Musings & Thoughts for Saturday, January 29, 2022, or: Of ‘Maus’ and McMinn

Hi, Dear Reader. It’s early afternoon in Lithia, Florida on Saturday, January 29, 2022. It is a chilly winter day here in the Tampa Bay area. The current temperature is 51˚F (11˚C) under sunny skies. With humidity at 40% and the wind blowing from the northwest at 17 MPH (28 KM/H), the feels-like temperature is 51˚F (11˚C). Today’s forecast calls for breezes and mostly sunny skies. The high will be 51˚F (11˚C). Tonight, skies will be clear. The low will be 31˚F (-1˚C). A hard freeze warning is in place for our area.

Here in the Eastern Seaboard – which feels weird for me to say now that I live on the west coast of Florida instead of my “native” southeast one – we are experiencing cold temperatures. Not as low, say, as the cold wave of January 1977 – when it snowed in South Florida – but definitely chilly by most Sunshine State standards. We have – thank goodness – the heater on, so the house is not as cold as it is outside. Nevertheless, I’m wearing a long-sleeved plaid button-down shirt over my Adidas Colombian national soccer team jersey, black trousers, wool socks, and shoes.

As for today’s topic, I must make a correction regarding yesterday’s post about the Tennessee local school board’s asinine decision to remove Art Spiegelman’s Maus from the curriculum. I said, erroneously, that the McMinn County Board of Education voted 10-0 to do this on Holocaust Remembrance Day (January 27) at a board meeting in Athens, TN.

The McMinn County Board of Education’s “rationale” for removing ‘Maus’ from the curriculum.

Er. No.

As it happens, the now-infamous meeting took place 17 days earlier, on Monday, January 10, 2022, at 5:30 p.m. at the McMinn County Center for Educational Excellence. Most of us just happened to find out about the Maus ban (or, more accurately, the “removal from the curriculum”) between Thursday (Holocaust Remembrance Day) and yesterday, when the news was all over the Internet and blogosphere.

As to why the “Dixie Nazis” on the McMinn County Board of Education made such a strikingly stupid decision, here are excerpts from the minutes of that meeting:

Cover art by Art Spiegelman. (C) 1996 Pantheon Books

Regarding Maus:

Tony Allman- I have one question, is there a substitute for this book that we have?

Steven Brady- No, and that is a short answer to a longer discussion. If you would like, I have some stuff I can run through with you that explains what our curriculum is and how it works and walk you through how this book fits into the bigger picture of what our kids are studying.

Tony Allman- This is a book for the eighth grade on a third-grade reading level.

Steven Brady- No, that is incorrect.

Tony Allman- So the 3.0 on the front of the book doesn’t stand for third-grade reading?

Steven Brady- No, what you are referring to is the AR number that it is assigned to the book. This is an eighth-grade, middle school level book. Not just because of the words but because of the content and the deeper meaning to what is going on in the book.

Tony Allman- Some of this vulgar and inappropriate behavior can be whited out, but because of copyright it is like b-i-t-c-h, they can only white out the i-t-c-h just like the gd word, they have to leave gd. Is that correct?

Further on down, Allman says that Spiegelman did the graphics for, all things, Playboy and that he is not going to allow that book to remain in the curriculum. (He also says that eighth grade is elementary school. Um, no. It’s not. Last time I checked, eighth grade was still middle school, or, in my day, junior high school.)

Melasawn Knight- I think any time you are teaching something from history, people did hang from trees, people did commit suicide and people were killed, over six million were murdered. I think the author is portraying that because it is a true story about his father that lived through that. He is trying to portray that the best he can with the language that he chooses that would relate to that time, maybe to help people who haven’t been in that aspect in time to actually relate to the horrors of it. Is the language objectionable? Sure. I think that is how he uses that language to portray that.

Tony Allman- I am not denying it was horrible, brutal, and cruel. It’s like when you’re watching tv and a cuss word or nude scene comes on it would be the same movie without it. Well, this would be the same book without it. I may be wrong, but this guy that created the artwork used to do the graphics for Playboy. You can look at his history, and we’re letting him do graphics in books for students in elementary school. If I had a child in the eighth grade, this ain’t happening. If I had to move him out and homeschool him or put him somewhere else, this is not happening.

Seriously – Allman seems to think that eighth-graders (or public school students in general) should be shielded from seeing a few swear words – which those same kids hear at home or utter themselves when they’re not in class – and some naked anthropomorphic mice in one or two frames of a graphic novel (the omnibus hardcover I own is 295 pages long).

Well, I think Allman, his fellow Board of Education members, and the residents of McMinn County who share their reactionary views are making themselves look like their forebears who protested the desegregation of schools during the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations. You know, the fine, upstanding men and women who rallied in Washington, DC and held up signs that read Race Mixing = Marxism.   

Ah, the more things change – so goes the old saw – the more they stay the same.

Source: McMinn County Schools – Board of Education Meeting, January 10, 2022 Meeting

Published by Alex Diaz-Granados

Alex Diaz-Granados (1963- ) began writing movie reviews as a staff writer and Entertainment Editor for his high school newspaper in the early 1980s and was the Diversions editor for Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus' student newspaper for one semester. Using his experiences in those publications, Alex has been raving and ranting about the movies online since 2003 at various web sites, including Amazon, Ciao and Epinions. In addition to writing reviews, Alex has written or co-written three films ("A Simple Ad," "Clown 345," and "Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss") for actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez. You can find his reviews and essays on his blogs, A Certain Point of View and A Certain Point of View, Too.

6 thoughts on “Musings & Thoughts for Saturday, January 29, 2022, or: Of ‘Maus’ and McMinn

  1. I remember reading in Maus in junior high school, myself. It’s a classic and should be preserved. It’s on a lot of the “great books” lists, and that’s quite rare for a graphic novel. The SERIOUSLY ridiculous part is the comment about the artist having done work for Playboy. Really? How on EARTH is that relevant????

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ali, I agree with you that whether Art Spiegelman submitted cartoons or other art to Playboy – which is the most mainstream of the “men’s magazines” – is irrelevant. Seriously.

      I shudder at the thought that Allman is on the Board of Education. He doesn’t seem to be the kind of man who cares about educating the kids of McMinn County. He is all for keeping them safely uneducated and malleable for good-ole-boy right-wing indoctrination.

      Like

  2. I’ve long held out on reading this because I just can’t. It’s just too heavy. Screw that. I just ordered a paperback copy on Amazon.

    Like

    1. I sometimes think that I might have unconsciously had that same reluctance to buy “Maus,” because it HAS been available in an omnibus edition since 1996, and yet whenever I had an opportunity to get it (whether it was in the Waldenbooks close to my former house in Miami or from Amazon), I always went for other non-Holocaust books instead.

      Four years of living in a country presided by a man whose idea of bedtime reading was (allegedly) a book of Hitler’s speeches was the catalyst for my purchase of Maus last year.

      Like

    1. Remember, these fine ladies and gentlemen are from the same subset of Americans who have banned less offensive materials, including the Harry Potter series, because, you know, they must defend their “community’s values.”

      Sadly, I think our generation shall not be the last to have these conversations. (Well, unless there’s a third world war and we wipe ourselves out. Then the topic will be moot.)

      Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: