Tag Archives: banned books

What A Great Idea!

As state legislatures around the country move to censor the teaching of accurate history, a number of people have evidently abandoned the usual opposition tactics–political argumentation and (if those measure pass) lawsuits, in favor of a new and better approach.

I recently came across one such effort by students in Pennsylvania. They formed a student “banned book” club.

Junior high school students in Kutztown created a teen-banned book club to discuss and celebrate challenging stories, discussing both classic novels and current hot topics.

The club’s first meeting, held at the Firefly Bookstore in Kutztown on January 12, was attended by a group of nine young people, primarily from grades 7 to 11 in the Kutztown area.

14-year-old Kutztown 8th grade Joslyn Diffenbaugh founded the club after reading about a public protest to ban books in national and regional schools based on the topics of race, gender identity and sexuality.

Evidently, several communities are seeing the formation of similar clubs; they are entirely voluntary after-school activities, and several meet in public–not school–libraries. They are prompted by a characteristic of teen-agers that is well-known to anyone who has ever parented one: nothing–absolutely nothing– is as alluring to a teenager as something that has been declared off-limits.

The same kid who wouldn’t read a particular book for class will absolutely consume it after being told not to do so.

I especially loved a different, albeit related response from Tennessee.

Following a school board’s ban of Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize–winning graphic novel Maus, Davidson College professor Scott Denham is offering a free online course for eighth- through 12th-grade students in McMinn County, Tenn., where the board voted 10-to-0 to remove the book from use in middle school classes.

“The McMinn Co., TN, School Board banned Spiegelman’s Maus I and Maus II, so I am offering this free on-line course for any McMinn County high school students interested in reading these books with me. Registration details for those students coming soon,” Denham tweeted Wednesday as news of the book’s removal began to circulate online.

The ban, according to minutes from a Jan. 10 school board meeting, stems from eight curse words and a depiction of a nude woman in the graphic novel, which tells the story of the Holocaust by depicting Jewish people as mice and the Germans as cats. The highly acclaimed book is an academic standard and the first graphic novel to earn the Pulitzer Prize.

In fact, that is such an excellent response that I would be willing to round up a couple of former colleagues and offer a similar course in “banned history” for kids deprived of that history should our legislature pass the currently pending “anti-CRT” bill.

The Indiana House has passed HB1134 and sent it to the Senate for consideration.

The bill, which would limit what teachers can say regarding race, history and politics in Indiana classrooms, is nearly identical to a piece of legislation that senators already abandoned after its author said it would require teachers to remain neutral on topics including Nazism, Marxism and fascism and promptly became the subject of national outrage.

The bill lists a series of “divisive concepts” that would be banned from Indiana’s public school classrooms, including those dealing with the superiority/inferiority of “sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin or political affiliation”  or any that might make an  individual student feel “discomfort, guilt, anguish responsibility, or any other form of psychological distress on account of the individual’s sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin or political affiliation.”

Rather obviously, if a teacher is teaching about slavery or the civil rights movement, s/he is “dealing with”such subjects. (How a teacher is supposed to tell whether an individual student feels “discomfort” is anyone’s guess….)

The linked article noted the “considerable opposition” to the measure mounted by Indiana teachers. No kidding! I imagine teachers were already getting pretty tired of the legislature’s constant efforts to tell them how to do their jobs, and are understandably hostile to a bill that essentially tells them to revise history and be nice to the Nazis…

If this barely-veiled effort to bolster White Supremacy actually passes, I can think of a number of excellent, accurate history books that might form the core of an online, free, absolutely voluntary class–and might well appeal to teenagers who could be curious about what it is our legislative overlords don’t want them to know.

I don’t have hobbies, and retirement is pretty boring. I’d have plenty of time to replicate that Tennessee professor’s approach….