“Vulgar words” and “inappropriate topics for fourth graders such as sex, violence and nudity”. This is a summary of why Art Spiegelman’s “Maus” comic strip, which won its author the Pulitzer Prize in 1992, will be banned from certain colleges in Tennessee.
As reported by Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, the McMinn School District Board voted on Jan. 10 to ban “Maus” from the fourth-grade curriculum at all colleges in the county.
The 20-page minutes of the meeting, unveiled by the Wall Street Journal, seems quite surreal seen from Europe. “There is foul and objectionable language in this book,” according to County Schools Superintendent Lee Parkison. The members of the council also deplored the appearance of a naked character and first proposed to remove from the book “the eight swear words and the photo of the woman who was objected to. “Before finally voting for its outright ban unanimously.
According to Mike Cochran, one of the board members, “we don’t need nudity or that sort of thing to teach history to children.” Another bounces: “It shows people being hanged, it shows them killing children, why does the education system promote this stuff? This is neither wise nor healthy”. One of the educational leaders, Julie Goodin, who says she was a history teacher, defends the book, however, recalling that “there is nothing pretty about the Holocaust. For me, it was a great way to portray a horrific moment in history. »
Fortunately, they do not minimize the importance of teaching the Holocaust to students, but say that they will look for other books to teach it in an “appropriate” way. The author of Maus, Art Spiegelman, for his part said he was “dismayed by the decision to withdraw his graphic novel from the programs”, “Orwellian”, according to him. As for the Holocaust museum, it reacted on Twitter, recalling that “Maus” played a vital role in teaching the Holocaust.
Book bans in different parts of the United States
In the USA, l’Anti-Defamation League and the American Library Association have recently warned of an upsurge in a disturbing movement to ban books that address certain ideas about race or gender issues.
According to New York Times, the Spotsylvania County school board in Virginia, voted unanimously last year to remove books with “sexually explicit” content from school library shelves. And some states, such as Florida or Wisconsin, have introduced laws prohibiting schools from teaching that an individual, regardless of “skin color, gender or origin”, is “by nature racist, sexist or oppressor, consciously or unconsciously,” recalls AFP.
In York County, Pennsylvania, teachers and students protested and overturned the banning of a selection of books told from the perspective of gay, black and Latino children, and Republican lawmakers of Texas lobbied to minimize references to slavery and anti-Mexican discrimination in history lessons.
The American Library Association has even established for ten years a list of the most banned or contested works each year.
Criticisms of cultural works are made both by the conservative side and by the supporters of “progressivism”. Thus, as AFP recalls, the works “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee or “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain have been removed from compulsory reading lists by several school boards these years as considered insulting to African-Americans.
Middle school students create “banned book reading clubs” in reaction
In response, college students have recently set up book clubs for banned books, report regional American media. In Kutztown, Pennsylvania, a group of 9 young college students held their first meeting on January 12. The 14-year-old student wanted to create the club in protest: “I wanted to make sure that teenagers had access to books that they could relate to personally or that they were interested in and not let groups in our community dictate to us what we can or cannot read,” she told the Reading Eagle.
On Twitter, an American Internet user wonders: “I remember the time when the banning of books was a terrible thing that only happened in horribly repressive authoritarian regimes. American libraries used to celebrate having books that were banned in other countries. (Week of forbidden books). WHY did the book ban become “acceptable” in the United States? »