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A Tennessee school board voted to remove the graphic novel “Maus” from an eighth grade language arts curriculum due to concerns that the book’s profanity, nudity, violence and suicide make the book “too adult-oriented” for school. The book’s author has condemned the move as “Orwellian,” but a rabbi defended the move in comments to Fox News Digital.
“The McMinn County Board of Education voted to remove the graphic novel Maus from McMinn County Schools because of its unnecessary use of profanity and nudity and its depiction of violence and suicide,” the school board explained in a statement. “Taken as a whole, the Board felt this work was simply too adult-oriented for use in our schools.”
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“We do not diminish the value of Maus as an impactful and meaningful piece of literature, nor do we dispute the importance of teaching our children the historical and moral lessons and realities of the Holocaust,” the board added. “To the contrary, we have asked our administrators to find other works that accomplish the same educational goals in a more age-appropriate fashion.”
“The atrocities of the Holocaust were shameful beyond description, and we all have an obligation to ensure that younger generations learn of its horrors to ensure that such an event is never repeated,” the board added.
Art Spiegelman, the book’s author, called the school board’s move “Orwellian” in comments to CNBC.
“I’m kind of baffled by this,” Spiegelman said. He suspected that the school board was motivated less about some mild curse words and more by the subject of the book, which tells the story of his Jewish parents’ time in Nazi concentration camps, the Nazi mass murder of Jews, his mother’s suicide when he was 20 years old, and his relationship with his father.
“Maus” portrays different groups of people as different kinds of animals: Jews are mice, Poles are pigs, and Nazi Germans are cats.
“I also understand that Tennessee is obviously demented,” Spiegelman added. “There’s something going on very, very haywire there.”
Author Neil Gaiman attacked the school board, writing on Twitter, “There’s only one kind of people who would vote to ban Maus, whatever they are calling themselves these days.”
Yet Rabbi Yaakov Menken, the managing director of the Coalition for Jewish Values (CJV), defended the school board’s action in comments to Fox News Digital.
“I haven’t read Maus, but not every book is appropriate for every age group, and it’s inappropriate to claim the school board doesn’t want to provide Holocaust education because they don’t want one particular book,” Menken said.
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The move comes amid debates about the propriety of certain books in schools. Parents have raised concerns about critical race theory (CRT) — a framework that involves deconstructing aspects of society to discover systemic racism beneath the surface – infiltrating schools, and many have protested books such as “Lawn Boy,” which includes photos of sexual acts between a boy and a man, in school libraries.