NCAC and ABFFE sent this letter to the Editors of the Syracuse Post-Standard in response to a report that a parent had challenged A Girl’s Life on the reading list of the English 11 curriculum.

Re:       “B’ville parent objects to book” (May 20)

To the Editors:

We are concerned about efforts by one student’s parent to remove the book, A Girl’s Life Online by Katherine Tarbox, from the English 11 reading list at Baker High School.  The parent objects to sexual content in the book and has asked the district to remove it from the curriculum.  However, his views are not shared by all, and he has no right to tell other people what their children may read.

A Girl’s Life Online
is a memoir that addresses internet safety and teen sexuality.  The book necessarily must be evaluated as an entire work, with its pedagogical value and literary framework taken into account, not reduced to isolated passages.  We applaud Superintendent Jeanne Dangle’s decision to keep the book in the curriculum while the district reviews the parent’s complaint. 

Some parents prefer to keep their children from reading about sex; others may strongly disapprove of teen sexual activity and still not censor their children’s reading.  Some parents appreciate books like A Girl’s Life Online, because they can create opportunities for adults and teens to talk about sensitive topics.  Even if the memoir’s themes are too mature for some students, they will be meaningful to others. 

In our experience, controversies of this sort are best handled by enriching the curriculum, 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. 

Rebecca L. Zeidel tracks book censorship incidents for the National Coalition Against Censorship (pair.ncac.org ) and the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (www.abffe.com ), both located in New York, NY.

CC:      Jeanne Dangle, Superintendent, Baldwinsville Central School District