Port Washington as a school district has a national reputation of diversity, open-mindedness, and rational thought; we should keep it that way. Recently, a teacher at Schreiber High School submitted the novel In the Time of the Butterflies, by Julia Alvarez, to the board of education for approval to teach the book. The board of education at first voted not to approve the novel because it included a diagram explaining how to build a bomb. However, it later resolved to table the issue, allowing the administration to review the book and reconsider its use.
We, as involved honor students at Schreiber High School, are concerned about everything that goes on in our school. When we heard about the controversies surrounding this book, we were very surprised and distressed. Ironically, we ourselves had read In the Time of the Butterflies last year in the Schreiber Book Club. In fact, there is a review of the book posted on the PortNet website at www.portnet.k12.ny.us/schools/schreibr/slmc/Book_Club.htm#In the Time of the Butterflies. The powerful story written by Alvarez is what we remember a year after reading the book, not the illustration of a bomb.
We believe that school should expose us to all areas of reality so that we can make our own judgments about them. Isn't that why we are able to read Romeo and Juliet without committing suicide or The Lord of the Flies without being violent? We should not ban a powerful piece of literature just because of a diagram. The book is based on a true story and exposes the violence that is most definitely a part of our world. We understand the legitimate concern about violent behavior in our schools and are supportive of measures to remedy the problem. Nevertheless, removing a book from our school will not and cannot erase violence from society.
In the Time of the Butterflies should be taught at Schreiber because the overall value of the book more than compensates for the minute negative element. If the controversial portion of this book, or any other book, is discussed in context, then we as students are most capable of putting it in perspective. We must be free to discuss and confront reality if we are to make positive changes for our future.
Charlotte McCorkel and Myung-Hee Vabulas, 11 grade