Re: Sherwood School Board upholds use of novel Grendel (November 12)

To the Editors:

The Sherwood School Board should be applauded for its decision to keep the novel, Grendel by John Gardner, in Sherwood High School’s 10th grade accelerated English curriculum.  Some parents object to sexual content and violence in the book, but their children were offered an alternative assignment.  Their views are not shared by all, and they have no right to tell other people what their children may read.

Grendel is a retelling of the classic Beowulf from the perspective of the monster, Grendel.  The sexual content and violence in Grendel is a small part of this novel, which offers an insightful portrayal of humanity.  Grendel, and other books in the curriculum, must be viewed as an entire work, with its pedagogical value and literary framework taken into account, and not reduced to isolated passages. 

In our experience, controversies of this sort are best handled by enriching the array of materials available, not restricting it, and by including more voices in the conversation rather than silencing any.  These critical educational goals – the goals that inspire the First Amendment – cannot be achieved by modifying the curriculum to reflect specific beliefs or sensitivities. 

We commend the school board for standing by the principle that is so essential to individual freedom, democracy, and a good education: the right to read, inquire, question, and think for ourselves.

Read this and other letters to the editor here.