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. Not appropriate for sixth graders? Why? By the time they are in the sixth grade today’s kids no longer believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny. Why should they believe in mythlology?

  2. We complain about the quality of education in this country, but every time I turn around, someone else is attempting to prevent kids from expanding their minds. The banning of this book makes as much sense as eliminating the “n” word from Huckleberry Finn. Novels necessarily reflect the culture and attitudes of the era in which they are written. One of the purposes of studying literature is to help us understand culture and attitudes. We don’t give kids enough credit for their power of discernment. In this instance, it is not students who are being protected, but the feelings of those who insisted upon the ban. Brette Stevenson could benefit from returning to the classroom.

  3. HenMan,

    I don’t know if the women get stoned…but a buddy of mine from Utah did…and a lot too….

  4. Hey, if the founder of your religion is a folk magician who roamed the countryside with his magic staff looking for buried treasure and who was eventually killed by a mob while in jail awaiting to face charges of treason, I guess you’d want to pretend all was saintly and well back in the good ol’ days.

  5. Amendment 4.1 :

    “The right of the people to be secure in their ignorance and prejudices against unreasonable book learnin’ shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable outrage, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the library to be searched, and the books to be seized”.

  6. HenMan — I think the women have to wear the magic underwear too.

    And I don’t see what’s false about the passage in question. People *did* disappear if they challenged the LDS church. How is that insulting? Like all religions (and governments, and other organizations), those who love power rise to the top, and they will do anything to hang on to their positions of power.

  7. Molly-

    I suspect Mormon women get even with the menfolk by giggling at their husbands’ funny underwear when they get undressed. Or do they get stoned for that?

  8. Utterly ridiculous … utterly ignorant … one wonders how this idiot stumbled upon the book in the first place … aaagh!

  9. Molly,

    You are not doing to well in this male dominated religious thing…maybe you should look to a different brand of religious experience…as well as I…I appreciate a person who has a brain on there shoulders….

  10. As always, a male dominate religion is ferociously protected, hidden. Meanwhile… oh how we push learning incorrect and insulting ideas of female centrist beliefs. How evil and frightening!

  11. mahtso,

    You mean we are not in that shape? The way I have it figured is enough rights have actually been taken away that you don’t have any left and what you do have left is not known….because the Intelligence Agency has not told you…

  12. The problem I see with using the book as a teaching experience is that it would require teaching religion, which of course is forbidden.

    Anonymously Yours,
    Kill the lawyers is the precription if one wants anarchy.

  13. Do they still allow “Lord of the Flies” or the works of Shakespeare or the “The Scarlet Letter”…..

    “The First Thing We Do, Let’s Kill All the Lawyers”

  14. It might be a good idea for the local bookstore to stock up on copies of the book. There is nothing that will guarantee a book will be read like banning it.

    Look for lots of kids to read a book they not have otherwise read just to see what the grownups are getting upset about.

    Failing to take into consideration the Law of Unintended Consequences is part of human nature.

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