The children of Rising Western Albemarle High School in Albemarle County, Virginia are finally safe this week after parents found a lurking danger in their school: a copy of the Sherlock Holmes story, A Study In Scarlet. Parent Brette Stevenson first brought the Victorian-era book to the attention of the school board as inappropriate for children. The book contains a harsh and erroneous view of the Mormon religion.
The book was the introduction of the Sherlock Holmes character by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1886. The title is based on Holmes’ observation to Dr. Watson that “There’s the scarlet thread of murder running through the colourless skein of life, and our duty is to unravel it, and isolate it, and expose every inch of it.”
What is fascinating is that the students showed far greater understanding than the adults — 20 students appeared before the board to protest the removal of the work.
The board, however, acted on the recommendation of a committee that found that the book was not age-appropriate for sixth-graders — affirming the view of Brette Stevenson.
“This is our young students’ first inaccurate introduction to an American religion,” Stevenson told the board, and it was unacceptable because some pages discussed Mormonism — which is shown in a bad light. This passage was particularly objectionable from Chapter 3:
“The man who held out against the Church vanished away, and none knew whither he had gone or what had befallen him. His wife and his children awaited him at home, but no father ever returned to tell them how he had fared at the hands of his secret judges. A rash word or a hasty act was followed by annihilation, and yet none knew what the nature might be of this terrible power which was suspended over them.”
I do not disagree that such passages are insulting to Mormonism and leave a false impression of that religion. However, it can be a teaching experience for the students. Most books from this period have passages that do not comport with modern sensibilities. That is part of the learning experience in reading such works.
We have previously seen how these period works are being rewritten to meet modern sensibilities — a trend that should offend anyone who values literary work. I agree that this passage warrants discussion and explanation but removing the book creates a different and more disturbing lesson for these children.
Source: Outside The Beltway