Hey John! I live right outside of Dallas and a few school districts in the area have been pressured to suspend books from the 10th grade curriculum (fortunately not my district). We were assigned an article to read about these suspensions for a class, and I was disappointed to see An Abundance of Katherines on the list of controversial books. I know you got some flip a few years ago for Looking for Alaska, but Katherines is a lot milder, making it all the more annoying... Any thoughts? Thanks.
This case seems especially enlightening to me because there are so few “dirty” or “controversial” parts in An Abundance of Katherines. I mean, it’s a buddy novel about two best friends who literally use the word “fug” in lieu of the word “fuck,” and who when they curse, do so mostly in Arabic or German. Is the non-English cursing the issue? It it the book’s abundance of abstract mathematics? Its misplacement of the tomb of Archduke Franz Ferdinand? The fact that one of the central characters is a Muslim?
I really don’t know. And it’s not clear to me that the school districts that have banned the book have a particularly good handle on the “why” of it either.
I’m sorry if I sound a little exasperated here, but I’m frustrated because we train and pay teachers to teach, and then we don’t trust them to teach.
Some parents seem to feel that public school exists solely for the benefit of their children and that everything in the curriculum must align with their value systems. But that’s ludicrous: Public schools exist for the benefit of the PUBLIC, so that we as a country might have a better educated population capable of critical thinking. We decided centuries ago that this was good—that education in childhood leads to more informed and engaged citizens, and that education also helps people to grow the economy through innovation and increased productivity.
So my frustration isn’t with Katherines or any other book. It’s about what schools should do: Should schools tell you only what your parents think they should tell you? Or should that stuff be decided by the educators who’ve been trained explicitly for that purpose?