It appears that those who are ignorant of history are, indeed, doomed to repeat it.
The Post-Journal reported on May 12th that a parent has challenged Go Ask Alice, a Young Adult novel with a strong anti-drug message. The book was going to be used in 7th- and 8th-grade health classes at the Thomas Jefferson middle school in Jamestown, New York. Pending formal paperwork, a review committee will be formed to review the book and make recommendations.
The school district had sent a letter to parents prior to the book’s use, noting that the book contained some profanity and sexual activity. Some parents then read the book and found it offensive. School district policy allows parents to opt their own children out of lesson materials they find offensive. This was not sufficient for some parents, who have stated their intent to have the book removed from curricula throughout the school district.
Both the school district and the parents in this incident seem to think they’ve discovered something new. They’re quite mistaken about that.
First published in 1971, Go Ask Alice has been a frequent target of attempted censorship for decades. More recently, it occupies position 18 on the American Library Association’s list of the 100 most frequently challenged books 2000-2009. It has sometimes been removed as the result of a challenge, but often retained, in part because many educators find that the book effectively communicates an anti-drug-use message to younger teens. It was one of the books that the board of the Island Trees Union Free School District, also in New York state, removed from their school library in 1975. That got them sued, with the result that the U.S. Supreme Court ordered this book returned to school library shelves in the famous Board of Education v. Pico decision (1982).