Tennessee School District Bans Teaching Famous Holocaust Novel MAUS

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The school board of the McMinn County School District in Athens, Tennessee, recently removed the acclaimed graphic novel Maus of the study program. This withdrawal follows a wave of withdrawals of books from classrooms and school libraries since the start of the 2021-2022 school year. Maus tells the story of author Art Spiegelman’s parents’ experience at Auschwitz and was the centerpiece of district Holocaust education.

NCAC Executive Director Chris Finan said: “It’s hard to think of a better example of a book that should never be banned than Maus. For thirty years, Maus provided readers with a way to understand the devastation of the Holocaust by bringing the story to visceral life. The persistent insistence by those who would ban books that “discomfort” is a reason to prevent students from learning difficult, often devastating truths, threatens American students and its entire educational system. »

A review of the January 10, 2022 board meeting minutes indicate that the book was removed without being formally reviewed in accordance with the district’s book dispute procedures, which provide a diverse committee of education professionals and community members to review challenged work and use specific criteria when reviewing the book and issuing a recommendation. By circumventing established district procedure, the Commission has deprived itself of the informed insight that these procedures are designed to provide. Further, the minutes of the January 10 meeting do not demonstrate that the board considered all of the criteria it explicitly stated to be relevant in making decisions about removing materials from the curriculum.

Maus is the only graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize. Weekly entertainment ranked it seventh on their list of 100 best reads from 1983 to 2008, and Time place it in seventh place on their list of the best non-fiction books between 1923 and 2005. This is clearly a high-value book that relates directly to a major subject of study in the history of the 20th century and was the central educational resource for the district. course on this subject. If a book should not be removed without following the district’s well-designed defiance policy, it is Maus.

Some defenders of the ruling claim that because copies of Maus have not been physically removed from school campuses, that they have not been “banned”. This is a common tactic to minimize the impact of removing books from the curriculum, prevent teachers from using the teaching tools they believe will best achieve their educational goals, and erect barriers to limit student access to reading materials. We don’t need to wait for a pyre of burned books to call this decision what it is: censorship.

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