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It is a bit more nuanced. As pointed out by the appeal record (http://www.seattleschools.org/area/board/10-11agendas/111710...) there were three required non-fiction books for the 10th grade list: BNW, Othello, and Lord of the Flies. Apparently all three make reference to native or indigenous people as "savages".

And then apparently in one lecture they promoted an inaccurate view as to why we have reservations.

It's kind of like the Huck Finn example. If you read that book and it says the n-word -- that's one thing. But if the other two required books also say it, then it begins to get a little odd. I think people would reasonably begin to ask, "you couldn't find one book that didn't say nigger/savage in it?"

Although her attacks on the text itself were misplaced and uncalled for.

No, it's worse - the whole episode is a glaring case of illteracy run wild. The original complaint and supporting documentation describes BNW and the other cited works as 'non-fiction.' The complaint about the word 'savage' appears predicated on the assumption that it has never been applied to anyone other than Native Americans. The members of the reconsideration panel seem oblivious to why the objections are so misplaced.

After being notified (via a form letter) of the decision to take it off the curriculum and her right to appeal said decision - which she does, requesting it should be removed from the required reading list for the whole school district and not just that which her daughter attends. Despite attempts by the faculty and principal to explain the meaning of the book she apparently still believes it's a work of non-fiction. Cluelessness all round...at best. At worst, abuse of process as a poor justification for a shakedown.

Here's a story from a local blog that goes into greater detail.


That blog post (and the comments at the end) sure give a really different impression of the event than the article.

Our news media is a narrative driven media. They find their narrative and build the story around that. Details, subtleties, and complexities get shoved under the rug.

For example, look at the health care debate. Headline news for over a year. Here's a quiz, ask 10 people to name 3 concrete aspects of Health Care reform. I tried an not one person game me 3. A few gave me two. The mode was zero concrete aspects.

The narrative never was the bill itself. What everyone did know was that Obama and the Dems won and the Republicans lost, and it it costs a lot of money. For a year of coverage, this was the only narrative. Win/Lose + costs money.

A lot of people wonder if the decline of newspapers means that things like city council meetings don't get coverage. I've discovered that you often get better coverage from reading a couple of blogs -- and there almost certainly will be better targeted blogs than you get from your major city paper.


The person writing the complaint letters repeatedly referred to the books as "non-fiction". See page 10 and 12 in the parent comment's PDF link.

But you weren't quoting it, you were calling them non-fiction yourself... and by any definition possible they are fiction.

I didn't read it that way at all. I read his comment as saying the list has a list of 3 books labelled as mandatory and non-fiction (and an unspecified number of books which maybe be any of optional and fiction), and then giving that list. He didn't call the books anything at any point.

At the point I was writing them I was just paraphrasing the text. When I wrote non-fiction my mind converted it to "fiction".

I'd call it a primed typo. She does use the term non-fiction multiple times, although I don't think anyone could believe they are.

Perhaps we should concentrate on why people are so offended when characters in a book say "nigger" or "savage".

Really? Is that something that you really need to concentrate on?

And honestly, are people that offended? What percentage of ppl in the US care? What percentage of Blacks and NI care about Huck Finn and BNW respectively?

Maybe the saddest thing is that people like Rbanffy will use this to fuel a conspiracy that there is some nationwide outrage around these books, when none exists.

I guarantee you there is a thousand times more outrage in the US over the existence of the Koran.

When did I imply there is a nationwide outrage? I only wonder why that mother was so annoyed by the term "savage" and why others are annoyed by "nigger" in fiction books written generations ago.

"People like Rbanffy"... I am not sure what you intend to imply by that.

45 short years ago, use of the n-word was typically followed up by turning a firehose or a pack of dogs on people who just wanted to be treated like human beings -- this was happening, in modern America, while your parents were in grade school or high school (presumably).

You might not have been aware of that, given that you seem to think that everyone should just get over it and not be offended by things that don't offend you.

The question is not what happened, but what can we do so it never happens again.

By the time the events you mention happened, my family was still coping with having to leave its ancestral home after WWII and having to move to Brazil as refugees.

We can hold grudges for many generations if we want, or we can learn from the past and move on.

I think one of the main lesson we learn is that the past influences today.

And asking children to read books from the past, without giving them the tools and context to understand it, is asking for trouble.

US high schools are a playground of intolerance. At least where I went to high school, having the class read a book that made use of "nigger" would have certainly meant that the Black kids in class would be called nigger after class -- of course when the students were confronted they might say something like, "I was just trying to memorize some key lines from the book".

I'm not against reading books from the past, but I think the teachers need to be prepared to teach it. In this case it appears that the teachers weren't.

It seems to me the teachers were neither prepared to teach the book nor to defend the book in front of the parents. Making a second mistake - taking an important book (after all, we seem to have avoided 1984 just to fall into BNW) off the curriculum - does not correct the first one (not preparing teachers to... teach).

Like I said elsewhere, this whole mess is depressing. Sometimes I wonder if our species will be able to find a way out of this or if I will just wish the cockroaches better luck...

I'm just saying don't be a jerk about it -- it's one thing to say yes, we should teach Huck Finn, another to demean the idea of being offended by the word.

We can only move forward when words like "nigger", "savage", "nazi", "polack", "redneck", "commie" or "yank" provoke no reaction. We don't have to like or approve the past (and certainly not be proud of most of it), but we must limit ourselves to learn from it and not seek retribution for crimes rooted generations ago.

If we don't, we will perpetuate cycles of injustice across generations and invite the worst of our past into our children's future. We must constantly draw lines and learn from our mistakes, even the ones made centuries ago.

We must also be careful on how we preserve our culture and our ways of life. The NA/AD culture shock that's in the root of this present discussion shows us how little progress our species made in deciding where to place the assimilation/integration divide. We try hard to be multi-cultural but, in the end of the day, we are much closer to naked apes than we may be comfortable thinking. Most of the battles we must fight were bred into our brains and we must fight them within ourselves.

In America, the n-word is worse than all of the other words on your list, and you still don't seem to understand why. One generation ago, or the present for that matter is not some distant "generations ago". So go ahead with your one-man culture shock, the rest of us will just think you're a jerk.

I do understand why the "n-word" brings up the worst in us. That's why we must fight, not the word, but the worst in us.

Please, don't think I am a jerk. Our differences, be them skin color, language or cuisine are not as important as we make them. If we face those differences, I trust we can solve them. If we had done that a couple generations ago, we could have prevented a whole lot of suffering.

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