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Posted at 5:00 PM ET, 01/28/2010

Taking Anne Frank off shelves: Indefensible

By Valerie Strauss

This isn't the first time that a classic book has been pulled off a library shelf because a parent didn't want their darling child to read it, but it is equally obscene every time it happens.

In Culpeper County Public Schools, a version of the “Diary of A Young Girl,” by Anne Frank, was just removed from schools because a parent complained about graphic sexual language, according to the Star Exponent.

Anne Frank wrote her memoir of her life from June 12, 1942 until Aug. 1, 1944, while her family was in hiding from the Nazis during the German occupation of the Netherlands during World War II. She was caught by the Nazis and thrown into concentration camps, where she died of typhus shortly before the camp she was in was liberated by British troops in 1945.

The book was originally published in 1947 by her father, who retrieved the diary after the war. Later more of her entries from the period were found and authenticated and a fuller version was later published.

That is the one that was challenged in Culpeper, according to the Star Exponent, which quoted Jim Allen, director of instruction for the school system, saying, “What we have asked is that this particular edition will not be taught. I don’t want to make a big deal out of this. So we listened to the parent and we pulled it.”

The problem for Allen is that it IS a big deal when books are pulled off shelves because a parent doesn’t want their student to read about female genitals in the context of this Holocaust memoir, which is the passage in contention here.

The passage in question is one where Frank talks about her vagina, and this is the most commonly cited passage in the book:
"There are little folds of skin all over the place, you can hardly find it. The little hole underneath is so terribly small that I simply can't imagine how a man can get in there, let alone how a whole baby can get out!"

In fact, most challenges--or attempts to remove or restrict materials based upon the objections of an individual or a group--fail, according to the American Library Association, because of librarians, teachers, parents students and others who are committed to fighting censorship.

How unfortunate that that was not true in this case.

The Star Exponent also quoted Allen as saying that the complaint was made after students had completed an assignment about the book, and that he was happy the parents “get involved.”

Getting involved is one thing; insisting that everyone adhere to a single person’s sensibilities is quite another. I’ve never heard of a school insisting that a child read a book that a parent does not want that child to read; if parents feel the need to protect their child’s innocence, fine, but don’t make that decision for everybody else.

Removing the most widely read Holocaust memoir in the world from a school library because one parent was upset is indefensible.

Of course, this book is in pretty good company when it comes to be challenged. In 2008, the latest year for which the ALA posts statistics on its Web site, there were 513 reported book challenges, up from 420 the year before.

Other classics commonly challenged include John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men,” George Orwell’s “1984,” Richard Wright’s “Native Son,” Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone With the Wind,” Jack London’s “Call of the Wild,” and J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings.”

The most challenged book of 2009, according to the ALA, was “And Tango Makes Three,” by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, based on a true story about two male penguins who care for an orphaned egg. Sounds truly subversive to me.

That book was followed on the challenge list by:

“His Dark Materials Trilogy,” by Philip Pullman, fantasy novels about two children criticized by religious groups for its portrayal of organized religion

“TTYL”; “TTFN”; “L8R, G8R” (Series), by Lauren Myracle, books popular with teen girls that deal with issues of sexuality, depression and other themes

“Scary Stories” (Series), by Alvin Schwartz, books criticized by religious organizations for allegedly talking about the occult.

The scariest story of all is the attempt to remove from library shelves books such as "Scary Stories."

What do you think about parents asking that books be removed from a school? Click here to post a comment.

-0-

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By Valerie Strauss  | January 28, 2010; 5:00 PM ET
Categories:  Literature  | Tags:  banned books  
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Comments

I vividly remember reading The Pearl in 9th grade, 32 years ago. As the couple is walking back to the village after a long odyssey that ended in their losing their baby, Steinbeck vividly described their emotions. He wrote something like "they had been through hell, and come out on the other side." For the first time, I truly loved reading a book. 8 years later, I was helping my younger brother understand the book, and I jumped ahead to read my favorite passage. In this version, the line read "they had been through pain, and come out on the other side." As though they had stubbed their toes. Some parent objected to "hell," and robbed every reader of the censored version of the opportunity to experience what I had. Changing one word in a classic book can destroy its meaning. Taking a whole page out of the Diary of Anne Frank is heresy.

Posted by: markemoran | January 28, 2010 7:30 PM | Report abuse

It's a shame that this "parent" whomever they may be,cannot see what was being written by a young girl is just that. The bigger part and more important part of Anne Frank's work is that she had to live and die in the manner she did.
I am a librarian in a Catholic K-8 school in Cali. I am more concerned about books that don't embrace what the Catholic Church teaches, than Anne Frank's very normal observation of herself. I have had parents "complain" but I have never pulled anything because a parent complained. There are certain topics that are off limits in our library: drugs, alcohol, and language are the biggest offenders. I would have to say that parents are their kids biggest helps and also their biggest hinderances.

Posted by: kodonivan | January 28, 2010 7:31 PM | Report abuse

Tempest in a teapot. Teaching from a different edition of Anne Frank, or not at all, does not put us on the slippery slope to book burning. Suggest Answer Sheet get a life.

Posted by: Nemo24601 | January 28, 2010 7:56 PM | Report abuse

I'm a parent. I object to, umm, all poetry. And books. Books are bad. And math, too, it's the devil's tool. Remove all poetry, books and math. Or I'll make a big deal out of it.

Posted by: kls1 | January 28, 2010 7:58 PM | Report abuse

Nemo,

Maybe not, but do we allow one parent to decide what students will and will not be able to get at their library?

If I'm a Christian Scientist can I insist that all books on doctors and hospitals be removed?

If this parent doesn't want his child reading the unabridged version (and I have no problem with that), he can get his child an abridged version, I can't imagine the teacher would mind.

Posted by: Wyrm1 | January 28, 2010 8:06 PM | Report abuse

Wait till these dopes realize you can make vagina out of Virginia .. what then?

Posted by: tslats | January 28, 2010 8:06 PM | Report abuse

Goodness, we wouldn't want little Muffy and Johnny figuring out that boys have pee-pees and girls have hoo-hahs. I'm sure Muffy's never touched her own naughty bits and wondered how it all works. Boy is SHE going to get a nasty surprise in a few years, if this Mommy and Daddy's reasoning is evidence of their approach to basic anatomy.

I always wondered about the mentality of someone who doesn't object to their children learning about the atrocity and horror of the persecution suffered by Anne Frank and others, but get horribly offended by vanilla descriptions of girl and boy parts. Gosh, we wouldn't want kids realizing that other girls and boys also get curious about their bodies and the mysteries of life

Posted by: burntnorton | January 28, 2010 8:25 PM | Report abuse

Sadly, Nemo24601, by banning a book from a library the school is preventing access to this book for these children. This is not a slippery slope towards book burning, this is effectively book burning. Books are burnt to prevent people from reading them, the library has banned this book to prevent people from reading it. The end result is precisely the same.

Posted by: johnccs | January 28, 2010 8:27 PM | Report abuse

I only wonder what the "parent" who whined about Anne Frank being taught in school will think when their kid sees the Millie Perkins movie about Anne Frank. VERY well done, VERY carefully written. TCM just showed it the other night, and it was the first time I'd seen it, as I read the book in high school, back in 1972.

Otto was the only one alive when the original Broadway play and the movie were produced. There's a very good biography about him, and it should be read by ALL parents and older kids.

Posted by: Alex511 | January 28, 2010 8:47 PM | Report abuse

This piece is written as if we are all children, who beg to be lectured to about our hopeless, backwoods selves. Nothing here is "banned" or "censored." Go look up the words. Do I agree with this parent? No. This is a classic work that absolutely should be taught. Great. Now you have my opinion. And I feel damn important now. And sophisticated. Yeah, that too.

There is not one enlightened moment in this entire piece. It is perfunctory and predictable. Adults disagree every day on what their children should be exposed to. This is not a crisis. I have read this piece 10,000 times over the years. Every time it is a written, everybody present proceeds down the same predictable paths. Lots of speechifying. Lots of lecturing. Lots of arrogance. The view of all of them: If you don't think the way I do, if our standards or values differ, I will bludgeon you, you hick. You book burner! And one more thing: The American Library Association is a fatally compromised operation. Just throwing that out there shows a real lack of awareness of how a lot of this works ideologically.

My kid is going to read every single banned book I can find, and I will buy them for him. We will talk about them but we will also talk about the idiot adults who waste their time arguing about all of this. And we will also talk about tolerance. People get to disagree. And when they do, those on the other side are not stupid. This kind of thing boils over in communities across the country all the time. Anybody else tired of it?

Posted by: Craig_Colgan | January 28, 2010 9:06 PM | Report abuse

Jim Allen, huh, director of instruction. Must be a real edymukated kind'a'gy, 'think? He nose how t'pick 'im.
His students, & the'r kinfolk, must be the brite lites o' Culpepper County. Bet some of them folks even goes to the tek skool, after they get theyr GED, 'course. Lot a work to get a GED when the bookshelf been stripped o books!

Posted by: Fred217 | January 28, 2010 9:16 PM | Report abuse

I think we should all thank this ignorant person for making Anne Frank exponentially more appealing for all that hear of this incident. This knit-wit has actually boosted the interest level and caused possibly hundreds more students to want to read it. Duh!

Posted by: jeremysedge | January 28, 2010 9:37 PM | Report abuse

Tell them to go to one of their fugging christian schools or stay at home in trailor park land.

Posted by: dlkimura | January 28, 2010 9:41 PM | Report abuse

It's nonfiction. So clearly those opposed to the Diary of Anne Frank don't believe in the truth. Do they also want Darwin's "The Origin of Species" banished from the shelves. It seems that they are against reading and therefore against knowledge.

Soon they will try to ban all books and want libraries closed.

Posted by: blakesouthwood | January 28, 2010 9:45 PM | Report abuse

I am very against censorship of books, and, of course, "book burning," but that's not what this is.

The people who are very upset up about this should pick up two books: Francine Prose's new book "Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, and The Afterlife" and "The Diary of Anne Frank: The Revised Critical Edition" which was published by Doubleday in 2003.

Both books explain the reasons there have been so many different editions of the Diary (including this new one, with the graphic passage). Anne kept a chronological diary from June 1942 until August 1944. But in March 1944, she heard on the family's illegal radio that after the war, the Dutch government was interested in collecting diaries and journals from her citizens in order to preserve the history of life under the Nazis. Anne writes about how the other annex-dwellers seized upon her diary.

Anne, who imagined interest in her diary after the war, then began rewriting her diary from the beginning.

So for most of the time in the annex, there are actually two version of the diary--the original, and the revised version that Anne wrote for publication while still in hiding. In Anne's own revised version, she eliminated many of the more sensitive passages that had existed in her original diary, including the passage in question in Culpeper. She also eliminated any talk of her crush on Peter, since she was "over him" at this point.

If you look at the "Revised Critical Edition" you can see the various versions of the diary--Anne's original passages, her rewritten version, and the passages of the book that Otto Frank selected for the first publication in the late 1940s--you can see them all side-by-side.

So if the version without that passage is just as historically accurate as the version with it, and if Anne herself rewrote her own diary and did not include this passage, is it really like "book burning"?

Calm down, people.

Posted by: 2323Grif | January 28, 2010 9:49 PM | Report abuse

If I didn't know better, I would think they were talking about Kansas.

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Posted by: fyhstyetrujykderytrjy | January 28, 2010 9:56 PM | Report abuse

Doesn't it matter that this is a school library rather than a public library? I mean, we wouldn't expect middle school libraries to carry Lady Chatterley's Lover, would we? (that's how we get kids into the public library's stacks in the first place!).

If I were to make the rules, I would keep this version of the diary out of elementary schools, but middle schools and high schools would be fine. But I don't think we should necessarily cry censorship for every school library decision. Public libraries are different.

Posted by: Section506 | January 28, 2010 10:14 PM | Report abuse

Well clearly those childs in Culpepper is being left behind. On a not unrelated note, I wish the Post would publish some list of filter words for comments. Not like I think I can even discuss the subject here without getting flagged for language.

Posted by: Nymous | January 28, 2010 10:36 PM | Report abuse

Has the book Fahrenheit 451 ever been banned? Because that would just be so so ironic. Honestly, attempting to ban Anne Frank because she talks about her body IN HER DIARY? Then you'd have to ban Judy Blume books and so many others. I read some of these books as a kid in the 80s and 90s and they are among my favorites. You can't just take a classic book off the shelves because one parent objects to it. That is bad behavior on the part of the school district because some parent or another is always going to object to something, no matter what it is. Way to stand up for education Culpepper. Time to grow a backbone.

Posted by: BruinGirl2001 | January 28, 2010 10:57 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if a lot of the really vicious comments here would change if the book in question were, say, the Bible. A strong case can be made that the Bible ought to be taught as literature, and many students with no religious background are completely befuddled by elementary references in other works to stories and verses in the Bible. So why not teach the Bible, too?

And, if a teacher did, how many people do you think would be lining up to get the Bible banned from the classroom, even if it were taught as literature and not as religious truth? Somehow I think that some of the same people who trash on Christians and others with religious conviction would be the first to line up to ban the Bible.

And that's one of the funny things about censorship in our society. It is not O.K. to ban a text, say, that advocates atheism or the occult, but it is apparently permissible to exclude religious texts from schools.

As for Anne Frank's Diary, had she survived to see the publication of her diary, we can be absolutely assured that there would be no discussion of her vagina in that text. It's only the historical accident of her death that allowed lurid entries like that to see the light of day, and the original published versions of the diary excluded these passages. Why does a school feel compelled to use the most recent critical edition with these passages in it and not the edition that became famous worldwide? Good question.

These risque passages need to be age-appropriate, and I don't think it's for the state to tell parents of minors what that age ought to be. Holocaust studies scholars and literary studies scholars certainly benefit from critical editions that include these passages, but I first read that book at 10-years-old, and I think I benefited from not having to encounter passages like this.


I don't think any book should be censored, but one of the conundrums of public education is that it also involves the government telling children what they have to read, which in some cases can be potentially just as odious. It surprises me that this particular school bowed to the pressure to get rid of Anne Frank, but an easy solution might have been to read the original edition of the book instead of the critical edition that draws more controversy.

Posted by: blert | January 28, 2010 11:12 PM | Report abuse

Once again we hear from the backwoods of Northern Virginia. The parent objected to the "graphic" sexual language. Some people will always find something objectionable in what they read and try to impose their beliefs on others. This book was read in Lebanon and it was found to be objectionable because it uses favorable language in portraying Jews. Wow, don't want the kids exposed to that either. Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn still in the Culpeper School Libraries? I sure hope not. I live in China. You don't need a reason to ban books here. One book one reason, one at a time, it could be the way we do business in America too.

Posted by: bsp4now1 | January 29, 2010 12:28 AM | Report abuse

The blogger is disingenous; what she states is not what happened! The book was not "taken off shelves" at all!!! A decision was made not to make it part of the 8th grade required reading. A retraction should be printed.

If people are to engage in heated debates, they should at least discuss actual facts, not made-up ones.

It is entirely appropriate for parents to raise objections to assignments they deem inappropriate for their children for any number of reasons. Schools have a vast array of classic works to choose from in selecting texts to assign to students. Selecting one text over another is not, by even the wildest stretch of the imagination, "censorship."

It is not appropriate for a school to reject a particular selection simply because one parent doesn't like it. But, in selecting from among so many available choices, grade schools should try to select works with broad support.

Posted by: S8thRd | January 29, 2010 12:41 AM | Report abuse

Strange world we live in where a school system that says its about teaching 21st Century skills (http://www.culpeperschools.org/instruction/index.htm) is fulfilling its mission by denying its children access to great world literature, one of the greatest works by a child ever, AND in the face of such horror. I hope that folks will call the Culpeper School board and ask them to say NO! to absurdity, NO! to Mr. Allen, and discipline, perhaps remove, any official who could support such censorship. Contact info for Mr. Allen and the school board is on their web page.

Posted by: frednash1 | January 29, 2010 12:44 AM | Report abuse

Another example of one of the greatest impediments to freedom of expression and information in the US: cowardly school administrators who are only interested in avoiding any controversy at all costs and will allow even one loony parent to get important literature suppressed. In the McCarthy era, literary classics like Grapes of Wrath were suppressed because they "promoted communism". The ALA deserves a lot of credit for resisting this now. But the mentality of school administrators does not seem to have improved much since the McCarthy era.

Posted by: twm1 | January 29, 2010 1:12 AM | Report abuse

What a bunch of idiots. The pendulum is swinging back, and the fundies are ruffling their feathers again in Virginia, emboldened by the fact that one of their creepy peers was just elected governor. So glad I finally made the move across the river to Merry land....

Posted by: andyinbethesda | January 29, 2010 1:53 AM | Report abuse

The parent who caused this censorship to occur is an idiot. Probably a sexually repressed, holier-than-thou (no pun intended) fundamentalist idiot, but a REAL f'n idiot!

Posted by: psst_limbaugh_keep-ranting_satan | January 29, 2010 2:47 AM | Report abuse

S8thRd, I respectfully disagree that schools should try to select works with "broad support." Such a goal means that the blandest, least diverse, most conventional reading material will always be chosen, since it's the least likely to offend even one parent. Since when, in every aspect of life and government, do we decide by consensus?

Plus, I would find such reading material offensive because it doesn't engage children's imaginations or broaden their understanding of themselves and others.

Posted by: kaliso21 | January 29, 2010 3:02 AM | Report abuse

My senior year in high school, 1978, John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" was banned from our school(Allegheny Clarion Valley, Foxburg Pennsylvania)because of one such small minded individual. My Dad, who was very well educated research chemist, was on the school board at the time...he was flabbergasted with the decision of the 'rest' of the board. I knew at the age of 17 how sad that was and how small minded some individuals can be. When I read the article about the banning of "Anne Frank" it brought back all those sick feelings of small mindedness from my senior year! How Sad!

Posted by: ACV78 | January 29, 2010 3:23 AM | Report abuse

Banning books is tantamount to saying "I don't want my child to learn to think for themself." It is reprehensible and illustrates small mindedness and often stupidity.

Posted by: mtnmanvt | January 29, 2010 4:21 AM | Report abuse

S8thRd - You rave about the blogger being incorrect here, but the article linked states the exact same thing, that the book was "pulled from the shelves of Culpepper County Schools." I suggest you take your campaign for retraction to the Star Exponent while you're at it.

Nemo- "Teaching from a different edition of Anne Frank, or not at all, does not put us on the slippery slope to book burning." really? How do you think that sort of thing begins, anyway?

Why don't we just give kids the Reader's Digest Classic version of everything, while we're at it? The very idea that books are being banned because they're too depressing (from the article) is outrageous. They are works of art, and some of them are meant to inspire real feelings on tough subjects.

It's disgusting that people are defending this. And yes, I'm a parent.

Posted by: cakewench | January 29, 2010 4:56 AM | Report abuse

So making everyone use a different edition of the book because of the objections of one parent does not lead us down a slippery slope? Let that parent's child read a "safer" edition. Simple. But leaving in the parts about killing is okay, as long as the "sexual" part is out? Let's have a sanitized edition of the Bible, as well (who wants to explain to their children what spilling seed means?). In California, one school district pulled the Merriam Webster dictionary since one parent objected to the fact that there was a rather benign definition of oral sex in it.

Posted by: Sutter | January 29, 2010 5:18 AM | Report abuse

Ridiculous. Go back home and worry about something else parents. You should be pleased if you find your kid reading Anne Frank rather than the plethora of other activities they can find their way into.

Of course out in Culpeper, some of the anger may just be against the idea of reading, a skill many of them failed to master during "skool".

Posted by: BurtReynolds | January 29, 2010 5:51 AM | Report abuse

Book banning in 2010. Pitiful. How sad the school would just roll over on this because of one ignorant & narrow-minded parent.

Trust me, parents: your kids are exposed to worse language, and unlike Anne Frank, THAT stuff that has no redeeming value.

Posted by: sarahabc | January 29, 2010 6:13 AM | Report abuse

Lady Chatterly's Lover? Why not? My middle-high school had it in the library, along with quite a few other books that (gasp!) described sex and the human anatomy in far more graphic terms. Including, incidentally, the Bible and Shakespeare (required reading, no less). Of course, the Bible and Shakespeare's work are in a class by their own when it comes to graphic and/or disturbing descriptions of sex and violence. The Bible, for instance, features rape, forced marriage ordered by God, genocide, adultery and murder, and an extremely graphic description of the physical attributes of a lover. No court has ever banned teaching the Bible as a significant literary and historical document, nor has the evil ACLU brought a suit (courts have stepped in when the lessons are just a cover for pushing Christian dogma by lying to children about the historical facets of the Bible).

All of which is beside the point. The "graphic" language in Anne Frank's diary consists of a bland, anatomically correct, and brief description of a part of the female anatomy. Health books are more titillating and Anne Frank isn't revealing anything that a bunch of 13 year old eight graders (male and female) don't already know. Unless, of course, the girls have been locked in chastity belts their whole lives, unable to observe their naughty bits, and both the boys and the girls are so shockingly ignorant of human anatomy and reproduction that even the Vatican would disapprove. The parent who complained is a moron; the school officials who caved into his or her complaints are craven cowards whose stupidity and lack of gumption make the complaining parent look like a MENSA candidate.

Posted by: burntnorton | January 29, 2010 6:31 AM | Report abuse

those parents who want the book removed from the library shelves NEED TO GET OFF THE SHORT BUS ONCE IN A WHILE!

i think parents like that have been riding the short bus way too long.

they shouldn't even be allowed to breed.

that's why we have abortion, and why we need to have more abortions --

eliminate stupidity from the gene pool.

Posted by: FranknErnest | January 29, 2010 6:46 AM | Report abuse

What always amuses me is that these parents want NOBODY ELSE to read the book either. It's not about protecting their child; it's about censoring the author. They were the same kids we knew in Jr. High or High School, who sat dumbly in literature class, having not read the assignment. Suddenly, as adults, they realize what they failed to read as a kid, and they don't want anybody else to read it either. They are STILL resentful that some people understand the value of literature, and they don't.

Posted by: gasmonkey | January 29, 2010 7:10 AM | Report abuse

HA HA HA! What a clever way to ensure that every school child reads The Diary of Ann Frank. Well, maybe, not all of it, but rather, just the "dirty" parts online. Nice work, Allen.

I am 56 years old and even though we didn't have the internet in my day, I assure you I would have found a way to read that passage.

Posted by: martymar123 | January 29, 2010 7:11 AM | Report abuse

Another comment about the "backwoods of Northern Virginia," this one (above) from Mr. KnowItAll -- in China. I tell you it's that idiotic movie, Remember the Titans, set in 1971 Alexandria, and with a string of entirely fictionalized racist scenes (EVERY one of them were made up) made Alexandria and all of Virginia look like the worst of the rural deep south of the 60's. That movie had nothing to do with reality! (And Lynchburg is almost on the border of NC.)

Posted by: kls1 | January 29, 2010 7:24 AM | Report abuse

This same parent probably allows their kid to sit for hours watching stupid base vulgar prime time television and play video games until their brain rots. Every parent is offended by something (Harry Potter, Huckleberry Finn), content,racial, religious, political; that is why the School Board is in place. Instead of banning everyone else, ask the teacher for permission to read something else-knucklehead!

Posted by: menopausequeen | January 29, 2010 7:32 AM | Report abuse

Too bad school officials can't remove parents.

Posted by: MAL9000 | January 29, 2010 7:36 AM | Report abuse

It has been many years since I read what was then a standard though incomplete edition of the diary, but I can recall passages that dealt with Anne's adolescent curiosity about sex, her own attraction to fellow refugee Peter van Daan, and the contrasting attitude of young Margot Frank towards courtship and sexuality. It seems rather quaint to write that last sentence, given these more titillating times, but we've seen the equivalent of the Culpeper parent's overreaction replicated, seemingly ad infinitum, over the years. It is a very sad business indeed when a parent zeroes in on Anne's harmless and now extremely poignant musings, especially nowadays, when at almost any hour of the day kids can switch on a talk show, soap opera, or TV comedy that approaches sexuality from a leering or lurid angle. In a perfect world the administrators would tell the parent he/she has no right to screen the entire school population from what is a perfectly ordinary discussion of the body (God help us all when that person figures out what's in Shakespeare and Chaucer). Are people really so terrified of the mere mention of the labia?

Posted by: AnotherHagman | January 29, 2010 7:49 AM | Report abuse

As a (bad) parent I exercised no control over what my children read. Had they wanted to read Anne Frank I would have let them - it didn't really appeal to me.

I might have concerns about the book being taught and discussed in classrooms. Graphic passages can cause kids to venture into inappropriate comments, or other kids to clam up.

I have little difficulty imaging some middle-school boy reciting the passage back at girls in the hallway and generally being a moron, like middle-school boys are prone to be.

As "S" noted, controlling books in a school library is a different story than in a public library, where the book should be available.

Posted by: RedBird27 | January 29, 2010 8:07 AM | Report abuse

In a world where illiterate people are common any reading should be encouraged. Parents who deny their children the opportunity to experience reading a good book are doing their children a disservice.
Parents should not try to turn their children in to narrow minded images of themselves.

Posted by: vwallen@bellatlantic.net | January 29, 2010 8:23 AM | Report abuse

I agree with martymar123. By now, every kid in Culpepper Schools, including students several grades below the one the book was assigned for, has read the offending passage. I remember how in high school if there was a juicy passage in a book, it made the rounds quickly, and for many of us, that's the only passage that got read.

(I've sometime thought the best way to keep teenagers from reading Playboy and Hustler would be to make it requried reading in the schools!)

Posted by: sideswiththekids | January 29, 2010 8:26 AM | Report abuse

It's amazing. I'm sure that some of the parents who request the removal of books are the same ones who take six-year-olds to movies rated R and provide video games like Grand Theft Auto for them to play at home. They may not know what's developmentally appropriate for kids, but they know what scares them.

Posted by: jlhare1 | January 29, 2010 8:34 AM | Report abuse

S8thRd is indeed correct, going by what was published in the non-blog article by the WP this morning:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/28/AR2010012804001.html

The facts are that the newer, definitive edition remains in the school library, but was removed from the 8th grade curriculum in favor of the older edition. Anne Frank has not been banned altogether from either the classroom OR the school's library.

That said, I still object. Surely by 8th grade, the students have had a health class that includes even basic sex education? And according to the article, the decision is made more problematic because it was made without following the district's stated process for dealing with complaints about objectionable material.

Ms. Strauss, research the facts before you go spouting off on the internet. Censorship is indeed wrong, but misrepresenting facts is it's own literary and journalistic sin.

Posted by: BuffaloGal78 | January 29, 2010 8:40 AM | Report abuse

Wait till these dopes realize you can make vagina out of Virginia .. what then?

Posted by: tslats | January 28, 2010 8:06 PM

-----------

Or better yet, wait until they realize that there's female nudity on every Virginia flag and every document that carries the Seal of our Commonwealth!

Posted by: jkuchen | January 29, 2010 8:40 AM | Report abuse

who are the freaks who get sexually aroused reading anne frank for cripes' sake. wasn't there a congressman who wanted 'schindler's list' censored when it ran on television because of similar concerns.

Posted by: mycomment | January 29, 2010 8:40 AM | Report abuse

Who's scared of vagina?
Conservatives are such a cowardly bunch.

Posted by: mikelemm | January 29, 2010 8:41 AM | Report abuse


One parent should not be given the power to remove a book from the library. After making the request, the parent should have been told why the request was denied. If the parent still disagreed & wanted the book removed, the parent should have had the child taken away & put in an orphanage like Oliver Twist.

Posted by: deo49 | January 29, 2010 8:55 AM | Report abuse

What has happened to the belief of expanding the mind through reading? The pulling of this book is absolutely ludicrous and appears to be yet another huge step backwards in today's society. Sounds like maybe this parent should consider home schooling so that there is more "control" over what their children have access to. Good luck, because they'll grow up some day (whether you like it or not).

Posted by: andersonp1 | January 29, 2010 9:14 AM | Report abuse

While I find that removing this book in any form is totally inappropriate and a girl describing the investigation of her body completely fine AND age appropriate, I wish we'd stop calling Northern Virginia a backwater hick-town. I don't really like Northern Virginia much personally, but it's anything but a backwater. That area is particularly wealthy compared to the rest of the country and as up-to-date as can be. And as for hicks, I am one and we're not stinky and stupid - we just live out in the sticks and we choose to be rural. Quit being so prejudiced.

Thank you - stepping off my 4x4 podium now.

Posted by: bentoenail | January 29, 2010 9:15 AM | Report abuse

When Otto Frank published the Diary, he explained how he felt when he first read it: “For me, it was a revelation. There, was revealed a completely different Anne to the child that I had lost. I had no idea of the depths of her thoughts and feelings.”

Now, some school children in Virginia will never know some of the depths of her thoughts and feelings.

http://www.findingdulcinea.com/news/on-this-day/May-June-08/On-this-Day--Anne-Frank-s-Diary-Published-for-the-First-Time.html

Posted by: markemoran | January 29, 2010 10:02 AM | Report abuse

I would like to know how these so called additions to Anne Frank's diary were found and "authenticated". This does not sound like anything a young girl would have written at that time. I think perhaps another fraud has been perpetrated on a willing and very gullible academia. Having grown up in the 40's and 50's this all sounds very suspicious, since it sounds more like the vagina monologues than something written during the war when the focus of her attention would have been on survival. We have seen many of these literary frauds produced and verified, Howard Hughes' writings being one of the more famous. Could the author tell us more of where these so called additional writings were found and how they were authenticated?

Posted by: LadyChurchillUSA | January 29, 2010 10:26 AM | Report abuse

It seems like there's at least one news story a week about fundie parents getting books removed from libraries. You just know that their spawn are the ones most likely to get pregnant in high school, or maybe junior high, because THEY don't have ANY problems figuring out how the man gets in and the baby gets out no matter how ignorant they and their parents are.

I first read this book - the "sanitized" version - when I was in the 8th grade. (It was required reading, but I have read it many times since.) While the edition my (Catholic) school used was scrubbed of overt references to vaginas, it did contain references to menstruation. I remember the boys snickering about it.

So a warning to fundie parents - you can't be TOO careful, in your state of smug, self-righteous, misogynistic denial. You must carefully go through every single book on the shelves of every library in the country, over and over, until libraries become rooms full of empty shelves!!!! Then God will reward you with a houseful of screaming grandchildren to take care of while your children try to get their GEDs.

Posted by: solsticebelle | January 29, 2010 10:57 AM | Report abuse

But don't girls think about these things? It's not like Anne Frank was a pervert. Kids can't read normal things that normal kids think about?

Posted by: Wallenstein | January 29, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Please read the Washington post article carefully. They did not ban the book, I quote "Allen said that the more recent version will remain in the school library and that the earlier version will be used in classes." Where is the problem with this? I think this is a most reasonable approach. The earlier version is still a vaild version and more appropriate for 10-11 year olds to use in the classroom. They still have a copy of the newer version for anyone to check out in the school library. Remember, this is an elementary school, the oldest grade level is 5th grade, making most children at the school age 11 or under. I just don't understand what is wrong with this approach.

Posted by: April6 | January 29, 2010 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Some people make my skin burn, how can anyone say this book is not fit for children to read. Have parents looked around at the kids in the school systems now days, when a lot of the kid are sexualy active, going to have babys, and homosexualty is ok to teach in elementary school classes and I am not saying teaching about same sex relationships is wrong, and a lot of elementary age children are exploring their bodies,just where have these parents been, do they have their heads in the sand, but to say there is something wrong with any verison of Anne Frank is like saying the mass murder of Jews never took place.

Posted by: fredacerne | January 29, 2010 6:21 PM | Report abuse

Those who've preceded me in comment have pretty much said it all...except to point out, as seen by a northerner who's left bigotry behind, the public schoo officials of Culpeper displayed exactly the kind of narrow-minded isolation from reality that I would expect. The teenagers who would read the "outrageous" version of the diary would find such material a real yawner in terms of prurience. These officials might do well to explore employment in another field. Thank you.

Posted by: djmcmeen | January 29, 2010 7:12 PM | Report abuse

The Washington Post apparently puts itself in the position of censor, given its rejection of my brief comments which contained no slang, inappropriate material or abusive content. Just what I would expect of an organ that is staffed with folks from Culpeper.

Posted by: djmcmeen | January 29, 2010 7:15 PM | Report abuse

to tslats ("Wait till these dopes realize you can make vagina out of Virginia .. what then?)

There aren't enough "a"s.

Posted by: sideswiththekids | January 29, 2010 7:22 PM | Report abuse

@blert

I would love to see a bible book be put through English classes. Indeed, in western culture there are many references to the bible, and apparently Shakespeare is much better understood with a good understanding of the bible.

But, you will then also have to accept the dissection of the actual text of that particular bible book. All the contradictions, the metaphors used, the historical context.


If teaching about the bible will keep creationists out of biology/science classes, go for it! Make it a literary assignment, try to understand what the authors meant, given the times they lived.

When creationists talk about teaching the controversy, they're really talking about the controversy among religious people on how to interpret the bible. So yeah, Teach that Controversy.

Posted by: JerryMm | January 29, 2010 7:59 PM | Report abuse

The book was NOT taken off the shelves. From the original article:

"Allen said that the more recent version will remain in the school library and that the earlier version will be used in classes."

Answer Sheet, you should correct this.

Posted by: tigerlily3 | January 29, 2010 8:01 PM | Report abuse

Here is a link to the article from the Washington Post this quote was pulled from, I realized afterwards that the link in the article pointed to a different source which ommitted this information.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/28/AR2010012804001.html?g=0

Posted by: tigerlily3 | January 29, 2010 8:06 PM | Report abuse

I think it's very sad that when a child complains about doing a book report the parent took it to the extreme. The parent could have told the school that they would like their child to read something else. To refuse my child a clear look at history just because you think its offensive is wrong. If you look at his computer at home his dvds, mp3 and video games I'm sure that middle schooler isn't playing any violent with a hint of women in barely anything and no one getting hit or called the B word repeatedly. One out of four girls that age already have HPV. Where did they get it from? I'm sure no boys were involved.

Posted by: freerxsmith | January 29, 2010 8:14 PM | Report abuse

A twelve year old girl discovers her own body over sixty years ago and writes about it in her diary, not exactly pornography. Anne Frank would not live to enjoy adulthood and some parent throws a fit over what little she got to share with the world.
It is unforgiveable to have a book that symbolizes the Holocaust banned from a school library because of one very ignorant woman. Sometimes it is truly hard to believe that it is the 21st century. If it is up to the religious fanatics we'll be burning books here soon.

Posted by: chadwick59 | January 29, 2010 8:21 PM | Report abuse

Here we go again, here come the Puritans! Too bad this parent does not realize that their progeny will or already has, run across far worse things than reading about a young girl becoming an adolescent and curious about what is happening to her body. A young girl who is hiding from the vicious hatred of a nation and is desperately trying to survive with her family so that she may look forward to the life of happiness, love and perhaps having her own children (that this complaining parent's child is fortunate to live) and just as she gets close to the doorway of freedom, she is struck down by typhus. Please parents don't stand in the way of your children knowing the hatred and racism that happened many years ago and.....yes still exists in the world!

Posted by: clarkejune | January 29, 2010 8:31 PM | Report abuse

So if the kids don't read the book the subject will never cross their minds.
They are insulting these student's intelligence. Shame on them!

Posted by: libertyanne | January 29, 2010 8:44 PM | Report abuse

God Bless the Post for speaking in behalf of Anne Frank, the truth hurts but it is still the truth, please keep up your unparalleled efforts in outstanding journalism so that we may never forget,,,,

Posted by: phdave73 | January 29, 2010 8:54 PM | Report abuse

When I was in middle school, we had to read "Of Mice And Men." I am still haunted by that book today (and I'm in my 50's); it was simply horrible. I still have no clue why we had to read that book. "The Diary of Anne Frank," however, is history! I read "The Diary of Anne Frank" in middle school and was able to empathize with her feelings of fear, yet hopefulness. I was at a very impressionable age when I read that book, and no 'sexually explicit' parts stuck in my mind. If THAT'S ALL that parent got out of that book, then I feel sorry for them--and their children. No matter what some parents want to do, you cannot erase history. Especially, as told by a person who lived it.

Posted by: KatieO236 | January 29, 2010 9:12 PM | Report abuse

Honestly,just think about it.Why should we hide it?This book is worth GOLD because it the only object left!Teens need to know this history in order for it not to occur again but 10 times worse.Teens need to know the real facts about the holocaust.It may not be the best topic to talk about but it needs to b taught.In the 9th grade attending in highschool many cruel things happened in highschool teens getting picked on etc.Thanks to my english teacher we had a lucky chance to go to the museum of tolerance.Let me tell you this,It totally changed my life!Made me realize many things that no book would tell you.My point here is teens have to see what really occured to realize what a human can really do.Im aganist banning the book from schools..sooner or later they will find out but it better to teacher them the way & that would be with the true facts.. -Diane

Posted by: diane_z | January 29, 2010 9:27 PM | Report abuse


Wait Wait Wait. The last time I looked at a high school history book , there was maybe a paragraph and a half about the Holocaust. And that was school year 2009. Are we suppose to stop teaching our children about the history of a time when millions of people were murder in the name of racial purity? And to do so because a young girl asked questions of herself and the wonder of her body?
I've watched books like Gone With the Wind, Tom Sawyer and so many others taken from our libraries because of some small objection by a handful of people in a nation of more then 300 million people.
I first read Gone with the Wind when I was 16 and it made me ask myself my teachers and my parents questions about racial discrimination and why one person can own another. My Favorite Book "Bury Him Among Kings" by Steven Trevor made me ask questions about war and what good it does to kill over some stupid reason no one understood, especially the generation of men who died on those fields. The Diary of Ann Frank told me that to try to get rid of a people because of their religion and or color of their eyes and skin or the shape of a persons nose is to deny one’s own uniqueness .
I'm German and a Jew. I never want the world to forget what happened to the millions who died in the name of racial purity.
Why is what I read in School and at home bad for my kids when I got so much knowledge of the world and from so many angles. Books who made me think about something more then my tiny world. There is not a book I’ve read in my 40 years of reading that I haven’t learned something valuable.
Let us not close a book and narrow the view of life and the world because one parent objects. Let her explain to her child why he is so different from everyone else to be banned from learning what their friends are about a time in history that must NEVER be forgotten

Posted by: SherrieL20011 | January 30, 2010 1:46 AM | Report abuse

Claiming that Anne Frank's Diary has been removed from the Culpeper school system library shelves: Indefensible.
The Culpeper school system did not take either version of Anne Frank's Diary off of their library shelves. So, I have some questions for you. Why does the title of your blog imply that they did? Why do you state in your blog over and over that they did? And, I'll repeat the question and comments that I sent to the ALA.
Is deciding to teach one version of a book, and make the other version of the same book available in the school library really "restricting" that version of the book?
I ask this question because the Washington Post article, School system in Va. won't teach version of Anne Frank book, by Michael Alison Chandler, quotes Ms. Maycock [of the ALA]as follows:
"Hasty decisions to restrict access to some books do 'a disservice to students,' said Angela Maycock, assistant director of the office for intellectual freedom at the American Library Association. ‘Something that one individual finds controversial or offensive or objectionable may be really valuable to other learners in that community,' she said."
Whereas the same article relates that, "James Allen…director of instruction for the 7,600-student system...said that the more recent version will remain in the school library and that the earlier version will be used in classes."
Clearly, if the "other learners in that community" believe they will find the previously omitted passages of Anne Frank's Diary "really valuable" they could access them in the library. Doesn't the ALA believe that the library is an unrestricted place for a book?
So here is my final question for The Answer Sheet. Why does it seem that you are either uninformed or lying?

Posted by: forSaltandLight | January 30, 2010 2:43 AM | Report abuse

When I was 9, my mother kept me home from school one afternoon and took me to see "Gone With The Wind," telling me that it was a classic movie and I might never get a chance to see it again. (I should add that I was an excellent student and the teacher agreed that I probably already knew all the lessons I would miss.)

When I was in high school, my sister-in-law said she had never seen the movie, so my mother and I went with her. I recognized scenes I remembered from the first viewing 9 years earlier, but this time I understood why Belle Watling couldn't get out of the carriage to talk to Melanie, what were the "marital rights" Scarlett was denying Rhett, what happened when he carried her upstairs, and so on.

Quit worrying about what your kids are reading--they probably won't understand the parts you object to, and if they're old enough to ask for an explanation, they're ready to know about the topic.

(I think GWTW, far from being a classic, is just a very long romance novel with a very thin plot and flat, stereotypical characters. I suspect my mother just had a "thing" for Clark Gable!)

Posted by: sideswiththekids | January 30, 2010 8:49 AM | Report abuse

The banning and/or burning of books isn't the most salient issue here. It's that the Culpeper school official, Allen, allowed this action, admittedly, without following district policy. One parent, one phone call? No written, reasoned rationalization from the parent? No group of adults representig the district to review the request? He wasn't even in town and he made this call? Yikes. If he's allowed to stay in his job, one can only imagine the demands from parents, or students masquerading as parents, he'll have waiting for him on voicemail the next time he's working by remote control. Books like Diary of Anne Frank will survive on the strength and truth of their ideas. The success of Culpeper teachers in helping their students access these ideas can be supported by Allen, or whomever takes his place, by choosing courage over spinelessness. Or at least doing the job according to policy.

Posted by: fmmartin3 | January 30, 2010 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Thanks 2323, That message is lost in all the brouhaha. Why should we even be reading something that the author never intended to be seen?

Posted by: rjma1 | February 2, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

Blert says: "but an easy solution might have been to read the original edition of the book instead of the critical edition that draws more controversy."

That's exactly what the plan was. Did you really think they wanted to ban the original? Good grief.

Posted by: rjma1 | February 2, 2010 11:34 PM | Report abuse

Diane writes: "This book is worth GOLD because it the only object left!Teens need to know this history in order for it not to occur again but 10 times worse.Teens need to know the real facts about the holocaust."

Actually what they need to know is our country's sorry response to the increasing persecution of the Jews in the 30's, our media burying credible reports of death camps, and when we finally found out about Auschwitz our refusal to bomb it or the tracks leading to it. Instead we still stick our heads in the sand. Oh, but by all means if it far more important to make sure Anne's comments (that she probably didn't want known) about her vagina be read by all 8th graders.

Posted by: rjma1 | February 2, 2010 11:59 PM | Report abuse

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