Of Squeaky Mice and Little Men

The Burbank Unified School District has taken the anti-education stance to halt the teaching of the following classic books due to their perceived racism: “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” “The Cay,” “Of Mice and Men,” “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry” (Newbery Medal), and “To Kill a Mockingbird” (Pulitzer Prize).  Interestingly, “Roll of Thunder” is written by a black author.

I wonder if the BUSD superintendent and the five-member school board have actually read any of these books?

I taught “Mockingbird” and “Mice and Men” for most of my 31-year career as a high school English teacher; these books were often the favorites of my students.  In “Mice and Men,” the wisest person in the whole book is Crooks, the sole African American character.   In “Mockingbird,” Tom Robinson is found guilty by an all-white jury then shot 17 times by the police.  I have seen students cry over the death of Tom.

The texts, part of a unit I called Dislike of the Unlike, teach anti-racism, decency and empathy. 

Since African-Americans make up a small percentage of Burbank’s population, it is all the more reason to mandate that these literary treasures remain as teaching tools for educators. 

For BUSD to empower four parents to alter the education of 15,200 students is short of astonishing.  This reminds me of all the times district officials would listen to a select few squeaky wheel parents and not to their professional teaching staff.

Did any one of them take the time to speak with their English teachers about this matter before pulling the plug on these books?

BUSD is not even following their own policy that “challenged material may remain in use until a final decision has been reached.”

English teachers are the most knowledgeable people on how to effectively use these books, not the parents.  They are the in-the-trench heroes who are trying to make a difference, teaching young people how to live peacefully in a diverse country that is too quick to pounce (think cancel culture) not pause when an uncomfortable moment arises.  We used to call that “a teachable moment.”

I hope the BUSD school board comes to their senses and doesn’t turn Burbank into one of those communities which starts censoring literature that has stood the test of time.  What a black eye that would be.  The city and its children deserve better than this.

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