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You Said It: Banned Book 'Waterland' Belongs at PCEP

Majority of parents appear unhappy with Plymouth-Canton Community Schools' intermim superintendent Jeremy Hughes' decision to pull English classic by award-winning writer Graham Swift.

Some parents and students are voicing their strong opposition to the decision by Plymouth-Canton Community Schools' interim superintendent, Jeremy Hughes, to pull Graham Swift's novel, "Waterland," from Salem High's college-level Engish class. Here are just a few comments, posted on Canton Patch as well as Plymouth and Canton Patch Facebook pages:

From Canton Patch Facebook:

Prashant Andrade wrote, "I am, as the parent of a junior at PCEP, in the words of the interim superintendent, "deeply offended and shocked" that this book on the AP English list was banned..."

Anne Heidemann added, "If anything, he's just ensured that every kid will want to read it."

Marcia Peterson Buckie agreed, writing, in part, "To the parent who complained, or for another who does so, please give careful consideration about how your requests will negatively affect others, and instead make accomodations for your child."

Several commenters mentioned that they now planned to either read the book or buy it for a high-school aged child.

Former Plymouth-Canton Educational Park student Jennie Rokakis wrote that she read the book during her time as an AP English student. "The book already had a few paragraphs that were covered over permanently so you couldn't read them, which I already found absurd, so I'm not sure why the whole book needs to be banned. It is a very valuable book to the curriculum. I am not a fan of censorship. The fact that it was banned over only one parent complaining is crazy. Soon that junior or senior will be in college and can read the book on their own, we can't shelter them forever. The things we see on TV are worse than the couple of paragraphs that were blocked out."

Mike Pare wrote that he emailed Hughes to complain and got a quick response, which basically echoed what Hughes has told others, including Canton Patch, that he felt many other parents would be upset by the text. Pare went on to write, "...he didn't say how he knew what parents would think or why a majority of parents objecting would be an adequate reason for censorship..."

From Plymouth Patch's Facebook page:

Jan Waller wondered "What will get pulled next?"

Hughes move may have had an opposite reaction, suggested Kelly O'Donnell, who wrote, "I think the surest way to get a high school kid to read a book is to ban it."

Marcia Peterson Buckie crowed, in print, "I've got it on my Kindle!! The author would be pleased..."

And Debbie Piotrowski, one of the unhappy parents quoted in the original story, wrote to alert readers on both Patch Facebook pages, "There is a school board meeting Jan 10th & I'm hoping a lot of people show up to voice their displeasure over this & the fact protocol was completely ignored."

Comments under the original story on Canton Patch included:

's note that she "...was deeply concerned when my daughter, a student at Salem High [S]chool, told me that the book was being banned. I was not informed prior to the banning by the school. How can one parent (and superintendent) automatically assume that all parents would agree to this? I knew that there would be mature subjects discussed by looking at the published reading list that my daughter received in the summer, prior to starting school ..."

Wood went on to say students and parents had time to review the reading list  before classes started and change classes if necessary, adding "Our juniors and seniors already encounter mature material in the music and movies that they encounter outside of school. At school, they have an outlet for questions and discussion. Furthermore, where is it written that one person makes a decision for the many in a public school?

Finally, it is important to remember that these children who take the AP classes are clearly intuitive and highly intelligent people. All this banning did was to make the book more attractive and it now will probably be read by more teens at the school. How ironic?"

Ann Wisniewski December 23, 2011 at 05:28 PM
One powerful person and/or a small group of special interest or narrow-minded people out of either fear or hate or just ignorance are more and more recently making decisions for the majority. All you have to do is turn on the news to find that we are not living in a democratic society. Ironically, you would think AP English class is a setting for teaching critical and analytical thinking. With this type of atmosphere and leadership within our schools, this class will lack the freedom to express and debate different ideas and controversial view points that students of AP English classes in other school districts still may have, making the AP experience less valuable for our students in their future college studies.
Mike Andro December 26, 2011 at 03:14 AM
Salem High School English teacher Gretchen Miller is quoted as saying that her AP English class is: “...more mature and provocative.” “It should be a course that's selected by people whose kids are ready for that.” "Mr. Hughes should not be allowed to deprive other students of educational opportunities based on his and a single parent's opinion.” I am sure there is now a great number of parents that agree with that "single parent's opinion". I agree that Dr. Hughes should follow the process though I am happy to see some backbone in the district. Let the school district also follow the "book selection" process as well before more graphically sexual material is presented to unknowing students and parents because a single teacher thinks "it's a great teaching tool". I do not favor banning books. Let your student read this sexual writing out loud at the dinner table and see if you still want this book offered in AP English.
Jerry Thompson December 31, 2011 at 04:14 AM
To stand at the dinner table and read aloud Genesis 19:30-36 to see if the BIBLE should be in every pew, hotel desk, and child's bookshelf would surely be a disservice to the book , as I think Mr. Andro knows. The "backbone in the district" is now, finally, on display in Mr. Hughes decision today. When a parent has falsified a consent form for his child to study specified content - acclaimed classics that are on the "List of Novels Everyone Must Read" - without reading the form or it's content and THEN wishes to complain when suddenly discovering he/she wishes to actually be engaged in his/her child's education - the P-C District STILL provides a forum for that parent's complaint to be heard. This sets in motion a calm, deliberative due process examining the school material. That is the "backbone of the district". It's wise, time-honored Board policies. The spineless act would have been to ignore the policy and devalue the rule of law in our community. Embarrassing for the parent, Mr. Hughes and our community to expect the school children to follow rules and then the adults themselves are viewed breaking the rules. Now that error has been corrected. The review committee can actually read the books, moving beyond the censor's sowing of fear & discord, and come to a judicious decision. Mr Hughes stands taller today. Let's hope the classics can withstand scrutiny for the sake of our children's education.
Mike Andro December 31, 2011 at 05:54 PM
Jerry, we are in agreement that Dr. Hughes should follow the process and he is doing just that. Dr. Hughes is also showing leadership by using his authority under School Board policy to remove the books from the class until the committee decision is rendered. The rules must also be followed in the book selection process. I was just making a point, I guess not very well, that your student could read the material just to you, so you might have a chance to consider if the writing was appropriate. I appreciate all the comments and certainly enjoy the healthy discussion.
Tim January 09, 2013 at 07:31 AM
PCEP is a great school campus, check the stats! People strive to get their kids there. Seems to me the superintendent has a pretty honorable record, and a considerable amount of references. Maybe we should consider it to be a judgment call on his part, and actually listen to why it is he made this decision. This collective moral right and wrong visioning is crazy...after all, should we really all think the same? Then what?

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