In my Vietnam and America class this fall I am using Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried, considered perhaps the single greatest work of fiction on the Vietnam War. As usual the course is closed and has a waitlist. A student even gave me a beautiful designer card after I let her enroll after course had closed. Anyway there is a school board, so typical of the right-wing assault on education in this country, in Arlington Heights, a suburb of Chicago. Township High School District 214, wants to remove nine books from their reading list and their precious students are protesting this "bookburning" in America.
The Chicago Tribune carried a dramatic photo that should win a Pulitzer Prize in paper version of numerous students in attendance at a school-board meeting imploring them not to abuse them and to allow them to learn. Bookburning was common in Nazi Germany and it should not be allowed in the U.S.
O'Brien's book is his most effective in my opinion. I have used Going After Cacciato, If I Die in a Combat Zone and The Nuclear Age and was not overwhelmed by his writing. I do think The Things They Carried is a poignant gripping story about a platoon in Alpha Company in the Chu Lai, Quang Ngai area south of Da Nang during the Vietnam War. To think it would be banned is a tribute to the ascendancy of censorship and antiAmerican restrictions on freedom and learning during war.
Arlington Heights should be proud of those students who want to learn in a democracy and to be free from "adults" who see education as a manipulative exercise and a means to indoctrinate and abuse students in their goal of blind, unthinking, xenophobic partriotism. Those who support censorship of this and other books are vicious ideologues who are a danger to the democracy we hold dear in this country.