Daniel Radosh, a senior writer of Daily Show, related on his Twitter account in 2016 that his son’s school required parents to sign a permission slip before their children could be allowed to read Ray Bradbury’s Farenheit 451:
Fahrenheit 451 is a novel which describes an alternate future of a dystopian America where books are banned and any books found would be burned. It served as a cautionary tale about the dangers of book censorship.
Milo (Radosh’s son) is a member of his school’s book club. During Banned Books Week, the book club decided to include Fahrenheit 451 on their discussion topics, which is appropriate to the occassion. However, as Fahrenheit 451 contains some minor profanities (“hell”, “damn”), the school opted to send permission slips to the parents.
Apparently, some parents did not allow their children to read the book because it has the abovementioned swear words and it also has a depiction of Bible burning.
The irony of censoring a book about censorship may have been lost to them. Nonetheless, Radosh, who’s a seeker of ironies in his day job, certainly did not miss it. He signed the permission slip, and included the following great remark:
I love this letter! What a wonderful way to introduce students to the theme of Fahrenheit 451 that books are so dangerous that the institutions of society — schools and parents — might be willing to team up against children to prevent them from reading one. It’s easy enough to read the book and say, ‘This is crazy. It could never really happen,’ but pretending to present students at the start with what seems like a totally reasonable ‘first step’ is a really immersive way to teach them how insidious censorship can be I’m sure that when the book club is over and the students realize the true intent of this letter they’ll be shocked at how many of them accepted it as an actual permission slip. In addition, Milo’s concern that allowing me to add this note will make him stand out as a troublemaker really brings home why most of the characters find it easier to accept the world they live in rather than challenge it. I assured him that his teacher would have his back.
Fahrenheit 451 was published in 1953 but it seems that many still haven’t learned anything. I hope that this incident proved to be a good learning experience for all parties involved.