Friday, January 28, 2022

When education is not one of your community values

 The McMinn County School Board, which removed the Holocaust graphic novel Maus from its schools, evidently employs someone able to write a sentence. This is its formal statement on the action:

"One of the most important roles of an elected board of education is to reflect the values of the community it serves.  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.  Taken as a whole, the Board felt this work was simply too adult-oriented for use in our schools." Yadda, yadda, yadda. 

I vote to acquit the ten members of the school board who banned the book from charges of anti-Semitism. I believe that they were reflecting the values of their community, especially when one member was offended by the use of the word damn and another was aghast at a cartoon drawing of a nekkid figure. 

One frequently sees, after all, obsession with minor community mores over actual education. The high school in Fleming County, Kentucky, from which I graduated in 1969, had an obsession with the length of boys' hair, to the extent that at one point the principal was under pressure to line up the male students in the hallway each day for haircut inspection. One sees it as well in dress codes that dictate how much of a girl's body may be permissibly exposed to the light. 

McMinn County, Tennessee, (whose county seat, in a cruel irony, is Athens) is not far from Dayton, where a century ago John T. Scopes was tried and convicted of the crime of teaching Darwinian evolution. I have not the heart to inquire whether McMinn's biology classes are allowed to contravene Genesis. 

The McMinn board members have been held up to widespread ridicule and condemnation in social media, and doubtless they feel ill-used. This is the only advice I can offer them: If you don't want the world to think of you as a bunch of rubes, try not to act like a bunch of rubes.