Our story yesterday on the decision of the New Rochelle school district to tear pages out of a book assigned to high school seniors has, so far, been read by well over 1,000,000 people from around the world. In the process over 2,000 new readers have come to read Talk of the Sound; readers from throughout the United States as well as places as far away as Australia, Israel, South Africa, Brazil, United Kingdom and many other countries around the world. Our story was featured on Boing Boing and Hot Air, two of the biggest blogs in the world, The New Yorker, and dozens of other blogs. More blogs are picking up the story every hour.
UPDATE: The Journal News wrote up the story, Associated Press took the story from the Journal News, Guardian UK just took it too.
To help folks better understand how a story like this can ripple out over the Internet (and to give readers a taste of the reaction) we've linked some of the more well-known blogs and excerpted some of the posts and comments from these sites. As you see, the New Rochelle School District has been roundly (appropriately, in my view) criticized for tearing pages out of a book.
BoingBoing: New Rochelle school board mutilates books to protect children (very active comment thread)
Some of the BoingBoing comments:
- I have nothing but contempt for people who spend their time censoring sexual content in literature and movies
- Wow, I've never heard someone in the process of actively bowdlerizing use the term directly in defense of their actions.
- This is a high school. If the administration thinks that their students wouldn't be having sex were it not for the encouragement of this book, they are deluding themselves.
- Books have plenty of other lovely redeeming features aside from their text. They make good coasters, they can be used to level uneven furniture, they provide heat when burned, and if the pages are thin enough, they make excellent toilet paper.
- Someone RIPPING pages from a book needs to be horsewhipped along with the idiots out there that are burning books.
- The little litigator inside me is thinking that a case could be made by the copyright holder for infringement by the production of a derivative work. By intentionally removing a broad swath of the story they have created a derivative work; as it was a registered work that was infringed, they could be liable for hefty damages.
- If the book is so objectionable that they have to tear it apart to protect students, why do they have it in stock in the first place? Ohh dear. If you're going to ask someone to write about a book, at least let them read the book in its entirety first. If I was a teacher at that school, I would have some serious concerns with the management
Did anyone else find "the liberty of bowdlerizing" to be a particularly hilarious turn of phrase?
- "liberty of bowdlerizing." So, they have the liberty to restrict other people's liberties, Sounds about right to me
- Protecting high school students from sexual content is sort of like trying to keep the ocean floor dry.
HotAir: A case of libri interruptus (very active comment thread)
If New Rochelle High and the school board found this book inappropriate for its students, they could simply have found another book to use in its lesson plan. Requiring students to read the book, and then ripping pages out of it, doesn’t just justify vandalism but also sends a message of incompetence and confusion. They had to have students return the books to get the pages torn out personally by the chair of the English department only after parents complained.
Did the school actually read the book before putting it on the lesson plan? If so, why didn’t they defend it from the complaints? And if they weren’t interested in doing that, why did they not just pull the book out of their library altogether? The same language persists throughout the book, and not just on the excised pages, as a search of the F-word returns more than 70 hits in the Amazon search.
New Rochelle High went too far in this case. Bowdlerizing books is a practice that went out of fashion decades ago, and for good reasons. It’s a poor substitute for proper consideration and preparation of reading and teaching material.
Some of the HotAir comments:
- Is this the real life “The Music Man”? … minus the entertaining song and dance.
- Cutting pages out is horrible…have respect for the written word. It gives me the chills to think some person sits there a uses scissors to make a book “right”
- Ripping out pages? Really? This is a gross insult to the writer (an artist as well as a craftsperson)…a gross insult to the students’ intelligence, and so much more.
- Destroying or physically defacing books is just so creepy. It’s shiver-inducing creepy.
Seems to me that once again some winger complained and we have censorship as a result. Hey, they didn't like a portion of the book so just rip the pages out and be done with it. This is a "War on Christmas Literature." Why didn't they just burn the book? America should be outraged.
Some of the Crooks and Liars comments:
- That's a pretty astounding response from an English chair.
What the hell? An official quote form the school actually mentions “bowdlerizing”? Do they know how this has gone down (pun intended) in the past?
Well [Bowlder's] philosophy of line-item book burning is being followed by Cindy Babcock Deutsch, President of the Thought Police Board of Education of the New Rochelle School District. What did she censor? A section of the book "Girl, Interrupted" in which a girl discusses oral sex. This being studied by a senior year english class (who have NEVER even CONCEIVED of what oral sex is). You stay progressive, Cindy. I am sure you'll embrace forever having your name equated with book burner on the internet sooner or later.
One does not, any circumstances, tear pages out of books. It is just uncivilized and wrong. Period.
No offense but if i had kids in that school system, i'd riot - and vote those f---ers out of office.
Censorship is the vile business of bigots and zealots; it is always abhorred by enlightened people. These teachers should be censured publicly and summarily fired immediately. Their teaching credentials should be revoked.
While Thomas Bowdler would surely approve, I do not. I hear these stories all the time but still can't quite believe they're real.
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