An Illinois high school removed Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" from the curriculum of an honors English class amid concerns about passages detailing sexual acts that were deemed "extremely" vulgar, according to the Journal Gazette and Times-Courier. The move, which has been condemned by free speech groups, came after parents raised concerns about the book.
Michele Sinclair, principal of Illinois’ Mattoon High School, which is about a two-hour drive from state capital Springfield, said she felt it was an issue that parents hadn't been given the chance to choose if their child should read the book, according to media reports Thursday. “The problem wasn't necessarily the book or the material,” Sinclair said, according to the Journal Gazette and Times-Courier. “The problem was that we did not provide parents with an opportunity to opt out.”
Sinclair noted that when R-rated movies are shown in the classroom, parents are given a choice to opt out. School officials should have given parents a similar option for "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," she said.
“We want full disclosure to parents about what their students are reading … the bottom line is, these are still kids. Yes, they are young adults, but they are on the cusp of adulthood,” Sinclair said to the Journal Gazette and Times-Courier. “Parents should have the right to determine what their students are exposed to in the classroom,” she added.
Free speech groups have condemned pulling the acclaimed novel, which details the story of a 9-year-old boy searching for a key left behind by his father who died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The coalition called the Kids’ Right to Read Project, which includes representatives from the National Coalition Against Censorship and the National Council of Teachers, criticized the removal in a letter to the school, according to the Guardian.
“Removing a book with recognized literary and pedagogical merit -- one that has been taught for several years … simply because some disapprove of it not only disserves the educational interests of students, but also raises serious constitutional concerns,” the letter read. The letter described what the group felt were the dangers of limiting a curriculum.
"Every community is home to a diversity of opinions on moral and religious questions; for every parent who objects to an assigned book there will be others who favor it," the letter read. "In practice, the attempt to alter school curricula in response to individual objections means privileging the moral or religious beliefs of some families over others. It is precisely this form of viewpoint discrimination by government officials that our constitutional system is designed to prevent."
Sinclair told the local paper that the school is working on developing a process to disclose to parents the general content of books, and that it remained unsure if "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" -- which in 2011 was made into a movie of the same title starring actor Tom Hanks -- would be used in the curriculum in the future.