Comedy writer has exactly the right response to his kid's Fahrenheit 451 permission slip

Daily Show writer Daniel Radosh's son came home from school with a permission slip that he'd have to sign before the kid could read Ray Bradbury's novel Fahrenheit 451, which is widely believed to be an anti-censorship book (Bradbury himself insisted that this was wrong, and that the book was actually about the evils of television).

Fahrenheit 451 has been the frequent subject of parental challenges on the flimsiest of grounds, as when fundamentalist Christian Alton Verne, of Conroe, Texas, demanded to have the book removed from the curriculum because the characters occasionally blaspheme and say "damn" ("If they can't find a book that uses clean words, they shouldn't have a book at all").

Radosh responded to the permission slip -- which mentioned these parental challenges -- with a wry note congratulating the teacher for using permission slips to convey the awfulness of heavy-handed attempts to control peoples' access to information.

I love this letter! What a wonderful way to introduce students to the theme of Fahrenheit 451 that books are so dangerous that the institutions of society -- schools and parents -- might be willing to team up against children to prevent them from reading one. It's easy enough to read the book and say, 'This is crazy. It could never really happen,' but pretending to present students at the start with what seems like a totally reasonable 'first step' is a really immersive way to teach them how insidious censorship can be I'm sure that when the book club is over and the students realize the true intent of this letter they'll be shocked at how many of them accepted it as an actual permission slip. In addition, Milo's concern that allowing me to add this note will make him stand out as a troublemaker really brings home why most of the characters find it easier to accept the world they live in rather than challenge it. I assured him that his teacher would have his back.

Kid needs permission slip to read 'Fahrenheit 451,' his dad's response is brilliant [Jay Hathaway/Daily Dot]

(via Neatorama)

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  1. I was in Jr. High and High School in the 70's and my mother was a librarian in the school system. My parents were pretty stuffy in a lot of other ways, but my mother was a staunch defender of books - censorship was the ultimate insult to intelligence to her. We lived in a very small, very conservative Midwestern farm town, and along about 7th or 8th grade, library books mysteriously began showing up, just laying around the house. And not just ordinary books, but controversial ones like Cat's Cradle, Catcher in the Rye, The Fixer, The Painted Bird, and yes, Fahrenheit 451. Thinking I was getting away with something, I would sneak off and devour them, amazed at the world outside my own scope of experience. Years later I learned that these were books that the school system had banned from the library and ordered destroyed. My mother instead brought them home and surreptitiously left them around the house for me to find and read. Those books were one of the greatest gifts she could have given to me.

  2. nice bit of administrative aikido there

    recalls the excellent advice (not precisely applicable here) re diplomacy: when telling someone to go to Hell, do it such that they eagerly look forward to the trip

  3. I don't have kids but I would have added a pile of other books to also give them permission to read.

  4. Love this. Anyone else notice that the permission slip indicated both "cursing" and "profanity"? In other words, the teacher was pointing out that there were blasphemous and irreligious terms in the book, not 'just' swearing.

  5. I have a good deal of "challenged" books on a bookshelf at home. Some I read for school (Grapes of Wrath, Lord of the Flies, Animal Farm, Catcher in the Rye, Stranger in a Strange Land, Scarlet Letter, etc.), others weren't assigned (ALL the Dickens!), so I sought them out to read, but I keep them so my son will have opportunity to read them when he wants to find out what the big deal is with each one.

    The midwest has a reputation for being conservative, but I like to remind people that Glorious Socialist Minnesota is also in the midwest, and is where I was assigned all these (and more) banned and challenged books.

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