News & Opinion | April 30, 2020 8:00 am

Alaska School Removes “Gatsby” and Other “Controversial” Classics From Curriculum

Great, this again

School Bans Books
There shall be no meaningless lessons in literary symbol-chasing students will just have to unlearn in college this year.
Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Every once in a while, some school district somewhere decides to ban some well-known literary classics for being “too controversial” and then we all have to talk about it. For some reason, a school board in Alaska decided now was a good time to pull this stunt again, because, gee, it’s not like we have anything else going on right now.

Anyway, since apparently we’re doing this again even though students literally aren’t even in school right now because of that whole global crisis thing, the beloved classics on the chopping block this time include The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien and Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. The school board at Mat-Su Borough School District voted 5-2 on Wednesday to pull the books from the list of approved works teachers are permitted to use in class, NBC News reported.

The books all face various charges of being “controversial,” including allegations of “sexual references,” “bad language,” “violence,” and “anti-white messaging,” which is not a thing.

School board Vice President Jim Hart told NBC that while the books will not be taught in class, they are not “banned” and will remain in district libraries so students can read them if they want to, which honestly may be a more effective way of getting children to read books than actually assigning them anyway. That seems to be a trend local booksellers are noticing, with one reporting the not-technically-banned books have been flying off the shelves since the decision to not technically ban them.

Anyway, you’ve heard this story before. There will be some local outrage, some politicized arguments about censorship, and in the end a few school kids will just end up pretending to read a different selection of books instead of pretending to read those ones. At least they’ll be spared some pointless Gatsby lessons in symbolism-as-literary-analysis they’ll just have to unlearn in college anyway. Next year, some other school district somewhere will have their chance to ban their own selection of literary classics, and the whole thing will happen all over again. This will happen again and again until we die. The end.

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