In Kansas City, Dana Washington is leading the latest move to ban a book in America. Washington wants John Steinbeck’s classic “Of Mice And Men” removed from Washington High School’s 500 book reading list because it uses the n-word. It is a standard that would effectively ban most of the classics from that period. Parents insist that it is technically not a ban, but a mere removal action from the required reading list. Of course, we will still have to work on that sexist title.
Washington says that she was insulted by the fact that the book contained the n-word, noting “[t]he N-word is used more in this paragraph than most rap songs, and I think that’s absolutely ridiculous.”
Washington’s son asked the teacher to omit the word from class readings and when the teacher declined to do so, his mother sought an outright ban. Well, Washington insists “I’m not asking for the book to be banned, but for it to be removed from the list of required reading in the USD 500 school list.” It is a bit of a subtle distinction since the idea of classics curriculum is to guarantee that students read the great books of literature. Indeed, such books can be wonderful foundations for the discussion of racism and understanding period pieces that contain such language.
Washington is not convinced: “I want them to find another book that doesn’t use the word so violently and profusely.” Of course, if we remove all works with anti-semitic, sexist, racist, anti-Muslim, and homophobic content, we would be left with Where’s Waldo as a reading list of one.
Of course, we could just re-write the work. For example, the following line could read: “[African-American], I could have you strung up on a tree so easy it ain’t even funny.”
Then again, the title needs some work. The reference to just men is pretty sexist. “Of Mice and People” would be better. However, the juxtapositioning of mice and people suggests that rodents are the opposite of people in stature. It might be better to say “Of Animals and People.” Of course, that would still objectify animals. Perhaps simply “Animal Farm”?
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