Golden Compass Returned to Calgary Schools

Golden Compass Returned to Calgary Schools

The Calgary (Alberta) Catholic School District has returned Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass to its library shelves after ordering its removal two months ago. Calgary was among several Catholic school systems that pulled the fantasy novel, which has been accused of antireligious content, for review following a complaint in the municipality of Halton in late November.

After reconsidering the book, Calgary school board officials decided its themes should be used as a teaching opportunity, the Calgary Herald reported January 24. “There is no doubt that the text is harsh in terms of its language about organized religion and that it presents a consistently negative view of church, clergy, and faith-based institutions,” the board stated. “However, there are glimpses of light with opportunities for positive reflection.”

The review recommendations urge teachers to use instructional guidebooks uncovered in its investigation that interpret the novels with a Catholic focus. They also suggest that teachers ensure “a carefully planned approach” when using the novel in the classroom, monitoring student responses to the books’ underlying themes of abuse, torture, and death. “As with any sensitive titles, library personnel will continue to bring any concerns to the attention of the teacher, and teachers to the attention of parents when appropriate,” the review stated.

“We do want to take concerns seriously and recognize the validity of parent concerns,” said Superintendent of Structural Services Judy MacKay. “We have to remember we are in an instructional setting, which is different from just Saturday afternoon on the swing reading.”

The novel and its two companions in the “His Dark Materials” trilogy received heightened scrutiny for their alleged anti-Catholicism prior to the December 7 U.S. release of the Golden Compass movie starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig. Several Catholic schools in the United States were also caught up in the controversy.

Posted on January 28, 2008.