Here’s a relatively new one in the annals of book challenges: A Virginia school district has removed from the required sixth grade reading list at one middle school a Sherlock Holmes book because a Mormon parent complained about the way it portrayed Mormons.
Josh Davis, chief operating officer for the Albemarle County Public Schools said the school board decided a few days ago to honor the request of a group of parents, “one in particular of the Mormon faith,” who complained earlier in the year.
The book in question is “ A Study in Scarlet ,” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a classic novel that was the first to present the character of the brilliant sleuth Sherlock Holmes and his friend, Dr. Watson. Doyle wrote the novel in three weeks; it was published in 1886.
A committee of teachers, students and members of the central staff was formed to review the book and consider the request, and it recommended that it be removed from the required sixth grade reading list at Henley Middle School in the town of Crozet. It was not on the reading list of any other middle school in the district.
Some members of the school community were unhappy with the decision, and some former Henley students testified at the Aug. 11 school board meeting where the final decision was made,” he said.
“Some folks felt there was some censorship involved here,” he said. “There wasn’t.”
Call it what you will, the folks who were unhappy with the decision had it right.
What the school board did was force every sixth grader in the school to bow to the sensibilities of a parent. If the parent didn’t want his or her own child reading the book, arrangements could surely have been made. This doesn’t make any more sense than the incident last year when Culpeper County Public Schools (also in Virginia) removed from school libraries a version of the “Diary of A Young Girl,” by Anne Frank, because a parent complained about graphic sexual language, according to the Star Exponent.
The removal of “A Study in Scarlet,” which had been on Henley’s required sixth grade reading list for several years with no problems, was first reported in the Charlottesville Daily Progress , which did not cite any passages from the book. A portion of the book’s plot involves the forced marriage of a character to a Mormon, and USA Today found one passage from Chapter 3 that may have been related to the book’s removal from the required reading list:
“(John Ferrier) had always determined, deep down in his resolute heart, that nothing would ever induce him to allow his daughter to wed a Mormon. Such marriage he regarded as no marriage at all, but as a shame and a disgrace. Whatever he might think of the Mormon doctrines, upon that one point he was inflexible. He had to seal his mouth on the subject, however, for to express an unorthodox opinion was a dangerous matter in those days in the Land of the Saints.”
None of the books about Sherlock Holmes is on the list kept by the American Library Association of the most banned and challenged books of the last decade. At the top of that list are the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling, according to the American Library Association. The other top nine are:
2. Alice series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
3. The Chocolate War , by Robert Cormier
4. And Tango Makes Three , by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
5. Of Mice and Men , by John Steinbeck
6. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings , by Maya Angelou
7. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
8. His Dark Materials (series), by Philip Pullman
9. ttyl; ttfn; l8r g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower , by Stephen Chbosky
And no Sherlock Holmes book is on the list of the association’s top banned and challenged classic books. The top 10 in that category are:
1. The Great Gatsby , by F. Scott Fitzgerald
2. The Catcher in the Rye , by J.D. Salinger
3. The Grapes of Wrath , by John Steinbeck
4. To Kill a Mockingbird , by Harper Lee
5. The Color Purple , by Alice Walker
6. Ulysses , by James Joyce
7. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
8. The Lord of the Flies,by William Golding
9. 1984 , by George Orwell
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