Ellen Hopkins, Censorship and Why We Can't Tell Teens the Truth
Crank and Glass, both written by Ellen Hopkins, follow Kristina Snow, a high achieving 17 year old, as she nose dives into a meth addiction, with details on her subsequent rape, unwanted pregnancy and eventual jail time. Now, with just that one line description to go on, I can kind of see what the administrators at the high school over in Humble, Texas were thinking when they were presented with the opportunity to have the mastermind behind the series speak to their students. Who wants their kids exposed to what it's really like to do drugs? So, they uninvited Ellen Hopkins to their "Teen Lit Fest." Their thought process, as "concerned parents" sort of makes sense...until you actually read the books.
Both of these books were based on the author's own experience of watching her daughter battle her own meth addiction, and the close proximity to and honesty about addiction are apparent in the text. Hopkins paints a portrait of a girl - lost and miserable - and even personifies the "monster" that is her addiction, a bona fide villain that haunts her. Not to mention that all of this is done in gorgeous free verse poetry.
These books display the truth about addiction: the honest and raw facts. No teen could possibly read this series and think to themselves, "Must. Become. Burn Out. Immediately. SOUNDS LIKE SO MUCH FUN!" Instead they think, "Wouldn't it suck if my life became all about feeding a monster that lives in my brain and torments me constantly, not to mention opening myself up to the increased possibility of dangerous situations because of my lack of judgment? I'm glad I read this book that in fact dispels the glamorization of drug use."
Or something along those lines.
It's not just that these parents, by trying to censor Hopkins' work, are doing their children a disservice by shielding them from an experience that would almost definitely turn them off of drugs. It's that the idea that teens must be shielded from reality - that they will make BETTER decisions if the truth is hidden from them -- is getting so very, very old.
It's the same old song and dance that goes along with abstinence only sex education. I can just imagine politicians (probably convening ironically in a strip club, but then again, I have an active imagination) denouncing the general sin that is teens having sex and deciding, "Well we'll just keep it from them by telling them to wait instead of giving them the nitty gritty about it. That'll work." Except for that it doesn't.
But comprehensive sex education does. You know, the route of giving teens the facts and telling them what they can do to make the best out of a realistic situation. The same should go for teaching us about drug abuse. Give us the facts. We can handle it and we'll be so much better off for it. Amazingly, teens aren't about to pick up an addiction at the mere mention of drugs.
If you talk honestly, we'll listen. We don't need clowns or comparisons of our bodies to sucked lollipops and we don't need you hiding the world of drugs from us. We just need the truth, support and education. With that, we're golden.
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