Says books that highlight racial prejudice should be removed from schools
Tuesday, Jan 20th, 2009
A teacher in Oregon has declared that classic American novels depicting African Americans as poorly educated and subservient, or simply highlighting the existence of racial prejudice in society, should be removed from high school reading lists now that a black man has become U.S. President.
John Foley, who teaches at a largely white suburban high school near Portland, has called for classics such as Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, and John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men to be replaced with “more modern, less discomfiting novels”, according to a report in the LA Times.
“The time has arrived to update the literature we use in high school classrooms,” Foley wrote in a guest column this month for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “Barack Obama is president-elect of the United States, and novels that use the ‘N-word’ repeatedly need to go.”
All three novels are renowned for their exploration of entrenched attitudes towards race and social hierarchy. The general theme of the works, however, is the pursuit of the freedom and equality, with the African American characters portrayed as literary heroes.
Though it is clear that Mr Foley recognizes this fact, it does not seem to sway his opinion:
“With few exceptions, all the black students in my classes over the years have appeared very uncomfortable when I’ve discussed these matters at the beginning of the unit. And I never want to rationalize ‘Huck Finn’ to an angry African American mom again as long as I breathe.” Foley writes.
Critics were quick to pound Foley’s suggestions, which amount to no less than outright censorship, an act of ignorance inherently detrimental to any effort to understand and overcome any form of engendered prejudice.
“Obama would be horrified if he knew this censorship was done in his name,” wrote Trudy J. Sundberg, a retired teacher of American literature from Oak Harbor, Wash. Her response to Foley’s column was just one in a barrage of letters and e-mails that the newspaper received.
“What an amazingly stupid teacher this is,” another reader wrote. “There is nothing in American literature that more succinctly and directly attacks racial prejudice than Mark Twain’s ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.’ This is another teacher anxious to pursue political correctness more than seek to understand what is involved in truly ‘reading’ a book.”
Foley dispels any idea that his suggestions are in any way satirical by stating “Whenever you take a couple of shots at sacred cows, people assume it’s satire,” as he again attempts to rationalize censorship by referring to Obama:
“Our new president is this very intelligent, highly articulate guy, and the literature we’re foisting on our children typically depicts black men as ignorant, inarticulate, uneducated. And the contrast just jumped out at me,” he writes.
This is another early example of an insidiously enhanced form of backwards political correctness for which the new president is ignorantly being used as justification.
If Mr Foley taught history would he remove all texts on the advent of Slavery in America and just pretend that it never happened because Obama is now the president?
God forbid that a classic work of literature should challenge the reader and explore “uncomfortable” territory!
No, no, no, we cannot be having our children exposed to the REAL fundamental social and cultural issues of the modern world during lessons. I mean, they might not understand! Much better to avoid them all together, then there’s no risk involved.
Mr Foley would presumably prefer to see mindless fantasy books such as “Harry Potter” placed on the school curriculum, to ensure our kids grow up realizing that there are good guys and there are bad guys and as long as you’re a good guy, you’ll be A-OK because the bad guys are bad and bad guys never win because they are not good.
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