James Campbell

James Campbell

Campbell, James. “Is Fear That Students May Be Led to Think on Their Own?” The Enterprise, January 30, 1998.

Is Fear That Students May Be Led to Think on Their Own?:

“To the Editor:

It was with great concern that I note the removal of the Toni Morrison novel “Song of Solomon” from the curriculum in St. Mary’s County. I am the teacher of law related courses at McDonough High School in Charles County. Recently, my classes concluded a several week examination of the issue of censorship. The culminating activity of the examination was the reading of books that were banned and challenged in school systems across America. The students then had to write a paper in which they either agreed or disagreed with the challenges.

I have deep concerns when any school system or government agency attempts to limit what students may read. What is the fear of these officials? Is it that students may be led to think and develop thoughts and opinions of their own? After all, isn’t that the reason for educaiton in the first place?

The article that appeared in The Washington Post of Sunday, Jan 18, St. Mary’s County Commissioner D. Christian Brugman points out that he was “shocked by the language.” “Using the ‘N’ word all over the place.” By this standard, would Mr. Brugman also advocate the removal of Huckleberry Finn? After all the ‘N’ word appears in Mark Twain’s classic about 300 times.

President of the St. Mary’s commission, Barbara Thompson said that “the book was repulsive.” Other commissioners agreed, after reading two pages calling the book “filth” and “trash.”  How can anyone form an opinion of a book based upon just two pages? For her project, one of my students read a book that has been frequently challenged. In her paper, she notes that within the first 20 pages of her selection she counted “at least four times the people were naked, approximately 50 counts of conception/sex/begot, two counts of murder, one mass murder, polygamy, inbreeding, war and sacrifices.” Obviously, this book is dangerous trash and filth and should be removed from out schools immediately.

It is my understanding that Ms. Morrison’s book was being used in a junior AP English class. The AP program is designed for students to take for college credit. One can therefore assume that the students enrolled in the course are college bound. Isn’t another stated purpose of public education system to prepare students to further their education? If so, what do we gain by removing opportunities to think critically? Also, by removing the book from the curriculum but allowing it to remain on the library shelf, isn’t the school system almost guaranteeing that even more students will want to read the book? By the way, the book my student read was the Bible.


30 January 1998 Part 2

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