Hemingway, King, Sedaris kicked out of New Hampshire high school classes

A couple of recent censorship attempts at public libraries have been squashed, but yesterday a group of parents succeeded in banning four short stories from high school classrooms in Litchfield, New Hampshire.   School Superintendent Elaine F. Cutler stated that stories by authors including Stephen King, David Sedaris, and Ernest Hemingway will be removed from the “Love/Gender/Family” unit of a senior English class at Campbell High School.

At a school board meeting on Wednesday, about 25 “irate” parents demanded the stories’ immediate removal. The objections, first raised by parent Sue Ann Johnson, center around themes of cannibalism, homosexuality, drug use, rape, murder, and abortion in the stories.  King’s “Survivor Type,” Sedaris’ “I Like Guys*,” Laura Lippman’s “The Crack Cocaine Diet,” and Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants” are the stories now banned.

Superintendent Cutler took a strong stance in favor of censorship:

We regret and apologize for the use of this inappropriate material in our schools and we will redouble our efforts to insure that staffs at all schools comply with adopted policies and procedures.

It looks as though English teachers may be interrogated as to their rationale for including such incendiary short stories in the curriculum.  Plus, Kevin Smith of Cornerstone Policy Research says he’s considering taking legal action against the school, presumably for exposing “children” to this kind of literature.  Parents cited Litchfield’s “traditional values” as a reason that the stories, while perhaps permissible in “Cambridge, Mass., or L.A., or even Hanover,” according to Smith, should not be taught in their own public schools.

Contact the Litchfield School Board to tell them you don’t support censoring literature.  Reach School Board chair Dennis Miller at dmiller @ litchfieldsd.org and/or (603)-578-3570.

* Hear David Sedaris reading “I like guys” on the This American Life show here.


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21 Responses to Hemingway, King, Sedaris kicked out of New Hampshire high school classes

  1. Katrina says:

    This is outrageous! At least a lot of the comments on the article are pretty good.

    Who should those of us who like freedom of speech and literature contact to complain about this?

  2. In the past individuals and groups who support free speech have responded in numerous ways to book bans and challenges, including by creating Facebook groups, petitions, organizing marches and ‘read-ins’ and tweeting to spread the word.

    You can also call the Litchfield School District (603) 578-3570 or email Dennis Miller, the Chair of the Litchfield School Board at dmiller@litchfieldsd.org directly to voice your opinion.

  3. NH says:

    Um this was not about ‘censorship’ but about the taxpayers who FUND THE SCHOOLS having a right to ensure that anything taught concerning these issues is done clinically without the use of blatant pornography which has no socially redeeming benefit other than to shock and upset.

    Did you read these books? They are useless and simply encourage bad behavior.

    Once again the public schools are PUBLIC, and must not cater to one agenda and certainly parents have a right to keep their minor children from having to answer questions about how they had sex with another man at camp, and that sort of nonsense. It’s none of the school’s business! They have free speech and the right to privacy too.

    Kids can read those books on their own if they want, but they are totally inappropriate for TEACHING ENGLISH. The teacher should have been embarrassed for using them.

    Please read this free book to find out what the agenda is in our public schools — to get kids ready for the one-world totalitarian society! Is this what you want for your kids? It’s Orwell’s nightmare…


  4. Jack Thorsen says:

    Students have free speech rights; teachers have free speech rights. But there is no free speech right involved with teaching a particular curriculum in a public school. The curriculum is a matter of public policy, not free speech rights. Let’s not confuse the issue. The public has every right to dictate what is taught in their schools. Parents, in particular, have every right to protect their children from inappropriate material. What constitutes “inappropriate” is completely dependent on the parents’ view of what that means.

  5. MOMwithAbrain says:

    Only in America can you steal from the residents and then tell them they can’t control how that money is spent..on THEIR kids. Seems you want to add to the totalitarian govt that seeks to remove taxpayers and parents from the decision making process.

    Maybe we should give them Hustler and Penthouse too.

    I know the parents who were offended by the AGENDA shoved on their son, and let’s not forget..it’s THEIR KID AND THEIR MONEY that’s paying for this.

    These parents are reasonable people who felt the school went too far and they did. They know that controversial material can be found in many of the classics too, but this reading material was over and beyond anything a school should be PUSHING!

    IF you want to expose your kids to porno and how to work a crack/cocaine diet to lose weight..go for it. Please leave OUR kids alone

  6. John Lockwood says:

    This isn’t a free speech issue unless the students felt like they were being denied freedom of speech because they believed each story had literary merit. From my own experience, there have been plenty of books that serve to shock and disturb with no morals or goals. On the other hand, its a sin to censor books that do have these messages because students “cant deal with” some of the aspects of the book.

  7. Alexandra says:

    MOMwithAbrain, taxes aren’t stealing. They’re a necessity of non-anarchy. And while I understand that there should not be taxation without representation, I don’t think bigotry or enforced ignorance should be permissible in the schools that are created in order to educate people who will become contributors to society. Nor do I think knowledge of sexuality is the same as exposure to pornography.

  8. JerseyFresh says:

    This is unconstitutional and straight up lame. These young people have to learn about these topics eventually anyway! so why not under the guidance of a professional educator?

  9. Pingback: Summer reading list controversies: removal of all LGBTQ books in DC, Sherman Alexie’s book challenged « Blogging Censorship

  10. MOMwithAbrain says:

    It is not censorship because the entire town can read any of these books whenever they choose, they just can’t force kids to read them at this school. Censorship is when the government makes it illegal for anybody at anytime at anyplace read these books and that clearly did not happen.

    Now I wonder what would the exact same “censorship” people say if the school demanded kids read the Bible. Oh, no, no way, we demand that stop immediately. You see censorship is when I can’t reduce the common denominator but it isn’t censorship if I want to stop you from raising it. In other words it is only censorship when you remove what I like to read but not when I remove what you like to read.

    So if banning the Bible isn’t censorship then how is banning smut such.

  11. Pingback: Whatever You Do, Don’t Read These Books « The Virtual Loft

  12. Pingback: Litchfield teacher resigns amid short story controversy « Blogging Censorship

  13. Pingback: Kids’ Right to Read Opposes “Love/Gender/Family” Censorship in Litchfield, NH « Blogging Censorship

  14. Wesley says:

    This is outrageous! we cannot allow political nut-jobs (conservative or otherwise) decide the curriculum of any class in a public school. That is why teachers are paid to do what they do. The principal is obviously too spineless to stand up to fanatic parents. Completely disgusting.

  15. Wesley says:

    what a crock of garbage. you are not obligated to send your kid to public school. EVER. If you’re too stupid to understand the meaning of this AMERICAN literature, then please feel free to send your child somewhere else. Everyone pays taxes, so the idea that your crazy politics should determine the curriculum for everyone else is simply insane. Get over your prejudices at least enough to understand the meaning behind this ART. The only pornography in question is whatever informs these objectionable parents. While we’re taking from the curriculum, why don’t we just leave out anything about slavery, or institutional racism or sexism, or ALL THE OTHER PREJUDICES THAT DEFINE OUR COUNTRY. These parents make me sick.

  16. stephanie meyer says:

    There’s nothing wrong with “Hills Like White Elephants.” In fact, I’m teaching it this week. I bet some of those yahoos in NH wouldn’t even realize the characters in the story are talking about an abortion if they actually read it!

  17. mathwizards says:

    Get over yourselves. The taxpayers and parents get to decide what is taught in the schools. It’s THEIR children and THEIR MONEY. Why is it, you believe a person has NO right to how their money is spent on THEIR children?
    These parents can let their children read whatever they want. There’s NO censorship.
    The school is made up of individuals hired by the school board who represent the parents and taxpayers. That’s how it works.

  18. stephanie meyer says:

    Teachers are taxpayers too. I wonder how many of the people who hired the teachers or the parents have actually READ these stories. Teachers have studied literature & know what’s good as well as knowing what teenagers will like. MAthwizards, why don’t you go & teach English for a day somewhere?

  19. stephanie meyer says:

    MAny people consider “Hills Like White Elephants” to be HEmingway’s greatest story. Didn’t he win the Nobel Prize for Literature? One of our duties as teachers is to expose kids to great literature. Another duty is to show students how literature relates to their lives. Whether the people in NH like it or not, the kids there are probably thinking about sex every so often as well as the consequences that come with it like pregnancy. As a matter of fact, THE GIRL IN THE STORY DOES NOT WANT TO HAVE AN ABORTION, but the irresponsible guy who got her pregnant wants her to. SOUND FAMILIAR?

  20. MOMwithAbrain says:

    First of all, I read the stories that were objected in Litchfield and so did the parent who objected.
    Second the teacher did NOT reside in Litchfield and was NOT a taxpayer in that district.
    Third the story “The Crack Cocaine Diet” was written on a 5th grade level and given to 11th grade students as part of a short story class. Hardly elevating literary knowledge for the 11th grade students.
    You keep bringing up a book that was NOT part of the short story list. So please stick to the facts.
    The parent IS a taxpayer and this WAS her CHILD. The school board members answer to the taxpayers and parents in that community. That is how it works. If you don’t like it, homeschool your children where you can feed them Hustler and Penthouse if you like. But you have NO right to dictate your views to everyone else.
    This IS NOT cencorship, nor has it ever been censorship. Everyone has the right to read whatever they want in that town. However, the school has a responsibility to the taxpayers and parents in that town.

  21. NH is right that “public schools are PUBLIC, and must not cater to one agenda” – but that insight actually contradicts his/her insistence that parents and taxpayers can control the contents of the public school classroom. A group of parents certainly cannot set the agenda for all others. In a diverse country such as ours, parents have diverse beliefs and values and while one parent dislikes Hemingway, another may dislike Salinger and yet another – Toni Morrison. If all books that someone objects to are taken out of schools, what would students have left to read and what kind of education will they get? What if parents who raise their children to be vegetarians wished to remove all books with references to eating meat? What if a group of feminist mothers asked to remove all books depicting women in the kitchen?

    While parents have considerable rights to direct their own child’s education, they have no right to impose their judgments and preferences on other students and their families. This principle, which informs educational philosophy in all liberal democracies, has been repeatedly affirmed by the courts, which have stated that no parent has the right “to tell a public school [how] or what his or her child will and will not be taught.” (see Leebaert v. Harrington (2d Cir. 2003) and Blau v. Fort Thomas Public School District (6th Cir. 2005)).

    Sound curriculum development requires that educators, not parents, with professional expertise decide which materials are educationally appropriate. Suppressing disfavored views or controversial ideas not only discriminates against families who want their children to be exposed to all kinds of ideas, but also jeopardizes the education of students and fails to prepare them for their future life as professionals and citizens.

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