NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The debate over banning books is taking center stage at the Tennessee State Capitol.
Earlier this month, the McMinn County School District board voted to remove Maus, a Pulitzer prize-winning book on the Holocaust, from its curriculum. Some leaders are supporting the move, others say the action does nothing more than attempt to whitewash history.
The book’s author said the ban, “has the breath of autocracy and fascism about it,” in an interview with CNN.
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The attention of the McMinn County school board’s removal of the award-winning graphic novel about the atrocity of the Holocaust from its curriculum is leading some state lawmakers to speak out, gaining national and international news attention.
“Books are being stripped out of public libraries that give detailed personal accounts from survivors and about victims of the Holocaust,” said Representative John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville).
But talk about the McMinn School Board members voting to remove “Maus,” by Art Spiegelman on the House floor was rebuffed by the House Speaker.
“Representative Clemmons this is welcoming and honoring, this is sounding like a floor speech based on legislation so I don’t know which way you’re going, but it is welcoming and honoring,” Sexton said while Clemmons was speaking.
The board says the 8th grade book, part of their curriculum, is not age-appropriate because of “inappropriate language” and an illustration of a nude woman.
“I think there’s a lot of talk about that — there are a lot of books that are in our library system in the schools, even in elementary schools, and no one seems to know how they got there,” the Republican House Speaker said.
“They want to protect their children from the realities of our nation’s history and world history,” Clemmons added. “It’s counterproductive, and the reality is when you whitewash history, you don’t have an appreciation for the perspective of others, you don’t have empathy, you don’t understand where others are coming and you don’t know what history is all about.”
Clemmons, who has a Jewish wife and kids raised in both Jewish and Christian faiths, says the end goal for republicans is to weaken public schools. “We’ve seen books pulled off the shelves, or attempted to be pulled off the shelves, that discuss the Civil Rights Movement, and here we have, on this International Holocaust Memorial Day, stories about a book providing a very important detailed personal narrative about survivors experience during the Holocaust.”
Speaker Sexton argues there has to be a review process in place for books. “You’re signaling out one book, there’s many other books out there but it’s an important issue — I think parents want to, as you watched in Virginia — parents want to have more control over their child’s education and there’s no difference here in Tennessee.”
All 10 members of the McMinn County School Board voted in favor of removing and replacing the book with a different story of the Holocaust.