Sherlock Holmes Work Removed From School Library in Virginia

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

Jonathan Turley

38 thoughts on “Sherlock Holmes Work Removed From School Library in Virginia”

  1. Op-Ed Columnist
    His Libraries, 12,000 So Far, Change Lives

    Published: November 5, 2011


    “One of the legendary triumphs of philanthropy was Andrew Carnegie’s construction of more than 2,500 libraries around the world. It’s renowned as a stimulus to learning that can never be matched — except that, numerically, it has already been surpassed several times over by an American man you’ve probably never heard of.

    I came here to Vietnam to see John Wood hand out his 10 millionth book at a library that his team founded in this village in the Mekong Delta — as hundreds of local children cheered and embraced the books he brought as if they were the rarest of treasures. Wood’s charity, Room to Read, has opened 12,000 of these libraries around the world, along with 1,500 schools.

    Yes, you read that right. He has opened nearly five times as many libraries as Carnegie, even if his are mostly single-room affairs that look nothing like the grand Carnegie libraries. Room to Read is one of America’s fastest-growing charities and is now opening new libraries at an astonishing clip of six a day. In contrast, McDonald’s opens one new outlet every 1.08 days.”

  2. (And I didn’t think Missouri could get much more messed up, silly me.)

    In Missouri this book-banning school district seems to have a lot of blind spots, I give you the Republic School District in all its messed-uppit-ness:

    Special ed student raped by classmate, forced by school to apologize to him, then raped again, lawsuit claims (UPDATED)

    and from the same district a couple of weeks ago:

    Missouri State business-school professor leads successful campaign to ban Slaughterhouse-Five from local schools

    The fellow that spearheaded the book baning effort Wes Scroggins, is an advisory board member of Reclaiming Missouri For Christ.

    From their website:

    “Wesley Scroggins, a Republic resident, challenged the use of the books and lesson plans in Republic schools, arguing they teach principles contrary to the Bible.”

  3. I’m not a native, but I’m a 25-year transplant. I’ve heard people say “uff da,” but it was always said self-consciously or jokingly.

  4. Noah V-

    Back in 1964-65 I was in the Army with some Minnesota guys. I don’t recall hearing “erno”, just an occasional “uff da!”.

    When I first heard Sarah Palin talk (or should I say screech) I thought I detected some strong Northern Wisconsin/Minnesota speech patterns. Around that time I saw a show on one of the history channels about the building of the Alcan Highway in Alaska during WWII. They said that most of the workers came from Northern Minnesota and the Dakotas. I wonder if her grandparents or other people she grew up with were Upper Midwesterners by golly, ya betcha, goldarnit.

    The Milwaukee Deutsch is unfortunately dying out, but I still hear an occasional “Ya dere,hey?” or “Ya, aina?”. Also, a drinking fountain is still a “bubbler” in Milwaukee.

    A couple of the old classics were, “Meet me down by Schusters once, where the streetcar bends the corner around.” And “When you come by, holler me out so my Ma knows who I hang by.”

  5. In Minnesota, northern Wisconsin, upper Michigan, “erno” at the end of a sentence mean “or no” (or not). It’s not as simple as “yes erno.” “Erno represents the opposite of the preceding sentence, just as “eh” validates the rest of the sentence.

    “We’re going to the store, eh” means “We’re going to the store – that is right isn’t it?”

    “We going to the store, erno?” Means “We’re going to the store – or am I wrong?”

    My son worked for a while in Texas for an airconditioning contractor and a landscaping contractor. He said each would be met by a customer at the first job of the day. The customer would come out with a cup of coffee. The contractor would drop his truck’s tailgate and pour coffee from his thermos. They’d talk about weather, fishing, sports, etc, until the contractor would say “Well, today we’re fixing to . . . ,” and the customer would say “Alright, then.”

    My son wants to just jump in and get started. He asked each of his bosses at some point, “We working today, erno?” Each boss responded by holding both palms parallel to the ground and saying, “We got a pace down here.”

    My son took to muttering it to his co-workers each morning as a rhetorical question. One morning he repeated “We working today, erno?” His co-worker glared at him and said, “You can see we’re working, and my name is Arnoldo.”

  6. Noah V-

    I probably shouldn’t have commented in my native language, Milwaukee Deutsch.

    Translation: Ja= Yes
    aina? = local corruption of the words “ain’t it?”

    In English: Ja, aina?= Yes, isn’t it so?

    Never end a sentence with a preposition. This is crap up with which I will not put.

  7. It may be too late for this comment to be read, but the Mormons did attack a wagon train and slaughtered men, women and children.

    I haven’t read it in a long while, but I think Study in Scarlet describes how Holmes and Watson met. It’s a seminal work.

  8. Ban a Sherlock Holmes’ book? You’ve got to be kidding. It’s absolutely nuts!

    (There’s a whole lot o’ crazy goin’ on out there.)

  9. “I do not disagree that such passages are insulting to Mormonism and leave a false impression of that religion.”


    People vanishing? False, really?

    “Thomas Coleman (or Colburn), who was in good standing as a member of the LDS Church. As Mormon historian D. Michael Quinn has documented, Coleman was apparently secretly courting a white Mormon woman, contrary to both territorial law and Mormon teachings of the time.[citation needed][weasel words] At one of their clandestine meetings behind the old Arsenal (on what is now Capitol Hill in Salt Lake) on December 11, Coleman was discovered by “friends” of the woman. The group of vigilantes hit Coleman with a large rock. Using his own bowie knife, his attackers slit his throat so deeply from ear to ear that he was nearly decapitated, as well as slicing open his right breast, in what some believe was a mimicry of penalties illustrated in the temple ritual. Not all of Coleman’s wounds correlated with the temple ritual, however, since he was also castrated. A pre-penciled placard was then pinned to his corpse stating, “NOTICE TO ALL NIGGERS – TAKE WARNING – LEAVE WHITE WOMEN ALONE.” Even though it was the middle of winter, a grave was dug and Coleman’s body was buried. The body was disposed of in less than three hours after its discovery. Less than twelve hours after that, Judge Elias Smith, first cousin of Joseph Smith, appointed George Stringham (a Mormon ruffian and vigilante with ties to Porter Rockwell, Jason Luce, and William Hickman) as the foreman of the Coroner’s Jury; they briefly met and summarily dismissed the case as a crime that was committed either by a person or by persons unknown to the jury, abruptly ending all official inquiry into the bizarre murder”

    “Brigham Young, Smith’s successor in the LDS Church, initially held views on capital punishment similar to those of Smith. On January 27, 1845, he spoke approvingly of Smith’s toleration of “corrupt men” in Nauvoo who were guilty of murder and robbery, on the chance that they might repent and be baptized (Roberts 1932). On the other hand, on February 25, 1846, after the Saints had left Nauvoo, Young threatened adherents who had stolen wagon cover strings and rail timber with having their throats cut “when they get out of the settlements where his orders could be executed” (Roberts 1932, p. 597). Later that year, Young gave orders that “when a man is found to be a thief,…cut his throat & thro’ [sic] him in the River”.[7] Young also stated that decapitation of repeated sinners “is the law of God & it shall be executed”.[8] There are no documented instances, however, of such a sentence being carried out on the Mormon Trail.

    In the Salt Lake Valley, Young acted as the executive authority while the Council of Fifty acted as a legislature. One of his main concerns in the early Mormon settlement was theft, and he swore that “a thief [sic] should not live in the Valley, for he would cut off their heads or be the means of haveing [sic] it done as the Lord lived.”[9] A Mormon listening to one of Young’s sermons in 1849 recorded that he said “if any one was catched [sic] stealing to shoot them dead on the spot and they should not be hurt for it.”

    In Utah, there existed a law from 1851 to 1888 allowing persons convicted of murder to be executed by decapitation (Gardner 1979, p. 13).”\

    (all from wiki)

    Then there’s that nasty business about the Mountain Meadows massacre in 1857, but why let a little history get in the way of a good ol’ fashioned book burning.

  10. Let’s ban this book, too; it also attacks another’s religion:

    18: And Jehu gathered all the people together, and said unto them, Ahab served Baal a little; but Jehu shall serve him much.
    19: Now therefore call unto me all the prophets of Baal, all his servants, and all his priests; let none be wanting: for I have a great sacrifice to do to Baal; whosoever shall be wanting, he shall not live. But Jehu did it in subtilty, to the intent that he might destroy the worshippers of Baal.
    20: And Jehu said, Proclaim a solemn assembly for Baal. And they proclaimed it.
    21: And Jehu sent through all Israel: and all the worshippers of Baal came, so that there was not a man left that came not. And they came into the house of Baal; and the house of Baal was full from one end to another.
    22: And he said unto him that was over the vestry, Bring forth vestments for all the worshippers of Baal. And he brought them forth vestments.
    23: And Jehu went, and Jehonadab the son of Rechab, into the house of Baal, and said unto the worshippers of Baal, Search, and look that there be here with you none of the servants of the LORD, but the worshippers of Baal only.
    24: And when they went in to offer sacrifices and burnt offerings, Jehu appointed fourscore men without, and said, If any of the men whom I have brought into your hands escape, he that letteth him go, his life shall be for the life of him.
    25: And it came to pass, as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt offering, that Jehu said to the guard and to the captains, Go in, and slay them; let none come forth. And they smote them with the edge of the sword; and the guard and the captains cast them out, and went to the city of the house of Baal.
    26: And they brought forth the images out of the house of Baal, and burned them.
    27: And they brake down the image of Baal, and brake down the house of Baal, and made it a draught house unto this day.
    28: Thus Jehu destroyed Baal out of Israel.

    ~2 Kings 10

  11. Brette Stevenson’s child ends sentence with five prepositions:
    “What did you bring the book I didn’t want to be read to out of up for?”

  12. By the time I was in the 6th grade I had already read all the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Holmes stories and loved them all. To deprive children of great literature because of one’s superstition of choice is simply a form of religious censorship. They have a word for that kind of behavior in some parts of the world. They call it Sharia.

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