Banning Books for Wild Reasons

June 12, 1995

Every year, Carroll County parents and educators review the school reading lists. And every year, a few books are removed, usually for arbitrary, ludicrous and irrational reasons. This year was no different.

The Carroll County Curriculum Council, the parent book-screening committee, has determined that three books -- "The Witch Goes to School," by Norman Bridwell; "I Am Regina," by Sally Keehm and "The Sniper," by Theodore Taylor -- should not be included in the required or supplementary reading lists. While Carroll teachers can't assign these books in the next school year, the volumes are not banned from the schools. These books can be kept in the classrooms, and students can read them if they choose.

To its credit, Carroll's book-screening process is systematic. Before parents review the books, teachers and reading supervisors have examined the texts and assigned readings to be used in the next school year. The parent committee then reviews the recommendations and votes on the books. If a majority objects, the book is removed.

The problem with the system is not only that the parents hold veto power over books on reading lists. The main flaw is that too many books are removed for foolish reasons.

This year, some parents thought "The Witch Goes to School" would be offensive to devoutly religious people because of the presence of a good witch in the story. We shudder to think of the profoundly damaging effects Carroll's children have suffered from watching re-runs of "Bewitched," a program about as innocuous as "The Witch Goes to School."

In rejecting "The Sniper," parents objected to the frightening impression left on children by the story of a young boy left alone to defend himself and his animals against a gunman. Did these parents let their children watch the hit movie a couple of years back, "Home Alone," or its sequel, both of which showed the same vulnerability to evil people?

It is time to break this pattern in which the curriculum committee gives in to a vocal minority and rejects a few books each year, regardless of the reasons. To stop this nonsensical and ritual purging of reading lists, more sensible parents should volunteer to serve on this panel and the education staff should argue more forcefully on behalf of the books they have approved.

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