Book Banners: The Sequel
The madness in Arlington Heights has now moved to cyberspace. School Board member Leslie Pinney attempted to remove nine books from the school library last May. Bruce Tincknell grabbed her baton and created a web site critical of the teaching practices, reading material, and even movies shown in district classrooms. Teachers countered with a web site of their own to defend curricular decisions. While I commend both sides for contributing to the "marketplace of ideas," I can't help but feel that academic freedom is placed in peril when parents and concerned citizens attempt to veto the classroom-level decisions of educators trained to make them based on sound pedagogy.
The most appalling story of the week concerns Banned Books Week itself. A Harrisonburg, VA, superintendent, Donald Ford, ordered the removal of a banned books display in the high school library. His rationale was wanting: "We are not going to send a message to kids encouraging them to read banned books. Our message should be to read books, a wide variety of books." While the district refused to release the list of banned books, it included Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, Fahrenheit 451, Ann Frank, and The Bible. Are these the "juicy" and "controversial" titles of which he speaks? I have a better solution the next time Mr. Ford interferes with the freedom to read: Leave the books alone and send him into early retirement.