North Carolina’s school district banned a best-selling novel about a Black teenager who struggles with racism in his community and tries to follow the teachings civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr.
Superintendent Haywood County School district Bill Nolte reportedly made the decision to pull Dear Martin from 10th-grade English classes at Tuscola High School after just one parent complained about the book, ostensibly because it contains “explicit language” and some sexual references. Nolte took the decision to remove the book from the classrooms within hours of receiving the complaint.
Nic Stone wrote the book. It tells the story of Justyce, a Black high school student who must deal with racial profiling, police violence, and prepare to attend an Ivy League college after graduation. According to Common Sense Media, the book includes “standard boy-girl affections and feelings,” and a number of swear words, including the n-word.
The district’s curriculum standard doesn’t contain any provisions saying that high school-level books can’t contain such content; many of Shakespeare’s works, which are often taught in classrooms, contain far more sexual themes.
Earlier this month, the father who complained about the book was told by the school’s principal that if he had issues with the book’s subject matter, his son could read a different book instead. Despite the fact that he was not the only one who had complained, the father demanded that this book be completely removed from the curriculum.
Nolte defended his removal of the book by claiming that “the intended educational message or purpose of the book was being diminished by the way it was written, by the amount of profanity and innuendo.”
But in an interview with Smoky Mountain NewsMichael Boatright, Western Carolina University’s professor of education, said that Dear MartinIt is possible that the images were intended to show racism in modern-day America.
“Adolescent literature, like Nic Stone’s Dear Martin, is a frequent punching bag for school administrators and school boards…Commonly taught novels [such as To Kill a Mockingbird and The Great Gatsby] are regarded as safe because they are decades if not centuries old,” Boatright said. “They do not reflect life in America in 2022.”
“Was the book banned at Tuscola High School because there is a high ratio of expletives per page?” Boatright went on. “Was it banned due to its omission from a syllabus? Teenagers are not afraid to use expletives. Teachers frequently make changes to their syllabuses based on the needs and preferences of their students. Or, Dear Martin banned because of a desire to shield students from the reality of current and past events involving race and police brutality?”
Students can still read Dear Martin independently — but because the Tuscola High School library doesn’t have the book on its shelves, the author of the book has encouraged her Twitter followers to send copies of Dear Martin to the school.
The removal Dear MartinThe Tuscola High School curriculum is the latest example of a right-wing campaign that seeks to ban novels about issues like race or social justice. An earlier month, a Tennessee school district was featured in the article. banned the graphic novel Maus From Its curriculum also cites sexual references and explicit language. The book, which was written in Auschwitz by a child of Auschwitz survivors depicts the horrors that were experienced during World War II and the Holocaust.
Art Spiegelman, who wrote Maus, said that he was “baffled” by the “Orwellian” decision to ban the book from being taughtIn classrooms.
“This is disturbing imagery,” Spiegelman admitted. “But you know what? It’s disturbing history.”