Mom Seeks Ban For Of Mice And Men Because It’s Not Enough Of A ‘Page-Turner’
Of Mice and Men is one of the classics of American literature, dealing with the themes of powerlessness in the face of fate and the often-harsh reality of the American dream. It’s a magnificent work on the part of author John Steinbeck, and it’s a telling examination into life during the Great Depression. So naturally, some parents in Idaho are seeking to get it stricken from the local high school’s required reading list.
According to the Spokesman-Review, Coeur d’Alene parent Mary Jo Spinney’s reasons for wanting the book to be dumped are numerous and varied (as well as totally inane). Her first objection, naturally, is all the cussing. Swear words! In a piece of so-called ‘literature’! Unthinkable! The words in question are “bastard” and “god damn”, which are clearly words that would never have sullied the delicate ears of a high-schooler unless he picked up a Steinbeck novel.
Another of Spinney’s issues with the book is that it is both “dark” and “negative”. Sadly, for some reason it is very difficult for literature teachers to find cheerful, rosy narratives set during the Great Depression. The committee that decided to recommend the school cutting the book from its reading lists did suggest that the novel could be read optionally with parent permission in small groups of students for discussion–so that teachers would have a chance to, as one committee member suggested, “explain away the dark part of it.” Because the difficult themes in the story definitely need to be explained away rather than addressed head-on, of course. It’s a real shame that Mr. Steinbeck didn’t have the forethought to write some more upbeat Great American Novels about the suffering and struggles of the working class, but in the meantime, to make sure no high school student ever has to deal with the unthinkable pain of reading a “negative” novel, the entire literature curriculum can be converted to the works of Jane Austen instead. Sense and Sensibility and smiles for everyone!
Finally, my absolute favorite objection raised by Spinney is that Of Mice and Men is simply not enough of a “page-turner” to warrant a place on a high school literature curriculum. Page-turningness does not seem like quite the kind of criterion teachers are using to select reading lists, which is why John Grisham and Michael Crichton don’t show up in more literature classes. (Also because if you teach Crichton novels in English class the school is going to have to hire extra science teachers to undo any collateral damage inflicted.) Everyone loves a good pulpy popular novel, but learning to appreciate masters of language like Steinbeck, and connecting their novels’ themes to broader ideas about people and society, is sort of the point of literature classes. If you want teenagers not to be challenged or pushed to think, buy them a My Little Pony coloring book. If you want more, give them some god damn Steinbeck already.