As a Wisconsin school superintendent prepares to make a recommendation regarding a challenge to Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, CBLDF this week signed on to a letter from the National Coalition Against Censorship’s Kids’ Right to Read Project, urging him to rule in favor of the book’s place in the 9th grade curriculum.
A review committee at Sauk Prairie High School in Prairie du Sac already voted 8-5 in favor of keeping the book, and Superintendent Cliff Thompson will in turn make his own recommendation before a school board vote expected next Monday.
The use of Part-Time Indian was questioned during an April 24 school board meeting for what one parent called “shocking words of profanity, sexual innuendo and violence.” Another parent quoted out-of-context passages during the meeting as evidence of the novel’s unsuitability for classrooms. A third parent argued that she’s not an advocate of banning books, “but I cannot believe in the history of the written word that there is not a more appropriate, more suitable, more acceptable book than this one.”
In the letter sent to Thompson yesterday, KRRP members praised Sauk Prairie School District’s faithful observance of its challenge policy, which required the formation of a review committee made up of teachers and community members. Noting that the novel has garnered numerous awards and critical praise for its appeal to adolescents, the letter urged Thompson not to set a precedent of censoring the curriculum at the behest of those who complain the loudest. The profanity to which some parents object can also be found in numerous other titles routinely used in classrooms, after all:
Complaints about profanity, violence, and allegedly sexually explicit language focus on decontextualized passages and ignore the value of the work as a whole. These “objectionable” decontextualized passages provide no justification for removing a valuable work from the curriculum. Otherwise, great works of literature like The Catcher in the Rye, Lord of the Flies, and Brave New World would have no place in our classrooms and library because of their respective inclusion of profanity, violence and sexual references. Schools that fail to teach literary works of this magnitude would considerably disadvantage their students.
Read the full letter sent to Thompson below. We hope to have good news to share following next week’s school board meeting!
Contributing Editor Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.