Skip to comments.Albemarle Removes Sherlock Holmes Book From Reading List
Posted on 08/29/2011 6:50:40 PM PDT by nickcarraway
The Albemarle County School Board voted Thursday night to remove Sir Arthur Conan Doyles A Study in Scarlet from sixth-grade reading lists. A parent of a Henley Middle School student originally challenged the book in May on the grounds that it is derogatory toward Mormons.
Thursdays vote was the culmination of the work of a committee commissioned to study the book and two discussions by board members.
Board member Diantha McKiel, of the Jack Jouett District, said it was important to note that the school system has a history of reconsidering books.
Sometimes we have declared books age inappropriate, sometimes we have decided that they should stay where they are, she said.
More than 20 former Henley students turned out to oppose the books removal from the lists. Rising Western Albemarle High School ninth-grader Quinn Legallo-Malone spoke during public comment to oppose removal of the book. He called the work the best book I have read so far.
The board based its decision on the recommendation of a committee commissioned to study the Victorian work. In its report, the committee concluded that the book was not age-appropriate for sixth-graders.
In her comments to the board, Brette Stevenson, the Henley parent who first complained about the book in May, said the work was not suitable as an introduction to mystery and deductive reasoning.
A Study in Scarlet has been used to introduce students to the mystery genre and into the character of Sherlock Holmes. This is our young students first inaccurate introduction to an American religion, Stevenson told the board.
Stevenson suggested replacing the book with Doyles fifth novel, The Hound of the Baskervilles, which, she said, is a better introduction to mystery.
Legallo-Malone said he was disappointed the book was being removed from lists, but was happy that it was being considered for use at a higher grade level.
Its not what I had hoped for, but I guess they did whats best, Legallo-Malone said. I was capable of reading it in sixth grade. I think it was a good challenge. Im upset that theyre removing it.
Legallo-Malone said he was looking forward to reading the book again, should it be added to a high-school reading list.
I hope Ill see it again, definitely, he said.
Stevenson was pleased with the outcome.
I think the process worked, she said.
In other action, the School Board told representatives of AT&T to take more time to study a possible location for a cell phone tower attached to Stony Point Elementary School.
The board asked AT&T to do the study after several parents said they were worried about long-term exposure to radiation from the tower. The original proposal had the tower attached to the roof of the elementary school directly above a second-grade classroom.
Andrea Heapes, president of the Stony Point parent-teacher organization, said she was happy the board asked AT&T to reconsider the site.
I am so relieved, she said.
Board superintendent Stephen Koleszar said the board needed to be sensitive to the misgivings of community members about the antenna. Koleszar told the board he would allow his own child to occupy the room, but thought community concerns should be addressed.
Actually, it is rather an odd Sherlock Holmes story to choose, if the kids are only going to read one. I’d say “The Hound of the Baskervilles” would be a better choice. Or a collection of the earlier stories, when Watson first meets Holmes.
It does certainly present the Mormons in a bad light. But it does have some historical basis. Whether it’s factual or not I’ll leave to others to argue.
This was one of my favorite books when I was twelve. I have it on my iPhone. It’s a great tale.
It was Doyle's first Holmes story, and he needed an exotic setting. To a Scot of Irish extraction living in London, the Mormons were as unknown(and as exotic) as the Andaman Islander who figured as a villain in The Sign of the Four. He just needed a plausible motive for his murderer to pursue his quarry, and a sympathetic motive at that. So the villain was a wicked Mormon who was involved in the Mountain Meadows massacre, and stole the murderer's sweetheart. Half the book ("In the Country of the Saints") is just the sort of blood and thunder nonsense you would expect from an Englishman who had never been near America, let alone Utah or the West.
It's not really that good a book, although Holmes is one of those characters who takes on a life of his own. I agree that the Hound is a much better story, written much later in Doyle's career - better plot, better characters, better written.
My real question is why they ever picked Study in Scarlet as a typical Holmes story.
Moriarity would laugh....
What is kind of amusing to me is that a lot of the kids will read this on their own. The story has been “banned” so it must contain some material that will just curl your hair, right? Copies of it will probably be passed around secretly during lunch. LOL!!
"If we take you with us," he said, in solemn words, "it can only be as believers in our own creed. We shall have no wolves in our fold. Better far that your bones should bleach in this wilderness than that you should prove to be that little speck of decay which in time corrupts the whole fruit. Will you come with us on these terms?"
It refers to a killing by cult members.
This was the introduction to the world of Sherlock Holmes.
Watson and Stamford intrude upon Holmes at a laboratory in which Holmes has just discovered a reagent (you will recall that Holmes, in the Conan Doyle oeuvre was a brilliant chemist) that was precipitated solely by hemoglobin, thus a definitive test for blood traces, which was otherwise unavailable at that time.
This attempted banning of the first Conan Doyle Holmes novella is neither more nor less than the PC addicts run amok. Please keep in mind that Conan Doyle wrote the interlude of the story, "On the Great Alkali Plain", et seq., to allow the killer, Jefferson Hope, to explain his motivation for the murders, not to bash the Mormon religion. Any faith has had, always, those adherents who mouth the creed and violate it an hour later, and such were Drebber and Stangerson, both renegade Mormons.
Why this alleged "educational" establishment should attempt to ban a quite plausible story, in its day, of love and revenge, is utterly beyond me. As far as that goes, Hugo Baskerville's conduct was infinitely worse, and storywise offered much less in the way of the exhibition of the science of detection. (Read it again, m'FRiend, I've nothing to sell you, and you will see straightaway for yourself).
Best to you, as always, and FReegards!
Conan Doyle used a historical incident he read about as the basis. It wasn’t based on an any axe to grind, just something exotic in 1887 London. Conan Doyle later made that clear. He privately expressed this to Brigham Young’s great nephew.
Not at all. Holmes tracked down the killer of the two men who had murdered his love. That they were Mormons, and not incidentally renegade Mormons, is not and never was central to the story. The STORY was, as the chapter headings make quite clear, the practice of the art of detection.
The whole, “Utah flashback,” is what Hitchcock would call a, “Maguffin.” The author doesn’t care about it, but it strongly motivates the character/s.
A slight misstatement regarding "The Sign of Four". Small was the villain; he participated directly in the robbery of the merchant, and his murder. Tonga, the Andaman Islander, only killed Sholto because he thought it would serve Small, his only friend in the world. Mistakenly, of course.
Indeed, and VERY well said. I hadn’t thought of Hitchcock in this context, but you are exactly correct, and my compliments!
As you recall, naturally, John Ferrier’s reply to that statement was: “Guess I’ll come with you on any terms.”, which caused, as Conan Doyle noted, even the stern countenances of the Mormon leaders to curl into a smile.
Okay, so replace it with the Book of Daniel.
That’s the way it worked with me as a kid. Once I read the banned/restricted books, I usually wondered what all the fuss was about.
Mea culpa. Haven’t read it in a while.
Not a bunch of parents, or a group of parents, or a council of parents.
A single parent.
What would happen if a single parent challenged the teaching of Islamic studies on the grounds that, oh, I don't know, they slaughter people all over the world that don't agree with them, and they openly declare that they are at war with the entire planet?
Would the school board meet over this?
“... I usually wondered what all the fuss was about”.
Me, too! In fact, I usually read them again just to make sure I didn’t miss the “good stuff”. LOL> I remember when my son and his English class had to get signed permission slips to read “Tom Sawyer”. They were so excited... a parent had to sign a permission slip so it must be just raw literature. After a few weeks, he said, “What is all the fuss about? I hear more “racial language” in the hallways than I read in that book. When Tom had to paint the fence... that wasn’t symbolic, right?” I laughed so hard that I almost fell off my chair!
The county that is the home of Jefferson banning books! Jefferson seeded the genesis, from his own library, of the Library of Congress!
Misrepresenting the story doesn’t do Doyle or anyone else any favors.
Ferrier, Lucy’s adoptive father, never converts to the religion of his rescuers, and says he’ll die before he sees his daughter married off to any of them. It’s understood that his objection is to their Mormonism, particularly to the doctrine of plural marriage.
So yeah, it’s “derogatory,” just like mentioning clitorectomies and the fact that some people object to the practice might be considered derogatory toward Islam. And our answer should be the same in both cases: “Yeah. So what?”
Derogatory? Nonsense. You want derogatory? Read Joseph Smith’s history as a con man in New York State. Read about the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Read about the kooky doctrines. They don’t need Doyle to be embarrassed about their religion.
"The Hound of the Baskervilles" is a long story, with many actors, several sub-plots, and with many motives. It may be also a pretty scary story for a younger student, with a large dog running around and attacking people. It involves a good deal of adult matter as well; one key observation, for example, is the unusual behavior of the protagonist with regard to his "sister." This may be lost on a 6-grader. But the demise of the spaniel will surely be noticed.
Try reading it. It’s not that long, and wonderfully written, like all of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. Conan Doyle apparently didn’t like Mormons. Neither did Zane Grey.
I agree, Hound of the Baskervilles would be my first choice. “And above all, avoid the moor, when the powers of evil are exalted.” !!!
Yes ... but American Zane Grey was even less thrilled with Mormons. His "Riders of the Purple Sage" is a case in point.
Hmmmm ... I have read it, several times, but not nearly as many times as I’ve read the rest of the Holmes stories. The story certainly always struck me as deliberately derogatory toward Mormanism. So was Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey.
But the whole Mormon interlude in SiS, like Tonga, is just exotic window-dressing. The English Victorians were fascinated by the American West, especially cowboys, wild Indians, and Mormons, but they weren't very interested in the whys and wherefores. Just giving some color to the story.
Glad (but not surprised) to hear that he confirmed that w/ Young's family.
I don't think the Hound would be too scary or too complicated for a middle school student. I read it around age 8 or 9 and enjoyed it. Became quite a Holmes fan and probably bored everybody to death over Dr. Watson's middle initial and where 221-B Baker Street actually was . . . .
I think the schools often sell kids short by lowering expectations. If a kid has trouble, give him a boost, don't dumb everything down to the lowest level.
Sounds like a mountain out of a molehill, but yeah, Baskervilles is probably a better choice anyway.
Or the “Five Orange Pips” story if they really want to be PC, since the bad guys are Klan members.
A very good point about the English fascination with the ‘wild West’, or indeed with any ‘exotic’ locale. In Conan Doyle’s stories, we see this fascination exhibited again and again: Thor Bridge, Valley of Fear, The Sussex Vampire, The Devil’s Foot, The Dancing Men, The Noble Bachelor and so forth.
Although Doyle's ladies in peril are often in danger from apparently ordinary people or even their own families, e.g. Speckled Band, Solitary Cyclist, Case of Identity.