Banned in Alabama: Crutcher's "Whale Talk"

A popular young adult novel by author Chris Crutcher, "Whale Talk" (2001) has been banned by the Limestone County school board for its use of profanity. In a related story another book by the same author "Athletic Shorts" faced censorship in Michigan, also for language .

Published by HarperChildrens, "Whale Talk", an adoption story that is often used to discuss the sensitive issue of how families are formed, has been removed from the high school in Athens (AL) after board member James Shannon objected, stating, ""We can't allow students go down our halls and say those words, and we shouldn't let them read it. That book's got a lot of bad, bad words in it."

Here's a short excerpt , and here's the story about the banning, from the AP

Update: 03/09 09:33 EST by B:Mock Turtle noticed chriscrutcher.com Has His response.

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friggit

Neither the excerpt or the article have whatever the 'bad bad words' are. I'm assuming since its plural that its not just the same word as from the previous challenged book by this author.

What? Re:Crutcher's response

When a teacher looks out over his or her classroom, he/she is looking at one in three girls who have been sexually mistreated, one in five boys. That doesn’t take into consideration the number of kids who have been beaten, locked up, or simply never allowed to be good enough. Stories are buffered in fiction and therefore allow discussion of issues that would not otherwise be brought up. They save many students. I’d think twice before I allowed them to be taken away.

First and foremost what Crutcher doesn't understand is that the classroom is not meant for group therapy. Second he makes the mistake a lot of people do when working in a emotionally draining job, he starts to think the terrible things he sees everyday at work as a therapist are occuring to everyone everywhere. I simply don't accept that.

Re:What? Re:Crutcher's response

It's true that a classroom is not group therapy. On the other hand, an argument could be made that people who are censoring in order to protect the dear liddle innocents are only keeping books from them, and not keeping harm from them. If the books contain descriptions of harm that the kids are experiencing on a daily basis (or might be), then it's arguable that removing the books does no good and some harm. I realise that's not Crutcher's argument, but it is a corollary.

As far as his numbers, the federal government reports: rates of victimization for females range from 6 to 62 percent, with most professionals estimating that between one in three and one in four women are sexually abused in some way during their childhoods. The rates for men are somewhat lower, ranging from 3 to 24 percent, with most professionals believing that 1 in 10 men and perhaps as many as 1 in 6 are sexually abused as children. Slightly lower than his numbers, but still depressingly high.

Chris Crutcher does occasionally fall into the mistake of believing that something happened in real life is an excuse for bad fiction. And it's never okay, in my oh so humble opinion, to describe a scene from your own work as heartbreaking; leave that to the critics, Chris! But it's worth pointing out the disparity between protecting kids from books about abuse and actually protecting them from abuse.

ObDisclaimer: I haven't read Whale Talk, though I've read and enjoyed other Crutcher. For all I know it is a terrible book. :)

ObReadersAdvisory

>> ObDisclaimer: I haven't read Whale Talk, though
>> I've read and enjoyed other Crutcher. For all I
>> know it is a terrible book. :)

ObReadersAdvisory: If you have read & enjoyed other Crutcher, then I think you will like Whale Talk. It's the one that hooked me, as I had previously resisted reading Crutcher because I thought his books were "just sports books."

Re:What? Re:Crutcher's response

Just above what you quoted:

Studies of the prevalence of sexual abuse are those involving adults that explore the extent to which persons experience sexual victimization during their childhoods. Findings are somewhat inconsistent for several reasons. First, data are gathered using a variety of methodologies: telephone interviews, face-to-face interviews, and written communications (i.e., questionnaires). Second, a study may focus entirely on sexual abuse, or sexual abuse may be one of many issues covered. Third, some studies are of special populations, such as psychiatric patients, incarcerated sex offenders, and college students, whereas others are surveys of the general population. Finally, the definition of sexual abuse varies from study to study. Dimensions on which definitions may differ are maximum age for a victim, the age difference required between victim and offender, whether or not noncontact acts are included, and whether the act is unwanted.

The factors just mentioned have the following effects on rates of sexual abuse reported. Face-to-face interviews, particularly when the interviewer and interviewee are matched on sex and race, and multiple questions about sexual abuse may result in higher rates of disclosure.26 However, it cannot be definitively stated that special populations such as prostitutes, drug addicts, or psychiatric populations have higher rates of sexual victimization than the general population, because some studies of the general population report quite high rates.27 28 Not surprisingly, when the definition is broader (e.g., inclusion of noncontact behaviors and "wanted" sexual acts) the rates go up.

Massachusetts has the classic case of 'Tookie' Amirault who spent 18 years in jail for something he didn't do. No doubt the children involved, now adults, at this point believe something was done to them, whether or not that's the case. So I believe that the findings can be inconsistent for a lot more reasons then those given.

Also Crutcher's statement was this:

When a teacher looks out over his or her classroom, he/she is looking at one in three girls who have been sexually mistreated, one in five boys. That doesn’t take into consideration the number of kids who have been beaten, locked up, or simply never allowed to be good enough.

Apparently every child is a victim to him.

Re:What? Re:Crutcher's response

I'm sorry, I should have made clear. I agree completely that there is no good methodology for getting real numbers about childhood sexual abuse. It may be completely underreported, and it may be completely overreported. And you're right, the website I quote does point out the potential flaws in the statistical methodology. I quote it only to defend Crutcher from your statement: he makes the mistake a lot of people do when working in a emotionally draining job. It's possible his numbers are wrong, but they are commonly accepted by people in his field (therapy, not writing). So if you disagree with the statistics, your disagreements are with his profession less than with him.

On the other hand, you frequently disagree with the public statements of our professional bodies, so that probably doesn't count as an excuse. *grin*

Re:What? Re:Crutcher's response

Let's say that the one in three figure isn't accurate, and I'm not arguing that point one way or the other. The fact remains that in most classes of twenty kids there are some who have experienced abuse and others who have been affected by the knowledge that a close friend or relative has. I don't see what the likelihood that his numbers are off has to do with whether or not the book should be banned. If you accepted his assertion that one in three girls has experienced, would you want the book to be removed from the classroom?

Re:What? Re:Crutcher's response

I'm sorry, actually *I* wasn't clear. His full quote implies someone who sees every child as victim. The same way a long-in-the-tooth police officer can see a criminal on every corner. His attitude, to me, showed a certain jadedness that I didn't think was healthy, all stats aside.

Re:What? Re:Crutcher's response

I consider it a seperate issue. The books weren't removed for what they were saying but how they were saying it.

Re:What? Re:Crutcher's response

...Fair enough. I'm not sure I completely agree with your interpretation of his quotation, but I don't completely disagree it with either. And given that interpretation, I certainly see your point.

Re:What? Re:Crutcher's response

Apparently every child is a victim to him.

Aren't you right-wing book-banners supposed to operate under the "We Must Protect The Children"(tm) paradigm? Is your statement a hypocrisy or a heresy?

Do you have anything to support your nonsense that Crutcher seems to think classrooms are for therapy? Is too much beyond you to understand that as a writer he was merely presenting reality as it really is instead of in the conservative-revisionist, distortive perception? Refusing to admit that there are children who are being abused will not stop a child from being abused. Telling children that they are not alone and get help can stop the abuse in that child's case.

Re:What? Re:Crutcher's response

"Do you have anything to support your nonsense that Crutcher seems to think classrooms are for therapy?"

Yeah, his site. The one we've talking about. Keep up Fang, keep up.

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