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Reading & Literacy

‘Anne Frank’ Too Risque for One School’s Reading List

By Catherine Gewertz — January 29, 2010 1 min read

Here’s one for your file marked “Be careful, books can be dangerous.”

A Virginia school has decided to stop assigning Anne Frank’s diary because of one parent’s complaint about its sexual themes.

Close on the heels of a recent story about a California school pulling the dictionary out of some classrooms because a kid looked up the definition of a sex act, this latest bit kicks off a renewed round of questions. It’s only a matter of where to begin and how much time you’ve got. I’ll start with a couple, and then please, by all means, jump in with more of your own.

What role should parental pressure play in deciding what’s on reading lists and on classroom shelves?
What is the role of teachers in navigating students through controversial spots of those reading materials?

[Notice I refrained from wading into the issue of our gargantuan discomfort with managing discussion of sexual topics in classrooms. I refrained. I did. See? I didn’t say anything. I’ll leave that to you. Please discuss.]

In this book-banning mess, there is one bright ray, by the way. That California school is bringing back the dictionary, as it turns out. But it’ll be sporting a leash: parents can decide whether they want their kids to have access to the dictionary. The same kids who have to get hall passes to visit the restroom will need passes to open Merriam Webster’s 10th Collegiate Edition. (Apparently alternative dictionaries will be provided for the children of parents who oppose Merriam Webster’s. (Whatever horrendous words those children find in the other dictionaries will, I’m sure, provide grist for more outrages and more news stories.)

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.