In a week that has brought us ALA’s latest list of the ten most banned books (which inexplicably included Jeff Smith’s Bone!), we’re heartened to find that reason has ruled the day in Brainerd, Minnesota: The Brainerd school board voted to keep John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men — a school stalwart and frequently challenged book itself — in the school’s curriculum.
Parent Doug Kern filed a complaint against the book, citing profanity and racial slurs as the foundation for his argument against the book’s inclusion in classrooms. In response, the district’s Resource Selection Committee upheld the use of the book, but Kern appealed the decision to the school board, which met this week to decide the book’s fate.
During the meeting, Kern provided a list of 108 profanities and 12 racial slurs in the book that he found offensive. But he was the only person in attendance who spoke against the book; three residents spoke in favor of the book during the meeting. Local parent Ed Shaw argued that “If we ban what offends someone, we won’t have anything left in the curriculum, because everyone will inevitably be offended by something.”
Interestingly, the only person who voted against keeping Of Mice and Men in school classrooms was Kern’s wife, Sue, who is a member of the school board. However, at least one board member — despite voting in favor of keeping it — expressed a disturbing concern over Kern’s out-of-context quotes. From the Brainerd Dispatch:
Board member Tom Haglin said although he hasn’t read the book, reading over the quotes provided by Kern and some online notes, he wouldn’t allow the book in his house.
Regardless, the freedom to read scored a win this week, and the book remains in classrooms. If ALA’s list (and our own reporting) are any indication, though, we still have a long way to go to defend the right to read.