Friday 1 May 2020

Alaska School Board Removes 'The Great Gatsby,' Other ‘Controversial’ Classic Books

As political correctness continues to find its way into modern culture, it has now reached the doorsteps of the American classroom and will impact a student’s academic access to classic, foundational literature.
On April 22, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough school board in Alaska voted 5-2 to remove five books from the school curriculum.
The most notable book to be banned was F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.” The others were a series of classics including Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man,” Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings,” Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22” and Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried.”
During the vote to remove the books, one school board member, Jim Hart, voiced his concern over the books in question, citing “equal opportunity” concerns.
“If I were to read this in a professional environment at my office, I would be dragged to the equal opportunity office,” Hart said, according to KTUU-TV.
“Is there a reason that we include books that we even labeled as controversial in our curriculum? I would prefer they were gone,” board member Jeff Taylor said.
James L. W. West III, a professor emeritus of English at Penn State University and editor of “The Cambridge Edition of the Works of F. Scott Fitzgerald” collection, commented on the Alaskan school board’s decision.
“I’m not surprised by this attempt to regulate what students read. ‘The Great Gatsby’ is a subversive novel. It undermines many of the myths about wealth and beauty with which we soothe ourselves,” West said an email to The Western Journal.
“Let’s hope that the students in Mat-Su Borough read Gatsby on their own, and then hand the book to their parents. It’s a good novel to talk about together during the [coronavirus] shutdown.”
The Mat-Su community is by no means fully supportive of the school board’s decision. Several members of the community have spoken out against the banning of these five classic books.
The Mat-Su Education Association released a statement on Friday condemning the school board’s controversial decision.
“This is a blatant effort to curtail critical thinking, stifle discussion, and deprive our students of the opportunity to share, as a class, the experience of studying some of the most classic American literature,” Dianne K. Shibe, president of the Mat-Su Education Association, said in a statement.
Hey Mat-Su friends, your School Board recently banned five great books from its high school curriculum. We believe this decision is narrow-minded and un-Patriotic, and we are not OK with it.
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Eric Howk, a guitarist for the indie rock band Portugal. The Man, grew up in Mat-Su and has offered to buy any student or parent in the community a copy of one or more of the recently banned books.
“Growing up as a kid in rural Mat-Su, story time was everything,” Howk told KTVA. “And books were everything.”
Howk went on to explain that this was a decision parents should be making for their children, not one that should be left up to the school board, echoing West’s suggestion that parents and children read books like “The Great Gatsby” together.
“It’s always kind of startling to hear that decisions are being made not by the parents or not by the students and not by the next generation of people after me that live there,” Howk said. “But by, you know, seven individuals and five chose no.”
Those five “no” votes left West asking a sobering question about the status of classic literature in school curricula.

“Good Lord! What’s left, I wonder?”

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