Cervical cancer is not porn – Knox County schools shouldn’t cave to ignorance

“There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.”

― Joseph Brodsky

tags: books, censorship, illiteracy, reading 5672 likes
My hometown has made the international news. Is this for the fact that Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero was one of the few Tennessee mayors to fully support same-sex marriage? Or for the fact that Ms. Dolly Parton, our great lady of increasing East Tennesee literacy got her start in Knoxville?

No. Knoxville has gained international attention because some ignorant local mothers have decided that The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is pornography. Yes, you read that right. A book about a woman with cervical cancer whose cells were taken (without her knowledge) and used to transform the life sciences, to this small corpuscle of ill educated women is really just porn. So unless these women have some kind of strange fetish or something – their insistence on banning this book from the Knox County School system is base, pathetic and plain ole’ bona fide ignorant.

Here they are on the T.V. (as we say back home) – sharin’ there self-righteous, sanctimonious opinions. Of course everyone is entitled to their own opinion. If you want to try and ban your kid from reading a book about cervical cancer because you think it’s porn, that’s your prerogative. I am totally sure your teenager is different and listens to his mama. I also hope you never end up with cervical cancer yourself. Besides the fact that you’d probably have a hell of a time explaining that to your family without using the word ‘cervix’, cervical cancer is horrific, so I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.

Insisting that Knox County school system to ban this book? This is crazy, sanctimonious and, I’ll say it again, just plain ignorant. You do have the right to you opinion, you don’t have the right to stamp all over everyone else’s rights, because of your ill-educated opinion. But go ahead, ask away (and bless your heart!) but Knox County School Board better say NO, in no uncertain terms, NO. In fact the board shouldn’t even consider your request. Knox County School System has a duty. This duty is to educate our children about the world, not censor them from it. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is an important book and not just for scientific reasons. It is about people WITHOUT health insurance in the US, who don’t have a chance in hell of surviving such horrific cancer. This is a book about what it was like to be poor and African-American in the US in the 1950s. This is an important book. Yes it deals with female anatomy but female anatomy is not pornographic, or to quote Rebecca Skloot herself: a parent in Tennessee has confused gynaecology with pornography.

I really hope there is not some person sitting on the Knox County School board thinking ‘well they do have a point’. They don’t have a point, this is just plain damn ignorance. Knox County School Board if you ban this book or even consider banning this book you need to ask yourselves, what kind of message are you sending about women and girls ? What kind of message are you sending about how you educate? What kind of message are you sending if you even question that a book which deals with cervical cancer and mentions gynecology in a respectful, educational sense can be considered pornography? What kind of ridiculous precedent would this set?

I was educated in the Knox County School system. We read a lot of books. Books, that some ignorant parents such as these ladies would be appalled by. Of Mice and Men – murder! Death! Migrant working conditions! Romeo and Juliet – teens killing themselves over love (your children might get ideas)! The Crucible – Puritan man cheats on wife with young girl who then gets him killed! (one of these ladies current objections is that infidelities were mentioned – so she better get to work on The Crucible too). Not to mention The Canturbury Tales – Miller’s Tale anyone? So you better watch out Knox County School Board, don’t let ignorance set a precedent or they’ll be coming for your entire curriculum – and you’ll be left with a whole bunch of teenagers who can only read Fun with Dick and Jane

Knox County School Board, I hope we can count on you to do the right thing – ignore these fools and fight the good fight to rid their children of this kind of ignorance. Oh and congratulations Rebecca Skloot! The crazy ladies of Knoxville, Tennessee have just ensured that every kid in Knox County is definitely going to read your book!

About Sylvia McLain

Girl, Interrupting aka Dr. Sylvia McLain is a bio-physicist in the Department of Biochemistry, University of Oxford (UK), but she blogs in a personal capacity. She is also a proto-science writer, armchair philosopher, amateur plumber and wanna-be film-critic. You can follow her on Twitter @girlinterruptin
This entry was posted in Knox County School System, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Cervical cancer is not porn – Knox County schools shouldn’t cave to ignorance

  1. Austin Elliott says:

    Hmm. These folks are clearly craving some of the kind of acclaim brought to Tennessee a bit less than a century ago by the Scopes Trial….

  2. Regina Lusca says:

    Twain never said that, and it doesn’t even sound like him. Wiki can’t find anything closer than Heinlein. https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Censorship