Monday, June 20, 2011

Without a reading, book banned in Richland [Washington]

I was extremely disappointed to see this headline in my inbox this morning.  The article in the Tri-City Herald was extremely short and contained the following information:
RICHLAND, Wash. The Richland school district is banning a book, even though the committee in charge of the decision did not read the book. 
The Tri-City Herald reports that the district's Instructional Materials Committee has decided to ban Sherman Alexie's "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" because of profanity and sex scenes. 
However, members of the committee made the decision based on student and teacher feedback. They conceded that they had not read the book
The board voted 3-2 this past week to ban the book for all students, rejecting ideas to let older high school students read it.
I put one sentence in the above article in italics and bold-face to emphasize the disturbing nature of this decision.  The fact that a board was willing to make a decision to remove a book, not only from the curriculum, but from the entire school district, without having read the book!  How does this make any sense?  An academic can't write a critical paper without reading a book.  A critic can't write an article about a book without reading it (unless they want the backlash that Mrs. Gurdon got a short while ago.)  So how can a school board vote to ban a book without actually reading it?!  Sure, they based a decision on some feedback, but how do they know the feedback was valid if they can't compare it against what was ACTUALLY IN THE TEXT!?

Sorry, but this sort of thing makes me incredibly angry.  I am all for allowing a debate about a book, or even having a panel or committee make decisions about a book if they have taken the time to read it, look at the overall themes, and gauge the content in a hopefully unbiased setting.  But this is obviously biased as the decision was based on nothing but hearsay.

I won't continue as I'll end up repeating myself and only succeeding in getting more upset.  I hope that there is some protest regarding this sort of behaviour from a school board as it is the first step on an incredibly slippery slope as has been the case for a number of schools in the last year.  If you happen to live in the area and read this blog, please let me know what you think.  Am I off the mark?  Am I making something out of nothing?  I want to hear your opinions.



  1. disappointing to say the least! not that it makes a difference, but I can't say that I recall sex scenes in this book. do you?

  2. There was talk of masturbation and some sexual jokes, but no actual "sex" as they seem to be suggesting.