Of Mice and People: Parents in St. Louis Seek to Ban Steinbeck Classic

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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17 thoughts on “Of Mice and People: Parents in St. Louis Seek to Ban Steinbeck Classic”

  1. Well I think many people around the world have very good points on the subject, but I’m 15 and I hear the n-word in many differnent place that just wanting to bann a book because of it is just because your insecure.

  2. I find this stupid
    people conplain cause they use the n-word but the music their kids listen use that word all the time they use hoe and othe verbal word, and they complain about this wow this gets me mad

  3. the last paragraph is sarcasm at its finest there

    and it’s not whether or not the book used the word N*gger. If you want to hide that you might as well delete the part of the American history where black people were still held as slaves. The book doesnt degrade anyone, it showed the level of racism in the 1930s society, but still depicted Crooks as a nice, good hearted and educated fellow, many characters regard him equally, like Curley, Lennie, Slim, George…
    The only ones who look down on his status as a colored man were himself and the antagonists

    so saying this book was racist was purely ignorance. maybe open your eyes and read some books first?

  4. I am not for banning the book, I just don’t want the school to make my children read it. The N word is not the onlly one I find offensive. The often used G** D** and other lanquage is also.

  5. Ok,
    People, banning a book, tv show, video game, movie, or websites is just plain dumb. If you don’t want your children to see/ use them that’s your choice, but banning them is stupid. As for the part about the name IT’S A BOOK TITLE, NOBODYCARES WHAT THE NAME IS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. this is so stupid kids need to be exposed to this kind of book, they need to know about things that happened in the past.

  7. “Moral education, which ought never, in any circumstances, to be rational.”

    “These,” he said gravely, “are unpleasant facts; I know it. But then most historical facts are unpleasant.”

    “Wheels must turn steadily, but cannot turn untended. There must be men to tend them, men as steady as the wheels upon their axles, sane men, obedient men, stable in contentment.”

    “Till at last the child’s mind is these suggestions, and the sum of the suggestions is the child’s mind. And not the child’s mind only. The adult’s mind too-all his life long. The mind that judges and desire and decides-made up of these suggestions. But all these suggestions are our suggestions… Suggestions from the State.”

    Aldous Huxley — ‘Brave New World’

  8. The fact that some of these people are still clamoring for the sanitation and banning of words and books is scary. What other aspects of a Democracy don’t these guys believe in?

  9. What part of freedom of speech and thought don’t people get? The fact that I’ve never used the “N” word and wouldn’t doesn’t prove whether or not I’m a racist. My actions in living either prove or disprove my bigotry. Steinbeck and Twain were great writers, but they were writing about their times and they were men of their times. Sanitizing books retroactively is the enshrinement of ignorance, posing as enlightenment and gives lie to any banner’s claims of opposing bigotry. I can remember when James Joyce, Henry Miller and D.H. Lawrence were banned in America, to name a few. That was done to protect young people from sex. Beware of the protector’s of childhood, most of them can’t remember their own clearly.

  10. It is amazing that we still have to deal with censorship of books in 2008. Is the N-Word the real reason why these parents want this book removed from the reading list? I am guessing that there are some other problems with the book that these parents just don’t want to admit to.

  11. Wow!! Wonder what they think about “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn:”

    (Huck & Aunt Sally discussing a steamboat explosion)

    Aunt Sally: “Good gracious! anybody hurt?”
    Huckleberry: “No’m,” “Killed a nigger.”
    Aunt Sally:”Well, it’s lucky, because sometimes people do get hurt.”

    Anyone who can’t see that Mark Twain is harpooning the racist mindset of the [old?] South needs more than a trip to the library to read these works. They need their head examined!

  12. Someone somewhere is given the option of reading a book that contains something offensive?

    Quickly! To the Banmobile!

    The article indicated that the teacher allowed the student the option of reading another book instead but still decided to read an unabridged version in the classroom. I can understand the frustration of the parents, even if I feel it is misplaced. It must be tough to protest while keeping your head buried so deeply in the sand.

    Being horrified at racism and hiding your head or trying to pretend that it doesn’t exist anymore by banning books just allows that kind of poisonous thinking to flourish.

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