In 2015, The Guardian gave readers its list of what the publication deemed “The 100 Best Books” and William Golding’s 1954 novel Lord of the Flies comes in at #74. The Guardian’s Robert McCrum calls it “Bleak and specific, but universal” and says while it’s “a novel of the 1950s,” it’s also one “for all time.” Apparently the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) in Ottawa, Canada doesn’t agree because you won’t find the novel in one of their schools. Last month, according to True North, a student activist in Ottawa published an article complaining about the lack of diversity in English curriculum, and called Lord of the Flies a novel about “white, male supremacy.” The OCDSB agreed and pulled the novel from the schools’ curriculum.
Lord of the Flies is far from the only book being scrutinized by Canadian school boards. Cambridge Today reports other books being taken off shelves include Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird among others. In particular, the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) is following the OCDSB’s example. The Ontario school board is beginning a multi-year review of its library collections. The board outlined the review earlier this week, saying they plan to review every book in its collection to determine whether or not each text is appropriate.
Graham Santz, the WRDSB’s coordinating superintendent in human resources and equity, told Cambridge Today that the review’s goals were a part of the board’s “equity, oppression work and anti-racist work.” Santz says the books that will be removed from their libraries will be books deemed “inappropriate or texts that are questionable and don’t have the pedagogical frameworks that we need.” Santz didn’t mention any specific texts, but it seems likely Lord of the Flies will come under scrutiny as part of the review. He did add, however, in the case of the WRDSB their review does not impact school curriculum, but only what will or will not be carried in the libraries.
Of course, Canadian schools and libraries aren’t the only ones where you can find censorship. Reported late yesterday by KDLL — a Pennsylvania public radio station — teachers in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District are worried about censorship in the district. Rather than Lord of the Flies, they claim that books with LGBTQ+ themes are being targeted. For example, two teachers were criticized for reading the Anne Braden novel Flight of the Puffin — which includes non-gender-conforming characters — to their students. KDLL says that in August, Assistant Superintendent Kari Dendurent asked for a list of books to be recalled from the Seward High School library, many of which were LGBTQ+ themed. The titles included Being Jazz: My Life as a Transgender Teen by Jazz Jennings, Everything You Need to Know About Bisexuality by Greg Baldino, The Gay Liberation Movement by Sean Heather K McGraw and We Are Not Yet Equal: Understanding Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson and Tonya Bolden.
If you don’t want to see Lord of the Flies or any other books censored, you’re not alone. Earlier this month, Book Riot published a long list of texts being challenged at schools and libraries all across the United States. The site followed this up with what they called a “toolkit” on fighting book bans and challenges.