Clean Reader – won’t somebody please think of the children
In all the noise being made about Clean Reader I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the kid. For those who missed it Clean Reader is an app that changes dirty words in ebooks to clean ones. According to their website-
One day our oldest child came home from school and she was a little sad. We asked her what was wrong and she said she had been reading a book during library time and it had a few swear words in it. She really liked the book but not the swear words. We told her that there was probably an app for this type of thing that would replace profanity with less offensive words and perhaps we should get her a tablet that she could use to read books with.
First off I don’t believe this story for a second. I wouldn’t be surprised if the kid came home and said ‘there were bad words in this book’ but even for a kid that must be living a massively sheltered life the idea that she came home ‘a little sad’ about a book doesn’t fly with me. At no point do they say how old the kid is but she must be old enough to be out of picture books and into the kind that might have a swear word in it. And seeing as how middle school was the last time we had library time I’m making a guess between 10 and 13.
And here is where I scratch my head, what kind of kid tattles on a book? Well, obviously the kind of kids raised by parents who think that taking out the swear words will somehow make Game of Thrones clean.
When I was in middle school most of us went looking for the books with swear words and sex bits. It was with the same kind of juvenile intent we looked at the topless pictures in National Geographic but we still did it. Our middle school librarians were either wonderful, awful, progressive, or apathetic. It’s hard to say. For some reason we had the Clan of the Cave Bear series which has stacks of graphic sex, but seeing as how each book was 400 pages in hardback only the major book nerds (all two of us) ever checked it out. And we certainly didn’t tell. We read them, returned them on time, and since we were also lunch volunteers we made sure they got shelved in the right place.
I’m not saying we were all looking for that stuff. I remember one girl telling me about how she wouldn’t read Piers Anthony books because there was one with a character masturbating. She’d apparently gotten it at the public library. That’s absolutely fine and fair enough. If it bothered her then it bothered her. There are plenty of books that bother me as well. She put it back on the shelf and didn’t read it again. She didn’t go waving it at the librarian or her parents and if she had I seriously doubt they would have taken a pen and blacked out the bits that bothered her then handed it back.
And that is exactly what these parents are doing and I feel sorry for that kid because if she’s bothered by swearwords in literature at this point wait until she gets to high school. I got stuck reading 1984 twice in high school and twice more at university. There are whole big chunks about sex in there. There is the dreary Catcher in the Rye which is an English class standby. In seventh grade we had a whole poetry section where I memorized Tommy Atkins by Kipling and read Howl with its ‘waking nightmares, alcohol and cock and endless balls’, and men ‘who let themselves be fucked in the ass by saintly motorcyclists, and screamed with joy, who blew and were blown by those human seraphim, the sailors,’
Middle school and high school sucked for social and psychological reasons but no one tried to censor or even clean up my reading material. We got a talking to if we swore in front of the teachers but most of us snuck into R rated movies (I know one who snuck into Kids). And it was generally assumed that if we had a question or a concern about something we’d ask.
I can only hope that that kid is watching what’s going on around her parent’s app and perhaps starting to question some things so she doesn’t come home ‘a little sad’ when a teacher drops Catch-22 on her desk and assigns a ten page analysis by the end of the month.