Are we really talking about another issue of book censorship? Tallahassee, Florida's Lincoln High School has removed Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime from its summer reading list after parents complained about the book's language. The concerned parties disliked the swearing ("the f-word is written 28 times, the s-word 18 times, and the c-word makes one appearance," observes a reporter from the Tallahassee Democrat) and the fact that narrator took "God's name in vain" (nine times). Principal Allen Burch ultimately made the call to cancel the assignment in order to "give the opportunity for the parents to parent."
Despite that the principal's decision bypassed the district's usual channels for lodging a complaint about school curriculum, Assistant Superintendent Scotty Crowe says that it's not a case of censorship because summer reading isn't officially part of the curriculum. The book will not be pulled from the school's library.
Haddon, meanwhile, is mostly unperturbed by the drama. “The assumption is that I should be morally affronted when this happens — and it has happened surprisingly often — but the truth is that it always generates a really interesting debate among school kids and librarians and parents, not just about Curious, but about literature and freedom and language, and this is an undeniably good thing,” he told the Guardian. “I have no way of proving it, but my suspicion is that more people read the book as a result and read it with more attention and interest than they might have done.”
Hopefully, he'll be proven right. Students who've already completed the assignment will eligible for extra credit, but those who only made it part way through will have to read on despite the warnings if they hope to learn who killed poor Wellington.
Image: Marcia Cirillo/Flickr