“Never forget” is a phrase that is easier said than done. As much as we would like to believe that society has advanced far enough to accept history as fact, and teach it as such, book bans are now commonplace in American schools.
Tennessee’s McMinn County school board pulled the book “Maus” from their fourth grade curriculum. Art Spiegelman’s highly influential book documents the struggle of his father during the holcoaust through a cartoon-style text. The school board purportedly banned the book “because of its unnecessary use of profanity and nudity and its depiction of violence and suicide” (New York Times). While “Maus” does depict nudity and suicide, among other mature concepts, it is no secret that children are already constantly exposed to these ideas with the rising use of technology; TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter all serve as constant media outlets that funnel unfiltered media to users of all ages. Having adults explain the horrors of the Holocaust in an age-appropriate manner is far superior to letting young children roam for answers on the the internet–a bottomless vessel of misinformation. Regardless of how cruel or raw the text may be, the novel tells the truth about a monstrous event that does not deserve censorship. After all, this was a real-life event.
The banning of “Maus” is not an isolated event. School boards across the country have banned novels that they deem inappropriate for children. “To Kill a Mockingbird”, one of the most influential novels depicting the complexities of racism in America, is now being challenged by school boards for its depiction of the Black experience. Multiple organizations founded by people from all walks of life have sprung up across the nation, pushing their own agendas to restrict access to certain novels based on issues of discrimination.
Many of these organizations pretend to defend parents’ rights to decide what their children learn in class. In reality, the existence of such organizations only highlights the need for more education about the effects of racism and Anti-Semitism in America. In states with small Jewish populations like Tennessee, there aren’t enough advocates to make children understand the true nature of the Holocaust or to teach them about the long-term effects of World War II that are still felt today. By continuing to restrict children’s access to basic historical information, we are setting ourselves up for disaster; for a world which Art Spiegelman himself would call unchanged.