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September 27, 2020

TBH, We Could Live Without Faulkner

The Boston Globe Reported this week that some Boston school teachers are taking “racial justice” into their own hands and ditching teaching anything written by a white person for the entire school year and substituting works written exclusively by “authors of color.”

It’s probably worth pointing out that choosing which books your students read based solely on race is not at all racist.

Teachers say they are doing this because they noticed that dead white men have “dominated high school English classes,” with reading lists “chock-full of Shakespeares, Hemingways, Faulkners, and Fitzgeralds,” who were “overwhelmingly white, male, and Eurocentric.”

We should probably also add that using gender and ethnicity to judge the worthiness of an author is in no way sexist or prejudiced.

We feel like we should clear those things up right up front so as to avoid confusion.

As it turns out, having a reading list that is largely “Eurocentric” in a country whose culture, founding principles, and very origin is largely Eurocentric,

“Is doing some harm to the souls of our students who are Black, indigenous, and people of color, and it’s honestly doing harm to the souls of all our students."

And again, just to emphasize, assuming a culture, and the timeless truths and principles it developed, is inextricably tied to race and gender is not in any way racist or sexist and noting that teaching this culture is harmful to people because of their skin color is not at all condescending.

Really, what’s wrong with you?

The article highlights one teacher’s experience, Joana Chacon:

 “As a young Latina who spent much of her adolescence in Seattle, Chacon rarely saw herself or her Salvadoran background reflected in her schools’ literature and history curriculums.”

When you think about it, it’s really bizarre that a country that is not El Salvador would spend so much time not focusing on El Salvadoran history and literature.

Keep thinking about it. It might take a while.

“It was teaching me that certain things were right and good and certain things were wrong and bad, and my culture was in the bad category.”

It’s been a while since I was in school, so I checked in with my son, and somehow he missed the “El Salvadoran Culture Is Bad” unit. 

Probably out sick that day.

Or does the mere exclusion of that history suggest the culture is bad?

If so, we're going to need to extend the amount of time kids spend in school to about 700 days a year if we don't want to offend anyone. (Hopefully there will still be time to squeeze something in about the Declaration of Independence.)

You might be thinking that it would actually be a great idea if kids were taught about other cultures, other histories, other points of views, and include books that go beyond purely Eurocentric authors and include Toni Morrison and Sherman Alexie who are every bit as American as Hemingway and Fitzgerald and you’d be absolutely right.

Which is why pretty much every school in the nation already does that and has been for decades. (My school spent weeks on indigenous cultures and that was in the '70s. We were very woke. We also wore bell bottoms, which as western Eurocentric culture goes, was admittedly not a high point.)

But that’s not enough anymore. According to Chacon, we need to completely abandon literature that in any way reflects the Eurocentric roots of American culture and principles.

Where did she get this idea?

“College exposed Chacon to antiracist teachings for the first time. Those experiences informed her own approach as an educator.”

Oh, right.

J.

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September 27, 2020 at 01:43 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink

Comments

Although it was more philosophy, Mary Wollstonecraft was a favorite of mine.

As for Faulkner, his first book, "Soldier's Pay" was pretty good in that it was coherent. "The Sound And The Fury" I gave up on about two-thirds of the way through when I realized I had no idea who anyone was, what they were doing (never mind why) or when they were doing it!

Posted by: Planet Moron | Oct 6, 2020 11:20:58 PM

I was an English major way back in the 1970s. and I loved reading the work of dead white males, although I enjoyed the dead white females (Austen, Eliot, the Brontë sisters) even more.

But when it came to Faulkner, if he hadn't been there I wouldn't have missed him.

Posted by: bluebird of bitterness | Oct 6, 2020 8:52:01 PM

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