Monday, January 19, 2009

Washington Teacher Wants to Keep Huck, Scout, and Lennie Out of the Classroom

One high school English teacher in Washington thinks it's time to kick Huck and Jim, Atticus and Scout, and Lennie and George out of school for good. They just don't cut it anymore because the books in which they appear (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Of Mice and Men) also include black characters portrayed as "ignorant, inarticulate, and uneducated."

John Foley has reached this remarkable conclusion almost entirely because of America's inauguration of its first black president tomorrow, an event of which everyone in this country should be proud whether they voted for the man or not. However, President Obama will already be faced with completely unrealistic expectations as to the ways that he will impact the future of not only this country but that of the entire world. Are we now to believe that such an articulate black man can also rewrite the history of his race in this country? I hate revisionist history when it tries to rewrite reality, and I'm afraid that is exactly what Mr. Foley is suggesting.

The two books Foley is suggesting should replace the three classics he wants to toss out are both great books. One of the two (Lonesome Dove), in fact, is my favorite novel and I've reread it several times already and plan read it many more times. Nonetheless, it would be a mistake to replace three classic novels with two other worthy books simply because the black characters of those two books are more positively presented. Why is there not room for all five of these books in a four-year high school curriculem?

For both sides of the argument, take a look at this LA Times article.


  1. I don't think ignorance of our past is ever a good thing; even of the unpleasant parts.

  2. That's pretty much my point,too, Jeanne. I believe that it's important that all of us remember where we came from. How better to judge our progress?

  3. You know, I've written about the idiocy of banning books from libraries and stuff like this just makes me mad. Why not use the negative portrayal of blacks (or any other minority) in books as a springboard for discussion???? I love Lonesome Dove as well - but it should not replace books which as you point out are classics (and brilliantly written).

  4. On a lighter note, this was the premise of a "Family Ties" episode back in the day.

  5. In To Kill A Mockingbird, Tom Robinson comes off a thousand times better than the white-trash Euells. And I never really thought about the character in Of Mice and Men's it Crips? I just remember that he was bitter.
    I LOVE Lonesome Dove, but there's a lot of talk about the whorehouse, which would offend some sensibilities.
    This Foley guy is going off half-cocked.

  6. I've simply never been able to fatham the logic used to justify ideas such as this. Do people not read the CONTENT of these books? They are books that changed the way people thought. They were daring for their times and presented unpopular views on race. When we talk about things that helped to change this country, those books have to be counted among the factors. Why would ANYONE want to eliminate them?

    Just baffling!

  7. That is true lunacy. And to think this person is a teacher?
    To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the greatest books ever written, and teaches just how idiotic and shallow racists are, while giving a lesson on a time when race relations were terrible at best. It is a great teaching tool on every level.
    As a side note, I did a Presidential Poll before the election, asking what literary character had the qualities to make a great president, and the winner was Atticus Finch.

  8. This is not about the african americans, The japanese are pushing themselves to be the new victims in the "racist industry"

    They are trying to portray themselves as victims. 110,000 interned Japanese but were not killed yet the Japanese killed and tortured millions of Chinese and Koreans.

    During memorial day, the Japanese parade themselves as WWII veterans without mention the real pro-US veterans, the Filipinos who up to now havent been paid of rightful veteran benefits.

  9. "They are trying to portray themselves as victims. 110,000 interned Japanese but were not killed yet the Japanese killed and tortured millions of Chinese and Koreans."

    And they were interned for NO REASON. Simply because they were Japanese. They didn't intern German Americans or Italian Americans

    "During memorial day, the Japanese parade themselves as WWII veterans"

    Some of them are. What is this paranoid rant meant to accomplish?