Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Curious Incident of Book Banning


The Columbus Dispatch reported last week the new Superintendent of the Olentangy Local Schools Scott Davis banned two of four books recommended to students entering Liberty’s 10th-grade college-prep English class.

One of the books banned by the Superintendent is Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time which tells the story of a 15-year old autistic boy.

The School Library Journal described the book in this manner "Readers will never view the behavior of an autistic person again without more compassion and understanding." Haddon's book was also a winner of the 2003 Costa Book of the Year Award.

From our family's personal experience, this book is a mirror on reality in many ways.

According to the report in the Dispatch, Davis made the decision after receiving a complaint from one parent -- noting as well as the reading any of the books in the program as voluntary.

Davis was quoted as saying the he chose to remove the book from the list due to his concerns about excessive foul language (the f-word) used in the story.

While I understand the concerns regarding the language of the book, I also worry tremendously about this decision to remove a book that is so powerful in helping understand issues of tolerance so critical as a building block to our civil society.

As the parent of children with autism, I regularly recommend to people (including my 14 year old daughter and her friends) Haddon's book. I have (knowing that issues of language exist with the book) with the knowledge that this ook better explains the world of someone with autism and those living with an autistic child than any book I have ever read -- possibly excluding the writings of Dr. Temple Grandin.

Mr. Haddon's book though is a much easier read and is also a wonderful story.

Davis' decision sends a frightening message indicating that tolerance for children with differences should not be discussed openly and honestly as part of our childrens educational awareness.

I wrote the Superintendent last week but have not yet received a return call. Davis also removed The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold from the reading list.

You can offer your opinions about Davis' decision by writing to the Superintendent at scott.davis@olentangy.k12.oh.us.

5 comments:

Camille said...

Hi,

I think that there are better books about autism, those written by autistic people.

The Haddon book is good, but I think there are better ones that don't have any foul language in them.

I like, "Not Even Wrong:" which has two different subtitles, the first one was "Adventures in Autism"... It's just a great book and has some great history and is a the true story of a couple learning about their son's autism. "Coming out Asperger" edited by Dinah Murray, has the personal stories of a bunch of people, not all have "Asperger's" contrary to the title, some are are properly diagnosed as "Autistic."

A. Baggs is an expert on books written by autistic people, she has a list of them.

I don't know if the school should have reacted that way to the book based on one person's complaint, but I'm a prude and never wanted my kids to read books with the "F" word in it while they were in school (or books with graphic descriptions of sex) and still wouldn't want them to read such books now that they are young adults. I bought "The curious incident," but I didn't read it all, partly because of the language... I don't like that kind of language... I think it was used gratuitiously in that book, too. I don't think it was necessary to the story.

Anyway... if the school wants to assign "Not Even Wrong:" the kids would get a much better idea of what autism is, but it's not as "edgy" so kids might not like it like they would "The Curious Incident"

Tim Eby said...

Since Dr. Davis has not felt compelled enough to contact me since writing to him. I will be attending the OLSD Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday at 6:00 PM to share my thoughts with him and the board.

It's very dissappointing that he could not take the time to respond to a constituent that wrote with concerns in a respectful manner.

Tim Eby said...

A great letter to the editor featured in This Week about the book ban.

Anonymous said...

Tim,

Do you think his religious affiliation has something to do with his banning books, and do you know his religious affiliation? At one time there was a rumor that he was Mormon, as was the Board President, Dimon McFerson who hired him.

Tim Eby said...

I have no idea nor should it matter in my mind.