The instinct to ban books in schools seems to stem from a desire to protect children from things that banning adults find disturbing or offensive. These adults often seem unable to see beyond the harsh language or horrific images to the educational and artistic value of the books, or to recognize that the language and images can be integral to demonstrating the hard and horrific truths of the books’ subjects. . That’s apparently what’s going on with Art Spiegelman Maus— a Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel series about the Holocaust author’s father’s experience that a Tennessee school board recently removed from an eighth-grade language arts curriculum, citing language inappropriate and the nudity of the books.
the Maus The case is one of the latest in a series of school book bans targeting books that teach the history of oppression. So far in this school year alone, districts across the United States have banned numerous anti-racist educational materials as well as best-selling, award-winning books that address themes of racism and imperialism. For example, Ijeoma Oluo So you want to talk about race was pulled by a Pennsylvania school board, along with other resources intended to teach students about diversity, for being “too divisive,” according to the York Expedition. (The decision was later reversed.) Book by Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison The bluest eye, on the effects of racism on the self-image of a young black girl, was recently pulled from the shelves of school districts in Missouri and Florida (the latter having also banned her book Beloved). What these bans do is censor young people’s ability to learn about historical and current injustices.
For decades, classrooms and educational policy in the United States have incorporated the teaching of Holocaust literature and the testimonies of survivors, with the goal of “never forgetting”. Maus is not the only book about the Holocaust to be caught up in recent debates over educational materials. In October, a Texas school district administrator invoked a law that requires teachers to present opposing views on “widely debated and currently controversial issues,” asking teachers to present opposing views on the Holocaust. in their classrooms. Books like Lois Lowry number the starsa Newbery Medal winner about a young Jewish girl hiding from the Nazis to avoid being taken to a concentration camp, and Anne Frank’s A girl’s diary have been flagged as inappropriate in the past, for language and sexual content. But perhaps no one foresaw a day when it was suggested that there might be a valid opposing view of the Holocaust.
In the Tennessee debate on Maus, a school board member was quoted as saying, “It shows people hanging, it shows them killing children, why is the education system promoting this stuff? This is neither wise nor healthy. It’s a familiar argument from those who seek to prevent young people from reading about the horrors of history. But children, especially children of color and those who are members of ethnic minorities, were not protected or spared from these horrors when they occurred. Moreover, sanitizing history in the name of child protection wrongly assumes that today’s students are unaffected by oppression, imprisonment, death, or racial and ethnic profiling. . (For example, Tennessee has been a site of controversy in recent years for incarcerating children as young as 7 and disrupting the lives of undocumented youth.)
The possibility of a fairer future hangs in the balance when book bans prevent young people from accessing knowledge of the past. For example, Texas lawmakers have recently argued that classes and even after-school programs should be kept separate from “political activism” or “public policy advocacy.” They seem to think that the goal of public education is so-called neutrality rather than cultivating informed participants in democracy.
Maus and many other banned books that deal with the history of oppression show readers how personal bias can become law. The irony is that by banning books that make them uncomfortable, adults are wielding their own prejudices as a weapon, and students will suffer.