The school district in Santa Rosa County, Florida is standing by Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, despite a complaint from an irony-challenged parent who demanded that the cautionary tale about censorship be removed from the 8th grade curriculum. Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick said that a review committee assessed the book and decided it was an appropriate option, given that students can always choose an alternate reading assignment.
Sonja McCall-Strehlow filed the challenge in October, complaining of the book’s “use of profanity and using God’s name in vain” as well as mentions of sex, drugs, suicide, murder and abortion. According to an article from the Northwest Florida Daily News, McCall-Strehlow became aware of the content only when her daughter asked for a definition of the word “bastard.”
The article does not specify whether McCall-Strehlow then read the entire sci-fi classic before trying to have it banned, but it seems unlikely given that most of the elements she complained about are included precisely to condemn the decadence inherent in a future society of incurious non-readers. Rogue fireman Guy Montag’s most prized book, which he saves from the flames and commits to memory, is the Bible.
On the challenge form she submitted, McCall-Strehlow even suggested some books that students could read instead–and unwittingly proved Bradbury’s point again. Two of her proposed alternatives, The Giver by Lois Lowry and Animal Farm by George Orwell, have been frequently challenged elsewhere.
Despite the fact that McCall-Strehlow or her daughter can request an alternate assignment if they are uncomfortable with Fahrenheit 451, the newspaper reports that the 8th grader and “a handful of other students upset about the novel” plan to start a petition to get it pulled from schools. Given that the book has already been reviewed and retained according to district policy, this effort will likely be fruitless. At least the students who did read it are already armed with the knowledge to counter censorship!
Contributing Editor Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.