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Letters to the Editor

Letter: The power of books

  • Author: Hilary Helkenn
    | Opinion
  • Updated: May 23
  • Published May 23

I was shocked and dismayed when I read that the school board members of the Matanuska-Susitna School District chose to ban five titles from the high school curriculum. I was so in shock that I had to stop and ask myself, “Where am I? This can’t possibly be happening in 2020. What sort of world are we living in that we choose to ban books that are nothing short of classic American literature?”

My high school son brought home the now banned “The Things They Carried” and asked me to read it. When I finished, sobbing and deeply moved, we sat down to discuss it. The tragedy of wars. The guilt, the grief suffered by the protagonist — these were lessons that resonated deeply with my son. As a typical American boy, my son was far more familiar with his Playstation or his favorite team’s football stats than he hitherto had been with the Vietnam War. For an afternoon, we sat together. No video games, no iPad. Just a mom and her son discussing a book.

There is controversy in books, but there is also power. The power to think, to reflect. Books develop our character and ideals. Books mirror life. These school board members are doing an incredible disservice to these students and these educators.

The school board members were elected to serve the students and teachers of the Matanuska-Susitna school district. I urge them to uphold the responsibilities that they undertook and reconsider these ridiculous, archaic actions.

— Hilary Helkenn

Ketchikan

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