2 The Advocate.com reports yet another challenge to The Bluest Eye, a magnificent novel by author Toni Morrison, winner of a Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize for Literature. The news article says that a parent has challenged the inclusion of the book on an Advanced Placement reading list for high school (!) English students. A bone-headed parent claims to be challenging the book because of a graphic depiction of rape.
The challenge is being made at Lafayette High School, part of the Lafayette Parish School System (that’s a public school system, a Louisiana parish being the equivalent of a county in other states). School policy allows students to substitute an alternative reading if they object to a particular assignment, and The Bluest Eye is optional reading, not required. Of course, students at this school are in ninth through twelfth grades, and are old enough to have some idea of what life is really like out in the real world. That’s not enough to satisfy the parent, who is “asking that the book no longer be a recommended reading selection.” Existing school policy is more than enough to allow this parent to control his own child’s reading, but he’s insisting on also being able to control what other people’s children can read.
The article reports that “the teacher voluntarily removed the book as an option from the Advanced Placement reading list,” an unfortunate capitulation to the values of the dull-witted. It is also procedurally dubious, since the book has not yet been reviewed by a committee. A better procedure would have been to leave the book on the reading list until the review process was complete.
Speaking of review by committee, the district has stated it will do just that. While the school is to be praised for having a procedure in place and following it, this really is a waste of time and resources. This book is of such high literary and social value that the challenge can hardly be taken seriously. It has been challenged many times in many schools, and is retained more often than not.
I reviewed The Bluest Eye and described some other challenges against it in my blog post of 31 Oct 2009.