Idaho School District May Ban 'Of Mice and Men' Because It's Too... Depressing
And yet another book may end up banned. Objecting to the profanity and "dark" content, an Idaho school district may ban Of Mice and Men by Depression-era writer John Steinbeck from high school classrooms. Members of a review committee voted to remove the book from the Coeur d’Alene High School ninth grade curriculum, allowing it to be read as an optional book or in small groups only.
In Idaho, at 15 you can get a driver's permit, work part-time, and you're only one year away from being able to get married. But if the Coeur d'Alene curriculum-review committee has anything to say about it, you won't be able to read books with sad endings. Cue sad trombone?
According to the Idaho State Department of Education's "Content Standards," students in grades 9-12 are expected to learn about "the Great Depression and its effects upon American society." However, retired Kootenai County magistrate judge Eugene Marano said the book is "too dark for ninth graders.”
The "dark" content isn't the only thing the curriculum review committee objects to. Several committee members felt that the book used too much profanity, particularly citing use of the words "bastard" and "God damn." Committee member Mary Jo Finney counted 102 uses of profanity in 110 pages of the book, calling Steinbeck's work "neither a quality story nor a page turner." According to the L.A. Times, Finney has previously objected to other books the district's curriculum. At least Steinbeck wouldn't have felt singled out, I guess?
"There was just too darn much cussing. It was on almost every single page of the novella," School Board Trustee Dave Eubanks told Spokane, Washington-based Spokesman-Review.
Other Idaho education spokesmen, like Couer d'Alene City Librarian Bette Ammon and School Board Chairwoman Christa Hazel expressed disappointment with the review committee's recommendation. Ammon claimed that the profanity in the novel reflected the speech characteristic of the era.
Right now, the district lets families have final say over their kids' exposure to controversial books, and the school offers alternative materials to students whose families don't give consent. But, if the school board decides to remove Of Mice and Men from the curriculum, the tables will be turned, and 9th grade students who wish to read the book will have to do so as an "optional" project.
So, when does this all get sorted out? The school board will vote on the committee's recommendation next month.
This is a bit of a bummer situation, especially if you're a) a fan of the freedom of literature and b) Of Mice and Men. So, here's a picture of Lon Chaney Jr. as Lennie Small holding a puppy:
OK... that probably doesn't help. I tried.
Images: Hal Roach Studios (2)