Figure 1: Classroom at UVa-Wise (Turner, 2019)

The most notable voice of the defenders was Carroll County High School teacher Marion McAdoo Goldwasser, though she was supported by many parents, teachers, and other community members.

In “Censorship: It Happened to Me in Southwest Virginia – It Could Happen to You,” Marion Goldwasser chronicles to events of the case and discusses her motivations for choosing to defend to the novel, and this page draws from that source to look at her actions and viewpoints in the case.1

At the time of the censorship case, Goldwasser had taught for several years in the Carroll County Public Schools, served as the Language Arts Curriculum Coordinator, and had received the honor of being Carroll County’s Teacher of the Year in 1992.2 To say the least, she was a well-established educator at the school with years of teaching experience. Goldwasser had even previously taught The Floatplane Notebooks in her advanced eleventh grade English classes before, so, in her reflection, she acknowledges that controversy originally came as a surprise to her.3

When she chose to defend the novel, she faced many different challenges, including a feeling between her and the school and district administration, difficulty with the wide-spread public attention garnered by the case, and the challenge of responding to the arguments of the novel’s challengers.4

In her defense, Goldwasser was supported by many different community members and state and national groups such as the National Coalition Against Censorship, the National Council of Teachers of English, and the Virginia Education Association, among others.5 When the school and county refused to follow its official policy for dealing with literary challenges, these entities advised her and wrote letters in her defense, and many employees of the school helped by signing a petition arguing for the policy to be upheld – a petition that Goldwasser eventually presented to the school board.6

In discussing why she wanted to defend the novel, Goldwasser ultimately explains:

  • “I could not have avoided the censorship battle. Had I chosen not to fight, I knew that the book censors would not only return to search my book room, which they had already done clandestinely, but would place the staff at their mercy. . . When we don’t have or follow our principles, we put ourselves at the mercy of others. Ibsen showed the inherent danger of trying to please the majority in The Enemy of the People: the hero today may easily be the enemy tomorrow. Without principles, we, like T. S. Eliot’s hollow men, lean ‘together, headpiece filled with straw/. . . voices quiet and meaningless as rat’s feet over broken glass.'”7

As noted in a Roanoke Times article, two years after the Carroll County case, in 1994, Goldwasser ended up leaving her position at Carroll County High School and accepting a teaching position at Mount Airy High School, though Goldwasser did acknowledge that he decision was not influenced by the censorship case.8

For Goldwasser, the case was much larger than the book and the complaints themselves. Instead, the case was about how censorship would effect her students and the integrity of the school (and her classroom) as an open, teaching environment. Her concerns as an educator are unique from the other perspectives involved in the case, as she occupies a level of involvement somewhere in between the perspectives of the administrators and the community members, making her voice important to explore in informing a whole view of the Carroll County case.


  1. Goldwasser, M. M. Censorship: It Happened to Me in Southwest Virginia–It Could Happen to You. 1997. The English Journal, 86(2), 34. doi:10.2307/819671
  2. (Goldwasser 1997, p. 34)
  3. (Goldwasser 1997, p. 34)
  4. (Goldwasser 1997, p. 34-42)
  5. (Goldwasser 1997, p. 37-41)
  6. (Goldwasser 1997, p. 37-38)
  7. (Goldwasser 1997, p. 41-42)
  8. Dellinger, P. “Move a big change for teacher 2 years after dispute, educator relocates. The Roanoke Times, The (VA). 02 October 1994: D-12. NewsBank. Accessed April 26, 2019.

Photo Credits

Turner, T. Classroom at UVa-Wise. 2019. Wise, VA.