Did you think that the good folks of the Menifee Union School District in California were the only censorious twits annoying us this week? Oh, ye of little faith.
Today it's Culpeper, Virginia. School authorities there pulled the full version of the Diary of Anne Frank, apparently with the intent to replace it with the bowdlerized version that Otto Frank originally published in 1947. The school had been using the definitive, complete version released upon the fiftieth anniversary of Frank's death in a concentration camp.
So — why did they pull it? Were there grim stories of Nazi atrocities? Vivid descriptions of heaps of dead spied out of the garret window? Horrific but apt speculations about the millions of Jews who were not hidden?
Nope. Anne mentioned her Bad Bad Place in a context other than identifying it as a font of pure evil, and a parent was offended.
Citing a parent’s concern over the sexual nature of the vagina passage in the definitive edition, Allen said school officials immediately chose to pull this version and use an alternative copy.
“What we have asked is that this particular edition will not be taught,” Allen said from his office Wednesday morning. “I don’t want to make a big deal out of this. So we listened to the parent and we pulled it.”
Apparently, Anne’s father, Otto Frank, the sole survivor of the “Secret Annex,” felt the need to censor his daughter’s most intimate thoughts as well, eliminating about 30 percent of the original diary published in 1947.
He omitted parts where Anne criticized her mother and other Jews living in the confined quarters as well as some sexually suggestive references.
May I say entirely inappropriately JESUS CHRIST.
The school district is not backing down. Quoth the ironically named Bobbi Johnson:
“The essence of the story, the struggle of a young girl faced with horrible atrocities, is not lost by editing the few pages that speak to adolescent discovery of intimate feelings,” Johnson wrote in an e-mail to the Star-Exponent Thursday. “While these pages could be the basis of a relevant discussion, they do not reflect the purpose of studying the book at the middle-school level and could foster a discussion in a classroom that many would find inappropriate.”
Of course, most people who read the Diary of Anne Frank recognize that it is precisely the juxtaposition of the raw feelings of an adolescent girl and the horror of the Holocaust that makes it remarkable. If people wanted to learn more about how much Hitler sucked, they could just Tivo the History Channel at random. There are tens of thousands of written accounts of the fate of Jews in World War II. Anne's is gripping precisely because of who she is and how she expresses herself.
Now, bear in mind that it is eighth-graders in Culpeper who are reading this. What kind of language is the school district classifying as "explicit", justifying a retreat to a different version that cuts out 30% of the content? This blogger quotes the Washington Post:
There are little folds of skin all over the place, you can hardly find it. The little hole underneath is so terribly small that I simply can’t imagine how a man can get in there, let alone how a whole baby can get out!
Oh my God. If eighth graders read that, society will be DOOMED.
Last 5 posts by Ken White
- Free Speech Triumphant Or Free Speech In Retreat? - June 21st, 2017
- The Power To Generate Crimes Rather Than Merely Investigate Them - June 19th, 2017
- Free Speech, The Goose, And The Gander - June 17th, 2017
- Free Speech Tropes In The LA Times - June 8th, 2017
- I write letters - June 1st, 2017