December 13, 2012
I am writing in response to your recent article regarding a Douglas High School parent’s objection to the use of Chinua Achebe’s novel, “Things Fall Apart,” in a sophomore English class. I have no problem if this parent is so opposed to having his or her daughter read this book, but I do not think this parent should be allowed to speak on behalf of the rest of the students. This is a great book, and Achebe was a great writer. I read this novel on my own many moons ago, probably when I was in high school too. I wish that my daughter, who happens to be a junior at Douglas, had the opportunity to read and discuss this book when she was a sophomore. Luckily, I still have a copy of it, and I will encourage her to read it on her own.
I find it peculiar that this parent proclaimed that “[t]here is no redeeming value to this book,” especially in light of the fact that he or she admittedly has not read it. And why does this parent feel that his or her opinion should dictate the wants and needs of everyone else in the community? Wanting to pull this book from the curriculum is akin to censorship and book banning. What’s next – book burning? I thought we had already moved past this ugly period in history.
I think it’s healthy to expose kids to different types of books from various cultures and times. Sometimes these books deal with difficult topics too, but that is real-world stuff. If this parent is only interested in having his or her daughter read “happy” material, the kid better steer clear of many of the classics. I see that the parent has also voiced an objection to Steinbeck’s “East of Eden.” The family may want to avoid reading “The Grapes of Wrath” too, but I hear that the movie was cleaned up quite a bit from the novel, creating a happier ending and toning down Steinbeck’s political opinions. And don’t even bring up a classic Greek tragedy like “Oedipus.” Does this family feel the same way about movies? They may also want to avoid Spielberg’s new film, “Lincoln.” I hate to spoil the ending, but Lincoln dies at the end; he was assassinated. You certainly would not want to see that unhappiness.
I suppose that it is this parent’s prerogative to have his or her child look at the world purely through rose-colored glasses, but I don’t think that one parent’s objection to a book should force the school to pull it and not allow the other students to experience reading a novel from an important celebrated African writer. I hope the school will consider excusing this student to work on her own separate project. To allow one parent to dictate what everyone else should read is not only ridiculous, it is extremely alarming. I believe that educators should remain in the business of expanding students’ minds, not narrowing them.