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A heckler’s veto October 16, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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That was the best line in a Thibodeaux, La. Daily Comet article on the decision by Central Lafourche High School to ban reading of the book “Black Hawk Down”, citing profanity. Tenth grade teacher Jared Foreman assigned the book to “spur student interest in reading.” The decision was handed down by Principal Jimmy Ledet on Oct. 3, the last day of the 27th Annual Banned Book Week.

Foreman said the students were a little shocked when the principal asked that they return their copies to the school library. He said students were half way through the book and many had told him it “was really getting good.”

Apparently, a single parent complained after the students were halfway through to book, even through the teacher sent a disclaimer letter to parents and posted a notice on the school’s parent information website.

Deborah Caldwell-Stone, deputy director of the office for intellectual freedom for the American Library Association, told the Daily Comet, “…one parent has made the decision for the entire community that this book should not be read in class. It is like a heckler’s veto.”

The Comet story concludes with:

Just before the students returned the books, Foreman said his class marched to the school’s flagpole and sang “The Star Spangled Banner” as a group.

“I wanted them to remember they had to return a book due to censorship,” he said.

I wonder how many of these delicate children waltzed into the R-Rated film based on the book unchallenged, or brought it home from the video store? At least the school system is prepared, on the word of one parent, to protectthem from the sort of speech they might otherwise be exposed to by, say, watching cable television.

I can’t tell you how proud I feel that Louisiana did not disappoint in finding an opportunity to ban a book during Banned Books Week. It’s good to keep the brand out there, as our mayor well knows.

I set out to find a copy of Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War
to read that week. I’ve never read it, and as a Catholic School survivor I thought I might find it interesting, but I struck out in the first two book stores I checked. I had to settle for reading Judge John Woolsey’s decision in the obscenity case against James Joyce “Ulysses”, since it’s been laying by my bedside reminding me I did not manage to get through it last June.

Perhaps Louisiana’s Poet Laureate may be willing to speak out against this sort of thing. Oh, wait, we still don’t have one. Never mind.

h/t to His Yellowness Jeffery for calling this one out.

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