by Becky Tunis
Recently, Sherman Alexie’s novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is used in some English I classes, has been called into question because it contains what some parents believe to be inappropriate content. Although the district should pay close attention to maintaining the appropriateness of all material, the request to remove the novel from the WHS curriculum is not only unnecessary, but detrimental to the education of students.
Some parents raised the argument that despite potentially objectionable material, The Absolutely True Diary is required reading. However, every student has the right to opt out of any reading selection at WHS.
If parents are uncomfortable with the material their children are studying in school, they should exercise their individual rights to request an alternative assignment. They should not, however, attempt to remove a work of literature because of personal objections.
Allowing this book to be pulled from the curriculum because of complaints from a few parents would set the negative precedent of allowing education to be subjected to censorship.
If one book is considered inappropriate because of references to controversial topics, other works of literature will be vulnerable to the same treatment. Books such as The Catcher in the Rye and The Crucible have been challenged before. However, exposure to these works allows students to reap the benefits of exploring great literature.
The argument that the book is unfit for freshman students because of its references to discrimination, abuse and sexuality does not represent the reality of young people’s experiences. Unfortunately, many students have been subjected to these very situations and thus should discuss such issues in class.
As Alexie has stated: “[Those who oppose the book] are simply trying to protect their privileged notions of what literature is and should be. They are trying to protect privileged children. Or the seemingly privileged.”
It is idealistic to think that shielding students from disturbing scenes in a novel will benefit them, when many young adults have experienced similar situations. And for those fortunate enough to have been spared these situations, reading about them will help make students more sensitive to others’ plights.
Parents who object to this book may want to protect their children. But in reality, students need to be exposed to material that brings them out of their comfort zones if they are to receive a real education.