It has been a busy week for book censorship. On Tuesday, MSNBC reported that The Bookseller of Kabul, a nonfiction account of life inside an Afghan household, was removed from a high school in Wyandotte, Michigan. The book had been assigned for an 11th grade honors English class at Roosevelt High School. MSNBC quotes a former teacher at the school:
“They need to know how the rest of the world lives, and many of our young people don’t know and don’t care.” said former teacher Mary Louise Bahnemann. “This is more disturbing to me than the disturbing passages in the book.”
The school is setting up a reconsideration committee to handle book challenges, and is likely to review the book again for inclusion in the curriculum.
On Thursday, The Cleburne Times Review reported that Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett was removed from the senior reading list at Cleburne High School in Texas by the school’s superintendent after parents complained about sexual content. The book, included in Oprah’s book club, was first introduced to the reading list by English department Chair Sherri Bell.
The Cleburne Times Review quotes a letter from Bell:
“As soon as ‘Pillars’ came out in paperback many years ago, I began to offer it as a reading choice for my seniors. Though I had a few parents who were more than ready to have my teaching certificate confiscated for offering a book with sex, violence, and language, I have never regretted my decision to offer the book as a senior reading option.”
The fate of the book will be discussed by community members at the school’s board meeting on Monday.
Also on Thursday, The Associated Press reported that the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Miami-Dade County School District could remove the book Vamos a Cuba and its English version A Visit to Cuba from its libraries without violating first amendment rights. The book, which is intended for children 5-8, was removed by the board who claimed it painted an inaccurate picture of life in Cuba. The board’s decision was prompted by a complaint from a parent who was a former political prisoner in Cuba. While a federal judge ruled that the board should add books with different perspectives instead of removing Vamos a Cuba, the 11th circuit court has upheld the board’s decision to remove the book in a 2-1 ruling.
Howard Simon of the ACLU responded to the ruling with due outrage:
We believe that the judges on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals panel have twisted the law into a pretzel to serve the personal and political interests of the Miami-Dade School Board members who voted to ban these books from the public school libraries. Children in the Miami-Dade school system will be the losers if bureaucrats have their way. Unconstitutional distortions of the law such as this could open the floodgate for people in powerful positions to censor and ban information just because they don’t personally approve of the message.
The decision sets a dangerous precedent for book banning based on politcal or personal motivations. There’s a good chance that further legal action will be taken. We’ll let you know.