Robot 6

Gaiman’s ‘Neverwhere’ removed by New Mexico school district

neverwhereA New Mexico school district has at least temporarily removed Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere from its lone high school following an objection to the fantasy novel’s “inappropriate” content.” The book has been part of the 10th-grade English curriculum in 2004.

The Alamogordo Daily News reports that Nancy Wilmott, whose daughter was reading the novel as part of an assignment, was offended by a four-paragraph passage on Page 86 that “graphically describes an adulterous sexual encounter between a married man and a single woman in which the F-word is used three times, along with a brief description of groping of one’s anatomy.”

“I trusted the school system. I trusted the school district to pick proper material, and this is not,” Wimott, who contacted school officials last week about the material, told KASA Channel 2. “I did state to the principal that this is rated-R material, and she can’t get into a rated-R movie.”

On Thursday, the school district ordered Neverwhere “temporarily removed from usage” until it can be reviewed.

“I reviewed the language personally. I can see where it could be considered offensive,” Alamogordo Public Schools Superintendent George Straface told the Daily News. “The F-word is used. There is a description of a sexual encounter that is pretty descriptive, and it’s between a married man and a single woman. Although kids can probably see that on TV anytime they want, we are a public school using taxpayer dollars.”

English teacher Pam Thorp wasn’t as agreeable, telling the newspaper, “I cannot and will not condone the censorship this parent is promoting. The implication that we are careless or irresponsible simply is not true. Presenting challenging material of merit that may contain some foul language or mature situations, in a sensitive and academic manner, is part of our responsibility to our students in order to engage them in evaluating the human condition.”

Although KASA reports school officials say this is the first complaint about Neverwhere, Straface contends “three of four” parents have objected to the material. Noting that he’s begun to hear from First Amendment advocates, Straface emphasized that although the novel hasn’t been banned yet, “it may be.”

“If it becomes so, my rationale would be that after a review, it was our judgment that this was not appropriate for 10th graders,” he said. “It is our prerogative to do that in the literature that we teach. Some people may call that censorship — and I would say, ‘Yes, it is.'”

The review process is scheduled to begin next week. Gaiman, who’s been re-tweeting news reports about the novel’s removal, asked, “Is anyone fighting back?” The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, which says it will be following developments closely, points to the comments section of one news report as potential evidence that “the school district can expect immediate opposition to the ban.”

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Comments

22 Comments

Ms Thorp needs to sit down and shut up. It’s about time parents started fighting back against the overly permissive educational establishment and culture that is infecting our kids with wanton sex, violence, drugs and depravity.

It is a great book but I am surprised that it is in the gr 10 curriculum. I would have thought it would be better for gr 12.

It sounds to me like both sides are doing the right thing. There is a procedure in place to make complaints and then there is a review. No quick/unthinking reactions were made.

Does taking it out of the gr 10 curriculum make it censorship? Does that mean it will be taken out of the library? I think that would make it more censorship. Books used in the classroom are fluid – constantly changing – I would be more concerned if the book was being removed from the school entirely. Put the class set in the library – ban it from the class and it will become the school’s new favourite book.

I’m sorry but which version of Neverwhere is this? Page 86 in my copy talks about Richard and Door making their way to the Floating Market. I’ve never seen any mention of an explicit sex scene anywhere in my edition (BBC Publishing 1996).

I had an audio copy of that novel. (Gave it away after one listening…beautiful prose and intriguing plot, but way too much sadistic violence for my stomach. Wish I’d known that before buying.)

Am with the parent. You have to have some standards. If not, might as well have that book included in an elementary school library as well. If the parent is okay with their kid reading such high-ratings fare let them buy a copy or go to the local library to get the book.

Just don’t ban the book from everywhere.

Okay seriously, if I can do a novel study on A Clockwork Orange in a catholic high school, Neverwhere should not be that big a deal.

Censorship is like telling a man he cannot eat a steak because a baby cannot chew it.- Mark Twain

Nuff said

Greg, what calender did you fall off of? Kids already know about all those things, and there’s no way you could ever shield every kid from the world.

You fear sex. We get it. We just don’t care what an backwards thinking minority thinks. Sit down and shut up.

10th grade, seriously? Isn’t that 15-16 years old? There is nothing in Neverwhere that’s inappropriate for that age. “Foul language” and a “description of a sexual encounter that is pretty descriptive, and it’s between a married man and a single woman”? I really don’t see the problem.

@ Frost: Hell I read the book when I was in Grade 9. It certainly didn’t corrupt me in any noticeable form.

No need to have that book in school. Good call.

Tombo, in the hardcover edition the passage is on pages 57-58. I would hardly call it a sex scene. I have seen similar scenes in PG-13 movies and yes have heard the offending word in some of those same movies. The passage reads as follows (with the oh so naughty F-word appropriately censored for those with delicate sensibilities):

“A late-night couple, who had been slowly walking down the embankment toward them, sat down in the middle of the bench, between Richard and Aneasthesia, and commenced to kiss each other, passionately. “Excuse me,” said Richard to them. The man had his hand inside the woman’s sweater and was moving it around enthusiastically, a lone traveler discovering an unexplored continent. “I want my life back, ” Richard told the couple.

“I love you, ” said the man to the woman.

“But your wife —” she said, licking the side of his face.

“F— her,” said the man.

“Don’ wanna f— her,” said the woman, and she giggled, drunkenly. “Wanna f— you…” She put her hand on his crotch and giggled some more.

“Come on,” said Richard to Anaesthesia, feeling that the bench had started to become a less than desirable neighborhood. They got up and walked away. Anaesthesia peered back, curiously, at the couple on the bench, who were gradually becoming more horizontal.

Found it, it’s on pages 70-71 of my edition. It’s hardly an explicit sex scene, in my day we would call that a hard snog. Granted the bad language and implied adultery are a little bit strong, but the kids reading this are 15-16 years old their likely to have seen and heard much worse on TV or on the internet.

Brave Sir Robbin

October 12, 2013 at 3:32 pm

I don’t know whether to be more disgusted at the backward and fearful censorship of a New Mexico school district or the fact that the school district had such a fantastic book on the curriculum in the first place. Alamogordo is where White Sands is and the home of huge US military research and testing. One would assume that if this district can handle that, they can handle a little sexuality in a book. Even the superintendent admits there is more going on TV every day.

What happens when these kids get exposed to Chaucer and his “shitten shepherd,” or Shakespeare with his sex, violence and cannibalism?

…You Americans do get exposed to Chaucer and Shakespeare, right? Right?

Seriously, 10th Grade is 16 year old… ALL my classmate and I use those FUCKING words and some of them even FUCK.

Seriously, the rather sparse, tame, tasteful use in Gaiman’s book is NO comparison to what my peers and I talk about… But that’s due to TV and internet. Most of them don’t even read. I’m really not seeing anything here than a bigot being a bigot.

Boo! We don’t want your book in our schools – it presents scenes we disapprove of!!

Boo! We want your book in our schools – we abhor censorship in any form! (unless you happen to be written by OSC then we wholeheartedly want him banned)

…. ugh…. people please…. to the majority of the posters above me, please shut the **$(@# up!!

Please.

Seriously.

As one poster commented above, there are merits to both sides and the school did the appropriate thing, they pulled the book pending review. Now, I have to admit, the teacher does come across as a little nutso with the whole schtick she’s pushing. But to be fair here, the parent of the child did go through the appropriate channels and did have this very valid argument to back her up:

“I did state to the principal that this is rated-R material, and she can’t get into a rated-R movie.”

Think about that for a second… don’t knee-jerk type, just let that comment settle and digest it for a moment. Whenever I go to the movies on a Friday or Saturday night, I will usually see ushers standing at the doors for any rated R movies to make sure nobody under 18 goes in. Why is that? Because we have rated the content of those movies to be too much for a minor to view unaccompanied by a parent (or without parental permission.) But in public schools we can give those same teens books to read that have material that is just as graphic? Where is the logic in that? We should just accept that have hypocritical standards and either apply the same restrictions to the schools (by parental consent only) or ease the restrictions to these movies (and video games for that matter.) Wouldn’t that seem to make sense?

…. ahhh…. you know what, I give up…. I really don’t even know why I’m bothering to respond to this since I know that most of the ideas I’m presenting will likely be beyond the rather obtuse thinking of the internet majority…. please feel free to find some grammar flaw or other pedantic iota to ridicule, then you can safely sleep in your little box of ignorance while believing that you are somehow “more enlightened” than the rest of society…. baaaa! baaaaa! …. I think I hear the farmer coming to tend to you sheep now.

Mr. Jones,
Did you read the offending passage? I would hardly call it R- rated. As I stated above, I have seen and heard worse in movies rated PG-13. I am sure that the book was vetted back when it was first put on the list. The problem arises when on person tries to impose her value system on the entire community. This book had been taught in the high school for over 8 years. If I objected to the fact that Hester Prynne had a child as the result of an adulterous relationship and kept meeting with the father of that child while hiding the fact form her community, could I have the book banned?

If what was listed above is all the passage that offended covers then I really don’t see the issue in grade 10. Grade 5? Yes, too much for 10 and under but by the time you are 14+ (I have a 14 year old daughter in grade 10) you can get in to PG-13 movies on your own and what was listed is very mild compared to many PG-13 movies. Plus, school is where the kids can actually ask questions and get answers vs some households where the kids haven’t even had ‘the talk’ yet (my wife has had versions of it with the girls since single digits…expanding as they get older and by the time of a period you darn well better have covered it all…I cover stuff if they ask, but they hate talking to a guy about it…other kids have asked my wife for help understanding the simple basics as their parents are too wimpy to cover off the basics).

I get a feeling this kids mother hasn’t had ‘that talk’ yet and thinks by never saying what happens when ‘boy parts’ and ‘girl parts’ meet that her child will never do that. ::shakes head::

what is also being ignored, apparently, by everyone involved at the school level is that the MAIN character of the novel DISAPPROVES of this Public Display of Affection – which is perfectly in keeping with most school policies!! Depicting something is not the same thing as condoning it. There is context, people, and if one trusts in the review system in place in most public institutions, that is what will be determined.

i would guess that it’s the three uses of The Bad Word in such a short amount of space that really triggered the response, with the sexuality and adultery being added to make the objection seem stronger. Even PG-13 movies, at least up until recent times, were only allowed a very limited use of *that* word without it becoming an R, and it needed to be used in a non-sexual manner (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motion_Picture_Association_of_America_film_rating_system#Language ). Since this scene is absolutely using it in a sexual manner, in an American film, it most likely WOULD cause the film to be R-rated, which would probably make the producer have the scene cut or the dialogue changed. The British have a different sensability towards That Word, as seen in many British TV shows and films.

And schools do have to be sensible to the fact that they are public institutions, funded by public dollars, and teachers are generally not allowed to show R-rated films without some sort of approval process – through the school administration or even permission slips signed by parents. Just because some parents let their kids “see worse on TV and films” doesn’t mean that all parents do – and to isolate those children out of a class because their parents didn’t approve when everyone else’s did just makes high school worse.

The detail that I’m not seeing here is whether it was an assigned reading to the whole classroom or a text that the student could pick themselves to read. Also, how did the parent learn about this passage? If the student pointed it out to the parent, then it was cause for concern on the part of the student. If the parent found out about this questionable passage from some online site designed to create challenges to high school curriculum choices, then that’s a different context.

I am guessing that, as usual when stories like this hit the internet and then get reported second and third hand on sites like CBR, the truth is a bit more nuanced and complex than we’re seeing here.

Yeah, didn’t they say fuck in the last two transformers movies? And really, it’s a word, one that most kids that age use regardless of whether it’s “R-Rated” or not. That said, the fact some used that term in reference to a book tells me everything i’d need to know about that person and the culture they’ve been raised in.

While I am not shocked that there are moronic calls for banning books in some american school, I am kind of shocked that there are people on this board who agree with that.

Guess what folks… if you actually talk to your kids and raise resonsible, thinking people, you won’t need to worry about them being ‘corrupted’ by someone swearing.

(And besides, if you think that ANY 16 year old is goign to bat an eye at this scene, you are nuts.)

“A motion picture’s single use of one of the harsher sexually-derived words, though only as an expletive, initially requires at least a PG-13 rating. More than one such expletive requires an R rating, as must even one of those words used in a sexual context. The Rating Board nevertheless may rate such a motion picture PG-13 if, based on a special vote by a two-thirds majority, the Raters feel that most American parents would believe that a PG-13 rating is appropriate because of the context or manner in which the words are used or because the use of those words in the motion picture is inconspicuous.”

Per the MPAA website, yes this would be initially considered an “R” rated, it can still be identified as PG-13 by 2/3 majority vote based on context/content.

I would hope that we could have at least 2/3 of the Alamogordo School District parents vote that this book could be classified as PG-13 and appropriate for a 10th grade English class.

I have contacted the school board, requesting info on the process to get a book banned or even temporarily pulled from the shelves, I have yet to receive a response.

As a parent of an Alamogordo Middle Schooler and an informed reader I would happily and will happily go to bat to keep this book on the shelves and in the curriculum.

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