Wednesday, January 28, 2009

In the name of Obama

Ah, nothing like literary idiocy to make a day! This is the second time I've encountered this story now and this is the second time I'm shocked by it. For a number of reasons. From guardian.co.uk:

John Foley, who teaches at Ridgefield High School in southern Washington, believes classics of American literature such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird and Of Mice and Men should no longer be required reading for students. "The time has arrived to update the literature we use in high school classrooms. Barack Obama is [president] of the United States, and novels that use the 'N-word' repeatedly need to go," he wrote in an opinion piece for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "Some might call this apostasy; I call it common sense. Obama's victory signals that Americans are ready for change. Let's follow his lead and make a change that removes the N-word from the high school curriculum."

Right. Mr. Foley, no offense, but your logic is completely backwards. So, because Americans are ready for change, we're going to remove a common-yet-immensely-offensive word from high school curriculum, despite the literary merit of some of the books? I'm trying to make sense of your reasoning. How is this possibly related to the current political landscape?

These books aren't built around the inappropriate word. They have it in their depth, whether because when the book was written it was more appropriate/common, or simply because it accurately describes the situation. Much as I hate Huck Finn and have never been able to get more than twenty pages in, I don't think the reason to remove it from the curriculum should be because of a bad word (rather, because it's terrible). "Of Mice and Men" is one of the greatest books I've ever read (thought provoking, emotional, and absolutely brilliant) and "To Kill a Mockingbird" always provides a good discussion (okay book, in my opinion, not much beyond that).

Mr. Foley's story is just bizarre. He's right that the curriculum needs updating (and newer suggestions are always welcome), but his reasoning is completely off bat. Any other opinions?

1 comment:

  1. Whenever I read logic like his, the first thing I think of is, "Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it."

    Ours is not pristine, not in least. How we treated slaves and the Native Americans was reprehensible, but that is how it was, and removing references and literature about it seems like trying to whitewash history.

    Those types of books are an excellent way to open a dialog about how it was, how far we've come, and how much farther we can grow knowing that change is possible - Obama being a wonderful example.

    I agree updating the curriculum is necessary, but not for the reasons he has given.

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