Friday, January 20, 2012

Ten Books That Could Be Kicked Out of Classrooms Under Arizona's Insane Curriculum Law

In December, an Arizona judge upheld a state law that bans classes that “promote the overthrow of the United States government, promote resentment toward a race or class of people, are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group or advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.” That ruling’s already cost Tucson public schools their Mexican Studies program, and as part of that elimination, Shakespeare’s The Tempest is being removed from classrooms and sent to the district’s book depository. As nuts as it is to think that the Bard’s story of a sorcerer and his daughter could promote a rebellion in Arizona, there are a lot of other books that could fall under scrutiny if this law is allowed to stand.

1. Paradise Lost, John Milton: Sure, this is supposed to be John Milton’s repentance of his republican apostasy, but what if red-blooded American kiddies get confused by the eloquence of that wily creature Satan? That whole “Farewel Remorse: all Good to me is lost; / Evil be thou my Good” thing could cause all sorts of kerfuffles and uprisings, like those darn video games my grandson is always playing.

2. A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens: It’s a short leap from Marquis Evrémonde to Mitt Romney, and we wouldn’t want to invite that comparison, now would we? Darnay is such an avatar of the politics of envy.

3. The Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling: This one might be a squeaker. Sure, the hero advocates strongly against the anti-Muggle, Squib, and Mudblood race politics of Voldemort and his cronies. But that Potter kid is awfully disrespectful to the Minister of Magic and forms of authority in general.

5. Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card: Pre-teens plotting an overhaul of world government and resisting the efforts of the military that’s recruited them to manipulate them. Total recipe for disaster. Especially now that blogging is an actual thing that kids can do. Nuke this one. And parents, shut down your kids’ Tumblrs just to be safe.

6. The Cat Ate My Gymsuit, Paula Danziger and The Day They Came to Arrest the Book, Nat Hentoff: Because the last thing a state that’s cracking down on curriculum needs is sympathetic novels about students who organize to fight a crackdown on curriculum or fighting a book banning, lining up civil libertarians against censorship-minded feminists and African-American students and parents. How will authority survive if challenging it is seen as reasonable? And how can tender-hearted children face the prospect of standing up for themselves and choosing sides in disagreements?

7. Am I Blue? Coming Out from the Silence, Marion Diane Bauer: Even though gay people, especially teenagers, are at risk of violence and discrimination, it would be far too dangerous to marginalize the people who hate them and to promote a sense of solidarity and mutual support within the community of gay people and straight allies.

8. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie:: God forbid anyone, particularly from a minority group that’s been demonstrably oppressed and damaged by the actions of the United States government, spend any time contemplating their own identity or doing anything other than instantly assimilating without looking back.

9. The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood: It’s critically important that we remind girls as early as possible to accept what the state has to say about their fertility without question, and to make clear that there’s never any point at which it would be justified that women break the law to retain control over their own health and bodies.

10. The Hunger Games series, Suzanne Collins: Again, a mixed bag. The heroine’s an awful rebel, but the series as a whole tends to endorse dropping out of the political process rather than continuing to participate in the furtherance of a revolution, so the net effect might be to neutralize those pesky kids.