I went to a selective private high school, and the greatest emphasis was on academics with particular attention paid to writing. Obviously, the English department was considered the most important and contained the best teachers. I still read the weekly school newspaper, the only weekly high school newspaper in the state. Last week, an anonymous parent of a sophomore sent out a letter to all the other sophomore parents asserting that the book "Plainsong" be taken out of the sophomore English curriculum because it contained several relatively graphic scenes of a sexual nature. When I was a junior, a parent wanted "Huck Finn" taken out. I was amazed then, and I am now.
Art is art. We don't get to decide what is fit for art, nor do we get to decide what is appropriate for an entire audience. If they got rid of "Plainsong" because of the sex scenes, then they'd have to get rid of shakespeare. They'd have to toss out Homer because not only is there sex, there's violence, so toss out Sophocles too. In fact, get rid of everything Greek. And Virgil too. Then toss out "Huck Finn," the seminal work of American literature, the first serious American work to have any kind of impact on the world stage, toss it out because it's racist (and forget abotu placing writing in context). And Faulkner meets all three criteria. Then get rid of "Catch-22" because it's subversive; "Lord of the Flies" and "Catcher in the Rye" too. And let's just burn "Small World." In fact, get rid of the satire class altogether. Then head down to the library and put Kerouac in the shredder and toss Ginsberg out the window right next to Ferlinghetti and Borroughs . And at this school, this Catholic school, take a close look at the Bible, get a big black marker, and start redacting. So much for the Song of Songs. We can keep the puerile, the ordinary, the mediocre, image poets, the high modernists, the form and not the content, and the plays of Thorton Wilder.
Just like history, just like science, we don't get to decide what is OK and what is not for academic study. There can be no intellectualism if we a priori determine what has value and what does not.
I applaud the department for holding firm, and keeping "Plainsong" and "Huck Finn" in the curriculum.
Are any others the would-be vicitims of literary gestapo?