Saturday, August 13, 2011

A Study in Scarlet

Apparently a school district in Virginia has "banned" (according to this article) the Sherlock Holmes story "A Study in Scarlet") because they thought it was derogatory to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints .  I used the word banned in quotes because really, it seems to be they are changing the curriculum of its sixth grade classes to include a different Sherlock Holmes story.

There seem to be a number of opinions on this.  Some people think it's a good idea.  Some people seem to say its censorship, and it provides a great opportunity to teach.

Here's my take.  Why was the story chosen?  If it was chosen to allow discussion about incorrect information in stories, then keep teaching it.  If "A Study in Scarlett" is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's greatest work, then keep teaching it.  (It is the first novel that introduced Sherlock Holmes.)  I don't remember thinking it was particularly great compared to his later works.  However, I suspect the story was chosen to check off "read a mystery" in the sixth grade curriculum.  In that case, change the story.  For example, "The Hound of the Baskervilles" or  a set of several of his shorter stories.  The inaccurate information in "A Study in Scarlet" about the Mormons is distracting to the reason the six graders are reading the story.

Some people were likening the curriculum change to removing "Huckleberry Fin" from schools.  I think Huck Fin should stay.  1) It is taught to an older age group, usually high school where students should be well aware that books aren't always accurate.  2) It is reasonably historically accurate.  That is how things were.  (I will freely admit however that in "A study in Scarlet" I fall into the category of those who are being incorrectly represented where I don't have the same problem with Huck Fin)

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