It is easy to understand the impulse of the educator(s) at New Rochelle High School who removed seven pages they deemed offensive in a book assigned as class reading. Whoever removed the pages five years ago, probably intended to protect the students from knowledge they deemed age-inappropriate. Nonetheless, they were not only wrong to censor the book, they were undoubtedly unsuccessful in keeping the information away from their students.
The offending pages in “Girl, Interrupted,” Sussana Kaysen’s memoir about an 18-month stay in a mental institution, concerned oral sex. A subject most teenagers have already heard quite a bit about. Whether the offending passage was something unheard of or something that’s been whispered about on school buses, hardly matters, however. Literature offers a chance to have an adult-led discussion — the so-called, teachable moment — on uncomfortable subjects, sexuality or otherwise.
Besides, censorship invariably backfires. How much do you want to bet that every one of the students assigned the book, found the missing pages somewhere? When they read them, the passages were probably a lot more exciting for having been prohibited.