The National Coalition Against Censorship has offered guidance and support to an Arizona school district reviewing a challenge to Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five. A parent at Cienega High School in Vail, Arizona, recently complained about the book’s language and references to sex. It is currently taught in Advanced Placement English classes.
Kurt Vonnegut wrote about censorship and literature for NCAC in 1986, for a briefing on the Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography. Read his remarks here.
The district is considering whether to remove the novel from their approved reading list. Following district policy, a committee will be convened to review the book and make a recommendation to the Superintendent and to the Board regarding whether to retain the book.
NCAC has sent Vail School District officials our Guidelines for Administrators. School officials have broad discretion to establish curricula and decide what materials to include in their classrooms and libraries. NCAC encourages school districts to adopt and scrupulously follow clear written policies on instructional materials to ensure that students have access to materials of literary, artistic and educational merit. To ensure that educational considerations are valued above subjective opinion or political pressure, material review committees should include a majority of teachers and library media specialists. A diverse body of qualified educational professionals is less likely to succumb to the external pressure than a single administrator or even a group of administrators. We advise that these committees include at least one librarian, several teachers, at least one school or district-level administrator, trained students and community members who are not employed by the school district.
We will continue to offer our support to Vail School District in this process and monitor the results of their review of Slaughterhouse Five.
Read the full letter to the district below. Click here for a full screen view: