Onward Christian Censors? School District Votes To Ban Book With Strong Language, LGBT Themes

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By Sarah Jones

 

A Delaware school district recently voted to remove a book from a high school’s approved reading list over complaints about profanity. The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth had been recommended reading for rising freshmen in Cape Henlopen.

NBC’s local affiliate reports that parents objected to the book’s use of strong language, and in a 6-1 vote, the school board agreed.

“We don’t allow profanity in our schools. It is against our code of conduct and there is discipline for those actions,” said Sargeant Spencer Brittingham, the board’s president. “I thought it would be appropriate to not have it in our books as well.”

But the school board may be concerned about more than strong language. The book also has LGBT themes and documents the coming-of-age of a teenage girl sent to a religious camp for “reparative therapy” after she tells her conservative relatives she is gay. In 2013, it was nominated for the Blue Hen Book Award, which qualified it for inclusion on the school district’s reading list.

And the board’s vote to remove the book might not even be legal. The Board of Education’s vice president, Dr. Roni Posner, told NBC, “It was an illegal process to begin with. We should never have been taking that vote in the first place.” According to Posner, policy gives a school district committee 20 school days to make a decision about a book; Cape Henlopen’s board rushed the vote.

They admit it, too. “If we had waited and complied with the policy, then we would have had children reading the book prior to the board’s decision.” said Jennifer Burton, also a school board member.

The book’s removal also raises questions about the influence of religion on the school board’s decision. Although board members didn’t specifically cite a religious reason, it’s difficult to believe that religious views had no influence on their objections to a book strongly critical of a “therapy” championed by many in the Religious Right.

14 COMMENTS

  1. It is not just religious conservatism that does this kind of thing. One of the most splendid books in the English language, written by one of the most respected writers in the English language, Joseph Conrad, has no chance of being read by school children simply because of its title.

    No real prize for guessing, and to the young readers here, please find a copy of “The Nigger of the Narcissus.”

    Arguably one of the finest sea stories ever, and despite the title, which is simply in the language of the time, not really the least bit racist.

    • Thank you. I enjoyed Conrad as a student but have never heard of this book, and I, too, tire of the censorship of the PC left, which, in its effort to scrub the world clean of its list of naughty words, is astonishingly unconcerned about the actual message conveyed by a work.

      • I put this quote from the N of the N in not to hijack the thread, but because it is such a perfect description of the personality type that is now behind the censorship, although no longer clinging desperately to a topsail yard, they are still with us, regretably.

        “They all knew him! He was that man who cannot steer, who cannot splice, that dodges the work on dark nights; that, aloft, holds on frantically with both arms and legs, and swears at the wind, the sleet, the darkness; the man who curses the sea while others work. The man who is the last out and the first in when all hands are called. The man who can’t do most things and won’t do the rest. The pet of philanphropists and self-seeking land-lubbers. The sympathetic and deserving creature that knows all about his rights, but knows nothing of courage, of endurance, and of the unexpressed faith, of the unspoken loyalty that knits together a ship’s company.”*

  2. Mustn’t use the F word! Tut tut no! ‘Begetting’ and ‘Knowing’ is much nicer and they can do it with lots of concubines or someone elses, their slaves, blood relatives, captives etc. just like the good book says so long as they don’t enjoy it or do it on a Saturday.

  3. @JC Sheepdog, Zonotricia

    I for one am heartily sick of those who constantly kvetch about the evils of political correctness without recognizing that they might actually have some cause to be thankful for it.

    I’m sure that at least fifty percent of comments on news articles on the web include this term and bemoan the prevalence of the PC phenomenon.

    Well, I have a message for all you whingers: Go and live in Russia; political correctness doesn’t exist there so you should be happy. Unless you happen to be gay that is. Or a member of most any minority group.

    If fur hats and potatoes aren’t your thang, there’s always the Middle East. Those guys wouldn’t recognize political correctness if it dropped down and hit them on the falafel. The strange fruit hanging from iron trees in Iran is testament to that.

    There’s a godawful new fad, Women Against Feminsm, one which makes me sad to my soul. It brings to mind the joke that goes: People talk about reducing their carbon footprint but that doesn’t affect me as I use petrol, coal and natural gas.

    The Nigger of the Narcissus is available for sale on Amazon, right here, so the claim that it “has no chance of being read by school children simply because of its title” is patently not true.

    It’s sort of nice to know that New Atheism has much in common with the religious far right. Fox News is full of made-up stuff about how political correctness means you can’t wish someone a merry Christmas anymore, or how someone has said it’s racist that in a game of chess the player with the white pieces always gets to go first. let’s keep building those bridges.

    Here, for what it’s worth, is Conservapedia’s take on Political Correctness.

    The site is still fuck%#g atrocious.

    • Even if words, either spoken or written are offensive or hateful, I don’t think that they should be censored. The way to deal with homophobic or misogynist groups or statements is NOT to censor them, even self censorship via political correctness. Only by hearing the words of hateful groups can the rational majority speak out against them and raise awareness of how wrong they are.

      You seem to be implying that the lack of political correctness is the source of the homophobia that exists in Russia, or the misogyny that exists in the Middle East. The real issue there is censorship by governments, not lack of self censorship through political correctness. Only when hateful or offensive speech is out in the open can people call it out for what it is and make clear the fallacy in such speech. That is why I support the first amendment so strongly, including the freedom of and from religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly (this one seems to be getting limited more than the others) and freedom to petition the government.

    • Katy,
      Several things we agree on, the Women Against Feminism movement, which I had no idea existed, and the website, although there are a few features which had they been added to the old website would have been improvement enough.

      And of course, that the N of the N is available on Amazon and lots of other places. Where it is not available however is on school study lists, nor will it appear. The are two teachers in my family, a brother in law, and a step daughter, and they both confirm this, which was my point.

      I think we have a somewhat different take on political correctness. You seem to think I am rejecting all social advancement over the last few generations, with fur hats and potatoes being the only alternative.

      To me political correctness becomes objectionable when with excessive zeal it does things like attempting to eliminate literature that clashes with a more modern world view.

      The man that Conrad rails against BTW, is not the black man, James Waits, but rather the white man, Donkin, someone whom were he to be alive today would have subscribed totally to the Conservapedia description.

  4. It’s not a banned book universally. Do you know of specific contemporary examples of it being banned? Certainly one can disagree with its message. “White guilt” can be and is used as an excuse for criticising those who oppose racism. It’s the “just shut up about it and it’ll go away” school of thought. Sadly, history and its consequences don’t just go away because they are ignored.

    (oh, yay! edit’s back. boo, the CSS is a bit weird for links… oh, that seems to be a temporary glitch)

  5. Just a couple of points of order -

    Some readers/commenters seem to be mixing their Left and Right. Is this censorship due to the Left being PC or the Right being over religious and conservatively prudish? I don’t agree with censorship for either reason.

    Secondly, to Vorland – ultra-orthodox Jews are positively commanded to engage in sex on the Sabbath. The actions forbidden on the Sabbath were apparently originally based on the work activities needed to build the temple in Jerusalem (lifting, lighting a flame, riding (animal/cart), cutting materials etc). “Begetting” and “knowing” are definitely not work activities and are therefore encouraged on a Sabbath. So if you’re an orthodox Jew and you also happen to like working out every day, just do some energetic knowing on a Saturday and that should see you through to Sunday.

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