One board member said “it would be unfair to ask teachers to have to navigate their pupils through the complicated subject matter.”
An Alaskan school board removed five supposed “controversial,” but famous books from its curriculum.
I’m sure you recognize the books. I’m sure you had to read at least one of them in high school, college, or both.
The Matanuska-Susitna Education Association targeted these classics:
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou
- Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
- The Things They Carried – Tim O’Brien
- The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
- Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison
I exploded when I saw Invisible Man on the list. It’s a fantastic book.
Why would they remove these books? Let’s take a look.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Sexually explicit material, such as the sexual abuse the author suffered as a child, and its “antiwhite” messaging. Angelou’s book, which is part autobiography, part literary fiction, details many real-life events the author experienced from her early life through adulthood. Many of these recollections have led to the book being challenged or banned.
The Great Gatsby: Language and sexual references.
Invisible Man – Language, rape and incest.
Catch-22 – There are a handful of racial slurs, the characters speak with typical “military men” misogyny and racist attitudes of the time. There are scenes of violence both hand to hand and with guns, and violence against women.
The Things They Carried – Profanity and sexual references.
The board members who voted to remove the books provided answers that are just too confusing:
Board member Jeff Taylor asked: “Is there a reason that we include books that we’ve labeled as controversial in our curriculum? I would prefer they were gone.”
Jim Hart who would go on to vote to remove the literature from course work, made this observation: “If I were to read this in a professional environment at my office. I would be dragged to the equal opportunity office.”
Um, what? Hart even said that “it would be unfair to ask teachers to have to navigate their pupils through the complicated subject matter.”
The stupid burns. That is the teacher’s JOB. It’s called critical thinking. The subject matters should make one feel uncomfortable and uneasy.
Here’s the other thing. The summaries the board provided proves exactly why the books should remain in the curriculum. These are not just books or stories. These books provide a gateway to experience another person’s life or just life at a certain point in time. You learn and grow with the characters.
More importantly, these books and authors do a great job of teaching kids literary devices like symbolism, rhetoric, and irony.
I never read Angelou’s book, but to keep kids ignorant about what life was like for black people back in those days is dangerous and irresponsible. Is the school board going to ax Reconstruction and Jim Crow laws from the curriculum?
Dianne K. Shibe, the president of the teachers union, said a lot of people in the community did not respond when the board first brought up removing the books. She said hindsight is 20/20, and all of them “could have seen this coming.”
Now the union will “push board members to reconsider their action.”
The school board’s censorship will not work. Mary Cockle, a bookstore owner close to district headquarters, said these books have flown off the shelves:
“People who had read the books years ago are buying them to read again and to give away,” Cockle said Tuesday. “Our biggest outpouring of support are people buying the books and donating them or leaving them to us to distribute for free.”
A new shipment of “Caged” and “Invisible Man” arrived at Fireside on Tuesday, and Cockle expects them all to be gone by Wednesday.
“I don’t think they realized they were treading on censorship, and people are completely opposed to censorship,” she said.
The board also considered removing The Jungle and A Christmas Carol because a person could interpret the books “as advocating for socialism.” I hate socialism to my core, but come on.
This one got me. They hate A Street in Bronzeville because it shows “too much ‘realism’ in describing racism against African Americans.”
Sorry history bothers you so much. I hate to see what they plan to do with history classes.
I cannot believe they didn’t include The Catcher in the Rye, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Ulysses, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Scarlet Letter. The board probably already tossed these titles.DONATE
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