Teachers allowed these students to read the much more difficult “Dante’s Inferno” instead.
Unfortunately, because of an oversight, LCHS did not provide an alternative reading until students and parents were already upset about the content of “The Tenth Circle.” This is an error that can hopefully be avoided in the future.
Parents also asked educators to warn them in the future when students would be assigned readings with questionable content. This way, students can read the alternative text from the get-go.
We understand that some students may not be on that comfort level to talk about such matters, so providing another piece of literature gives them the opportunity to postpone speaking about the issue until they feel comfortable, or taking up the discussion in a venue where they feel more comfortable.
Talking about a subject presented through a piece of literature in English class is just as appropriate, if not more appropriate, than talking about it after reading the content from a textbook in Health class.
Literature can provide a good vehicle for a subject that addresses students on their level – a human level.We support both the discussion of the book and providing an alternative to those students who don’t want to read the book. We cringe at the idea, however, of denying a piece of education to the group of students who are most in need of it.