Schools Continue Burning and Banning the Truth

Cynthia Terry, contributor

Banning books and burning books is a form of censorship I do not stand for. I do not support book banning except in rare instances like “Mein Kampf,” the autobiographical manifesto by Hitler which outlines his political ideology and future plans for Germany – no one needs to read that. The banning of this book makes sense, but others make none.

The reasons for banning “Harry Potter” are simply absurd. “Alice in Wonderland” is in the same boat. Then we have books like “George” by Alex Gino, restricted for LGBTQIA+ content and not representing the “right” values. Or “Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson, banned for the novel’s inclusion of rape and profanity that could be biased against male students. “The Hate You Give” by Angie Thomas has also been banned in many places for profanity and an anti-police message.

Then you have schools banning “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Tom Sawyer” and “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” for racial slurs and leaving students feeling uncomfortable. However, uncomfortable feelings are not always bad and can often be learning experiences. It can lead to feeling empathy for those who have suffered – which leads us to the topic at hand.

The McMinn County, Tennessee school board recently banned “Maus,” a semi-autobiographical graphic novel set during the Holocaust, in which Jews are represented as mice and Germans as cats. Author Art Spiegelman conveys his Holocaust-surviving parents’ experiences in Auschwitz and his family’s subsequent, lifelong traumas in this masterpiece, which was the first ever graphic novel to win a Pulitzer. Its publication legitimized this form of storytelling and marked a historic moment in American literature.

The story is praised for its role in educating students about the horrors experienced by the survivors of the Holocaust. Its depiction of Jews and Germans as mice and cats makes the topic more approachable for younger readers in attempt to understand the absolute horrors that occurred not so long ago. The way to prevent another Holocaust from occurring is to teach the youth how to avoid it.

“Maus” is not being banned for its Holocaust story, but instead, the school board deemed it inappropriate for 13-year-olds based on its inclusion of swear words and drawings of nude figures. The mice were unclothed and animals are often unclothed because they are, in fact, animals. Shocking, I know! I wonder how they feel when they see Winnie the Pooh? These people who have banned this book are probably upset that Minnie Mouse has had a clothing change from her dress to a pant suit.

The school board added in their statement that they “do not diminish the value of ‘Maus’ as an impactful and meaningful piece of literature, nor do [they] dispute the importance of teaching our children the historical and moral lessons and realities of the Holocaust.” The writing is on the wall in this case and everyone can see it, causing outrage. The Holocaust is scary but needs to be taught. Antisemitism is on the rise again and needs to be stopped. It’s time to teach children about horrors like the Holocaust and slavery. White people, including myself, need to learn from the not-so-distant past, despite the possibility of feeling uncomfortable. Whatever feeling we may have pales in comparison to what the victims of these horrors experienced. The banning of “Maus” has led to an increase in sales, which I call a victory, in any case. Read “Maus” if you haven’t and reread it if you have. Learning from the past is a way to avoid it from happening again.