Over the past week, the Toronto District School Board’s decision to pull Barbara Coloroso’s Extraordinary Evil from a Grade 11 course has continued to draw criticism from the literary community. Yesterday, Coloroso’s publisher “ Penguin Canada president David Davidar “ joined in the condemnations.
Here is an open letter from Davidar, addressed to the Toronto District School Board’s director of education Gerry Connelly:
Dear Mr. Connelly,
As the publisher of Barbara Coloroso’s Extraordinary Evil: A Brief History of Genocide, we regret the Toronto District School Board’s decision to drop the book from its list of resources for a Grade 11 course called Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity. Board documents describe Ms. Coloroso as a renowned educator and the book’s inclusion in the reading list in the first place attests to its value as a legitimate contribution to the study of genocide. Dropping the book from the list is apparently based on vociferous objections by segments of the Turkish Canadian population who reject the genocide designation to describe the atrocities committed against Armenians in 1915, and who dispute Ms Coloroso’s credentials as an historian. In fact, Ms Coloroso has never claimed to be an historian and in the Introduction to her book, she emphasizes that she is writing as an educator, a parent, and a former nun. All three of these influence and colour this text.
We suggest that the Board follow the philosophy outlined in the April 29th Review Committee Report, which states Grade 11 students can appreciate “ and, more importantly, should appreciate “ that history is a contested area without suggesting that everything is relative. ¦ Genuine historical controversies do belong in a high school curriculum and can be beneficial in giving students an in-depth understanding of complex events and in teaching students critical thinking. While we laud the Board’s decision to implement such a course, and to continue to include the Armenian genocide as part of that course, we urge you to reinstate Ms. Coloroso’s book onto the course reading list. Many voices have been recorded on the tragedies of various genocides, the voices of historians, eyewitnesses, novelists, human rights groups, social scientists, journalists and even Canadian generals. Ms Coloroso’s voice should be among them.
President and Publisher
Penguin Group Canada