Pitch 'Catcher in the Rye'? Verdict next month (printed in February 2000)
By CHRISTOPHER BELL
Times Staff Writer
ATHENS - The Limestone County Board of Education may be the latest school board in the nation asked to ban the half-century-old book, 'The Catcher in the Rye.'
One school board member said Thursday night he wants the novel removed from school libraries.
'I wonder if the students at Columbine High read this,' said Joel Glaze, holding a copy of the book.
'This is pure trash,' continued Glaze, who said the book violates the third of the Ten Commandments - 'You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain' - because of its numerous profane words.
The seven school board members, given copies of the book to read, are to decide at the March 13 meeting whether to ban the book from high schools.
The National Education Association notes that J.D. Salinger's profanity-sprinkled novel, widely considered a literary classic, has become one of the most challenged books in secondary schools' libraries.
But if most of the decisions by other school boards throughout the country are followed, the novel will remain on the shelf at the Elkmont High School library and at other libraries in county schools.
Parents of an Elkmont student complained to Principal Steve Pettus about the language in the book and asked for a review of it. The parents weren't identified.
The school board was told Thursday night at its meeting at Owens Elementary School that a review committee appointed by Pettus recommends that the book remain in high school libraries as optional reading for advanced 10th-, 11th- and 12th-grade students.
Madolyn Whitt, Elkmont High librarian, was on the review committee along with two parents, two teachers and a student. All agreed the book shouldn't be banned. Whitt told the school board Thursday night that the book is not required reading, and is available only for advanced English students in the upper three grades.
She said the student whose parents complained 'didn't obtain the book from the school library but from outside the school.'
The review committee said in its report that 'because this book contains themes and messages pertinent to today's teen-agers and because of its educational benefits, the committee recommends the book should remain on library shelves and in our curriculum for advanced students.'
'There's no question there is a lot of profanity in the book,' said Deanna Duby, an NEA program developer in Washington. ''Kids love the book because it shows teen-agers in a very realistic way.
'I can't believe anybody wants to ban this book.'
The novel tells of a youth expelled from an exclusive northern prep school just before the Christmas holidays, his escape to New York City and his nervous breakdown.
How the teen-ager, Holden Caulfield, relates to a psychiatrist is a key part of the book.
Dr. Les Bivens, county schools superintendent, told the board that 'censorship is always a sensitive issue,' and that he is reading the book again.
Sixteen months ago, the school board at Bivens' request reinstated the Judy Blume novel, 'Blubber,' after it was removed in the wake of a complaint by a Clements Elementary School parent.
People For the American Way, a Washington civil liberties group, monitored book bannings in high schools for 15 years ending in 1996. "The Catcher in the Rye" was second only to John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" in the rankings of banned books.
The American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom keeps track of challenged books. During a 10-year period ending the first of last month, "The Catcher in the Rye" was 10th on its list.
Jonathan Kelley of the Intellectual Freedom office in Chicago said that for almost a half-century, "The Catcher in the Rye" has been challenged because some say it is 'blasphemous and undermines morality.'
In 1997, a Maryville, Calif., superintendent removed the book to get it 'out of the way so that we didn't have any polarization over a book.'