‘MAUS’ Trap: Schools & Books

By Larry Jacobs

My podcast with Ms. Jennisen Lucas, Cody WY school librarian and national President of AASL, touched on the controversy surrounding ‘MAUS,” the graphic novel that depicts the Holocaust as mice (Jewish people) vs. cats (Nazis), which was banned from McMinn County, Tennessee schools because the board thought it too graphic.

Too graphic for the Holocaust?? Really?

I disagree, because when you’re talking about the Holocaust, nothing is too graphic. Maybe the fact that the cats (I mean, the Nazis) were prolific book burners in 1930’s Germany should have more than a minor impact on the board. Banning “Maus” makes an ironic point. And the Holocaust needs to shock and scare the kids… sorry… to try and avoid another one.

Before I go on, let me state that the McMinn County School Board members are probably damn decent people who volunteered for a tough job and honestly believe they are doing the best for their kids. But they are, in my opinion (and it’s my column), very wrong in their action.

I read a bit about it after the podcast on this site of local Knoxville news and saw this quote: ”Ethan Barker, a graduate of McMinn County Schools said of the board… “Personally, I don’t see any problem with the book, especially when we read books like ‘How to Kill a Mockingbird’ or Huck Finn.”

I appreciate his thought, but Ethan, it’s not “How to Kill a Mockingbird.” That’s why you failed your book report! That’s the book in the How To section that’s rarely taken out. It’s not the one your teacher assigned. I think you mean “To Kill A Mockingbird” or maybe you mean, ahem, perhaps Bill O’Reilly’s latest novel “Killing Huck Finn.”

The board said that there was a picture of a naked ‘maus’ in the book and that was one of the big reasons it should be banned. Again, may I ask, really?

I think McMinn County in East Tennessee, just like where I live, is fairly rural. Here in Maine, (I admit I can’t speak for Tennessee), all the mice run around naked. I therefore suggest to county government, based on the school board’s decisions that before any parent asks any kid to pick up a naked, dead mouse in a used mousetrap, they must dress it in a proper shroud prior to the child seeing the naked mouse before disposal to spare the child future shock at the sight.

Banning books is a dangerous path. Ms. Lukas told me of someone in her district years ago with the opposite point of view; that parent wanted The Bible banned in the Library.

Again, if I may, really?????

Click here to listen to the podcast

The American Consortium for Equity in Education, publisher of the "Equity & Access" journal, celebrates and connects the educators, associations, community partners and industry leaders who are working to solve problems and create a more equitable environment for historically underserved pre K-12 students throughout the United States.

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