Sunday, December 04, 2016

So, Huckleberry Finn is in the news once again.

Washington Post article here:

A Virginia school district has pulled copies of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” from classrooms and libraries while it weighs whether it should permanently ban the American classics because of the books’ use of racial slurs.
 In response to a formal complaint from a parent, Accomack County Public Schools Superintendent Chris Holland said the district has appointed a committee to recommend whether the books should remain in the curriculum and stay in school libraries. District policy calls for the formation of the committee — which can include a principal, teachers and parents — when a parent formally files a complaint.
I can understand taking the book out of the school curriculum, but I can't understand taking it out of the school libraries.

Surely there's got to be a middle ground between: "this book is mandatory reading for students" and "we're going to take this book out of the school library to prevent students from even having access to it."

In The Once and Future King, T.H. White described totalitarianism as "Everything which is not forbidden is compulsory."
The Virginia school disctrict seems to me to be operating on the inverse principle: "Everything not compulsory is forbidden."  One minute the book is compulsory reading for students, the next minute it's forbidden.

In my own review of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, I said the following:

As for the censorship issue:
I'm anti-censorship in general, but of course it's important to acknowledge there are all different shades of grey between mandating that a book be read, and out-right banning it completely.
It's one thing for The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to be part of the mandatory school curriculum, and another thing for the book to be taken off of the mandatory curriculum but still usable at the teacher's discretion.  And another thing yet for the book to be outright forbidden in the classroom.  And yet another thing for the book to be removed from the school library.  And yet another thing for the book to be removed from the public library.

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