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The UltraViolet

Marlborough School Student Newspaper
The Student News Site of Marlborough School

The UltraViolet

The Student News Site of Marlborough School

The UltraViolet

To kill a mocking-book
To kill a mocking-book
February 21, 2024

Let’s not give one word too much power

“Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.” – Albus Dumbledore (J.K Rowling)

It took extensive book lists, weeks of extra reading time, and several heated debates for students on the all-school book committee to choose “A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.” And yet, it seems that only one word was pivotal in the administration’s decision to veto the choice.

The administration was justified in taking this word into consideration. The word in question is arguably one of the worst profanities out there. Much worse, even, than those words that start with s or f.

However, despite how blasphemous the word may be, vetoing a book – based mostly, we believe, on the fact this word occurs in the text – undermines the key strengths of character that Marlborough embodies.

One thing that makes Marlborough Marlborough is the fact it trusts the intelligence of its students and faculty to either, one, see the educational value in literature beyond superficial profanity, or, two, confront the important issues that profanity might raise. We see this in books that have been taught in classes from seventh grade (‘‘When I Was Puerto Rican”) through senior year (“Prep”).

“Curious Incident” may contain curse words, but like the other books on our reading lists, the discussion opportunities the book provides outweigh the inappropriate content. “The” word that the administration is so concerned with is simply overheard by the narrator, who, as a socially unaware, autistic teenager does not understand or dwell upon its meaning. The connotations and obscene context of the word aren’t even there, unlike in “Song of Solomon,” which has been taught to sophomores for years.

We realize that “Curious Incident” would not be read in class, and that the book would be the first encounter incoming seventh graders – and their parents – would have with “Marlborough-endorsed” reading material, but we should have faith that all Marlborough girls, from incoming students to seniors can handle the literary use of profanity.

If Marlborough is supposed to have the reputation as being a school where we can either step beyond or directly address profanity or obscenity openly, then there is no reason to veto a book based primarily on one particular word. And if Marlborough teaches us to be fearless and forthcoming – and we believe it does – why are we so scared of a word?

As Marlborough girls, we pride ourselves on not only being brave enough, smart enough, and confident enough to handle touchy words or subjects, but on being mature enough to move past these taboos when they threaten to impede our discussion of more relevant content.

In the case of “Curious Incident,” the book is not about the profanity or the issues associated with certain curse words. We have not told you what the word in question is because the word is irrelevant to the meaning of the book – and to our point. We believe that the administration should reconsider their decision to veto “Curious Incident,” because as a school, we can move past this word and get to the heart of a book that promises to lead to riveting discussion about disabilities, family dynamics, and acceptance.

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