ATHENS, Tenn. (WATE) — Many people in East Tennessee want McMinn County school leaders to rescind a recent school board decision to ban the novel “Maus” from the eighth-grade curriculum citing graphic language and nudity.
The move garnered national attention, but no action was taken by the board Thursday. “Maus” by Art Spiegelman is about his parents’ experiences while held captive in a WWII concentration camp. In the book, Jewish people are portrayed as mice and Nazis are portrayed as cats.
Dr. Patricia Waters opposes the ban.
“The world isn’t monolithic, and we have to try to understand each other,” she said.
Waters was accompanied at the school board meeting with a large crowd wanting to see the book returned to the curriculum. Dozens in opposition of the ban believe school board members are not following their own policy.
“They did not consider the book holistically and they did not go through the process for dealing with a challenged book,” Waters said.
Ethan Barker a graduate of McMinn County Schools compared the banned book to other stories he read while in school.
“I don’t think they expected this kind of repercussion from it,” Barker 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.”
The room was filled to capacity for the regularly scheduled monthly meeting. Many watched everything unfold in an overflow room. Several people addressed the school board with their concerns about the ban.
“Few curse words they actually have in the book and the one scene they claim as pornography, which is a teeny, teeny, tiny little spot in the book, and you have to be as the author said some sort of sick person to get your kicks off from a half-naked mouse in a teeny tiny corner of a page,” Barker explained.
McMinn County School Board member Mike Cochran said other options are available to teach about the Holocaust.
“There are a lot of great books out there that don’t use the profanity, that don’t use the unnecessary content to teach it,” he said. “As a parent, you have every right to put that in front of your child, but you don’t have the right to put that in someone else’s child’s hands and that’s how I feel about the school board.”
Waters says the ban goes beyond just “Maus.”
“It’s about a whole attitude,” she said. “Cultural, social, economic toward literacy and what literacy means. If we rob children of literacy in the schools, we’re not only robbing them of their present but also their future.”
“Most of the media is saying we don’t want to teach the Holocaust or we’re backcountry hicks that don’t understand what’s going on,” Cochran said. “We’re all educated. We all understand the Holocaust very well. We have forefathers that went over there and liberated some of those camps, so we want it taught and we want it taught well.”
The ACLU reports they have sent an open records request to McMinn County Schools for more information about the board’s decision to remove “Maus” from the curriculum.