by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
A highly regarded school district in the Dallas area has been requiring students to obtain parental consent before they are allowed to read undisputed classic works of literature.
Earlier this month, teachers in the Highland Park Independent School District sent home permission slips for high school juniors in Advanced Placement English courses, The Dallas Morning News reports.
The 16-year-old and 17-year-old college-bound students needed permission to read “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain — the quintessential American novel (for the first two-thirds) — as well as “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne and “A Farewell to Arms” by Ernest Hemingway.
All three books are unquestionably great.
The Guardian ranks “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” as the No. 31 best novel ever written. The British paper rates “The Scarlet Letter” No. 20. The New York Times grades “A Farewell to Arms” as the 74th-best novel of the 20th century.
Each book has its adult themes — as great novels often do. “Huckleberry Finn” deals frankly with slavery and uses the n-word a couple hundred times, for example. “The Scarlet Letter” involves adultery and layers of hypocrisy. “A Farewell to Arms” is a tear-jerking, hopelessly depressing story of love, war and tragic death.
The issue, apparently, is that teachers are worried about a small group of parents who may become offended because, while they want their teenage children prepared for the rigors of college, they don’t want the teens reading bad words or reading about sex, rape or abuse.