Remember times when Christians called for the banning of books that promote homosexuality or immoral sexual lifestyles? How about when Christians tried to stop the placement of the Harry Potter books in local libraries? Whether you agree with banning such books or not, the fact is, all Christians were lumped into the “ignorant hick” class by the liberal intelligentsia of the day.
Fast forward to today in Philadelphia. Last week, Friends’ Country School in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, decided to ban Mark Twain’s classic Huckleberry Finn from its library and from its 11th grade literature curriculum. According to philly.com, the book was removed because it made students uncomfortable.
Here’s more from the report at philly.com:
This week, a Montgomery County school removed Huckleberry Finn from its curriculum after a group of students said the book made them uncomfortable.
After a forum for students and faculty, the administration of Friends’ Central School decided to strike the book from the 11th-grade American literature class, principal Art Hall said in a letter to parents this week.
“We have all come to the conclusion that the community costs of reading this book in 11th grade outweigh the literary benefits,” Hall said in his letter.
The book’s use of the N-word was challenging for some students, who felt the school was not being inclusive, Hall said this week.
According to the school’s website, Friends’ Central is guided by Quaker philosophy, and “peaceful resolution of conflicts, seeking truth, and collaboration are key aspects of a Friends’ Central education.”
“I’m very proud of the process that our community engaged in to make the decision,” Hall said.
The novel was the No. 5 most frequently challenged book in the country during the 1990s, according to the American Library Association (ALA), and No. 14 in the decade of the 2000s.
“It will always be an issue because it touches on a very sensitive nerve, which is America’s history of racism,” said Antonio Aiello, a Banned Books Week coordinator at PEN American Center, a New York-based literary association.
First, it is up to schools to make their own decisions about curriculum that they teach, so if this school wants to ban a book, that is their business.
But overall, this is just an example of how no one cares about the protections set forth in the First Amendment. Freedom of speech, especially when it comes in the form of books that are descriptive of a time and place in history, is important. Books like Huckleberry Finn make people uncomfortable because the people, places, and circumstances presented there are not like their own. But they are, nonetheless, real. And, sometimes, real circumstances, real situations are offensive. They are hard to hear about, to read about. But by understanding other people, we are forced to grow as people and to learn to live with one another. The right to freedom of speech is often hard to take, but if we don’t accept it for people we disagree with or from cultures that make us uncomfortable, it won’t be long until no one has it.