Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Anatomy of a Book Banning

Here at AS IF!, we obviously believe strongly freedom, choice, and open access when it comes to book challenges. That said, sometimes books do get pulled from libraries, classrooms, and reading lists. When that happens, the result is always better when the issues in question are debated as part of an existing, written policy, and when the debate is done in the open with ample opportunity for the public to contribute.

Here's an interesting case study out of Massachusettes involving the book So Far From the Bamboo Grove:
The Dover-Sherborn Regional School Committee is grappling with whether to ban an award-winning book from sixth-grade classes after complaints from some parents that the book is racist and sexually explicit.

A review committee that included the middle school librarian and two English teachers unanimously voted to recommend removing "So Far from the Bamboo Grove" from the curriculum after 13 parents complained. Superintendent of Schools Perry Davis backed the recommendation.


Dover-Sherborn middle school students have read the book as part of a unit on stories of survival and have me t with the author. The book is used by numerous other school districts in the state.


Scott Walker, who has been teaching sixth-grade English for five years, told the School Committee that both the book -- which he said has been taught "effectively and tastefully" for 13 years -- and the author are prized by students.

"She is a gift our youngsters hold onto far beyond their time in our classroom," he said, adding that older students come back to the middle school to see her during her visits.

Frederick Randall, the middle school headmaster who was also on the book review committee, said the panel had struggled with its recommendation.

"I won't represent it as being an easy process on any of us," he said. "As a committee, we did the best we could with it, to remain objective."

But he said there simply wasn't enough time in school to explore the issues raised by the book.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Frederick Randall, the middle school headmaster who was also on the book review committee, stated, "there simply wasn't enough time in school to explore the issues raised by the book."

That strikes me as a pretty lame excuse to ban the book. Since when are schools expected to explore all issues raised by a book? If that's the case, a high school or middle school class would be able to read and explore only one or two books a year. Likewise, how could we then allow students tp read independently? Undoubtedly they'd encounter issues of all sorts, and many of those issues would go "unexplored." And that means the students would be left to think independently about those issues. And we wouldn't want that, would we?

5:30 PM  
Blogger Brent Hartinger said...

Good point, Deborah!

1:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The book was not banned nor is it to be banned. The Boston Globe has expressed regret at their misuse of the term. The parents(12 of them) request was to move the book to a higher grade level where all aspects and the historical context could be included.
This is a book that needs all issues raised to be discussed. Ms. Davis is obviously very simple minded and probably doesn't know much about history or the book itself.

7:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ms. Davis totally misses the point. The book does not explain the historical context well enough for eleven year olds to really understand what was happening in the region of the world at that time. Ms. Kawashima makes herself and family out to be victims when they were the ones victimizing the Koreans, Chinese and others in Asia. She has written revisionist history. This needs to be explained to the 6th graders or they come away thinking the Koreans were an Axis power.
Should we get some revisionist history in our classrooms on the European holocaust too?

6:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many readers don't know her father worked in the 731 unit of japan army which experimented on living bodies. They used living people as guinea pigs.

9:35 PM  
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8:35 PM  

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