Dear Reader

Random musings on reading and books from a librarian in training.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Mice and Men Under Fire

A Kansas City mother is pushing to have John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men removed from the school's required reading list. She objects to the book's use of the n word.

According to UPI, Dana Washington said: "The N-word is used more in this paragraph than most rap songs, and I think that's absolutely ridiculous .. 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. ... I want them to find another book that doesn't use the word so violently and profusely."

The school's response: "It's not a pleasant part of our history," David Smith, a spokesman for the school district, told KMBC-TV. "But kids these days need opportunities to learn about it, understand it, not in a sanitized 21st-century way, because that's how we move forward in society."

Let me preface any discussion with this caveat: I’m in no way saying that the use of n-word is acceptable.
However, I don’t think the answer is removing Of Mice and Men from the reading list.

John Steinbeck’s classic focuses on two migrant workers during the Great Depression. One of them has limited capabilities that result in the book’s tragic ending.
Although it’s painful to read racist words it also reflects what was happening in our country at that time. Instead of pushing to have the book removed from the list, why not approach it as a chance to discuss racism in our country and the power/harm of racist words? If we ever hope to learn from history it’s not by ignoring it or shying away from the unpleasant bits.

What do you think?

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