Maus: Censorship from the Right?

 

Maus is a graphic novel (fancy talk for comic book) by cartoonist Art Spiegelman. In the story, Spiegelman interviews his father about his experiences as a Holocaust survivor. It features anthropomorphized versions of the players in these events: Jews are mice, Germans are cats, Poles are pigs, Americans are dogs, and so on. As a fan of sequential art, I can attest to it being very well done. It is also the only graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize.

It’s also been in the news as of late. Apparently, it’s the latest victim of right-wing Holocaust denial and censorship. Take a look at some of these articles:

‘Maus’ controversy: A Tennessee school board removed the graphic novel about the Holocaust from curriculum – CNN

Glenn Youngkin, ’Maus’ Ban Show Mastery of Cancel Culture (nymag.com)

Conservatives Censoring “Maus”, Stokes White Grievance, Anti-Semitic Sentiment – CAFFEINATED POLITICS (wordpress.com)

Conservatives mastering cancel culture. Anti-Semitic Republicans. The right does not want you to know about the Holocaust. Something doesn’t add up here…

Censorship never comes from the right, especially today. Who is censoring Joe Rogan? Who supports speech laws? Who thinks speech is violence? Who gets people fired for believing in biology? Who only wants to hear one side of the debate? And how is Holocaust denial mainstream? I’m not going to deny those people exist, but they’re somewhere down near the flat-earthers as far as influence goes. Needless to say, these headlines caught my attention and I needed to look into this further. Something doesn’t smell right…

McMinn County schools of Tennessee removed the book from their 8th-grade curriculum due to graphic content. The school board voted 10-0 to remove Maus, citing profanity, nudity, and graphic depictions of suicide, murder, and violence. Is this really censorship?

I find the accusations of right-wing censorship not only projection, but completely absurd. First off, the local school board has every right to decide what to teach. That’s federalism. And the school is not “skipping over” the Holocaust. The Holocaust is still part of their curriculum. One book was removed. One book that was determined unanimously by the community to not be age-appropriate. This is not “Holocaust denial.” How on Earth can these people say that with a straight face?

I am of the belief that even if representative of true events, there are certain things that are not appropriate for all ages. Maus is graphic. You can still teach the Holocaust without using that particular work. Do I think it’s appropriate for 8th graders (13- and 14-year-olds)? Depends on maturity levels, which can vary greatly at that age. I also don’t have children in the McMinn school district. That’s up to their parents. I can say one thing, I’m not going to watch Schindler’s List with a 10-year-old. That’s not “Holocaust denial” or any of these other ridiculous assertions. Regardless of whether something is historically accurate or not, not all historical depictions are appropriate for all ages.

And we don’t need to go here, but they threw the first punch and it’s only fair I hit back. The censorship of the millions of lives destroyed by communism is real. High school textbooks spend entire chapters on Naziism and World War II, but communism is mentioned as an afterthought. A “good idea” that was botched in execution. That’s real censorship. We don’t even have to include Stalin and the USSR. The body counts left in the wake of Mao and Pol Pot alone dwarf those of the Nazi concentration camps. By tens of millions. Does that mean I’m diminishing one evil for another? No, I think they are both horrific. I’m accusing the Marxist educators who push this Bolshevik revisionism of what they accuse McMinn County of. They can’t have it both ways.

I stand by the school district’s choice to choose their own curriculum. What do you think?

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  1. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Given what you’ve described, Jim, and their reasoning for removing the book, it makes sense to me. There are many, many books on the Holocaust that would be less disturbing and easier to understand.

    Edit: not every removal is censorship.

    • #1
  2. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    I have the two-volume paper-bound Maus.  Hell, it’s hardly age-appropriate for thirty-year olds.  It is VALUABLE and I’m glad to have read it, glad to have it on my shelf.  But it’s no Diary of Anne Frank + Man’s Search for Meaning.  Those are what should be put into the libraries and hands of middle-schoolers and up.  Not that those are so easy-going, with Diary okay for grade school, and Meaning best for high school.

    I had mixed feelings on reading Maus, but it’s undeniably a good work, and worthy of a read.  If you thought the drugged-out hotel room scene marred Apocalypse Now (I thought it didn’t pay its freight even in a movie filled with atrocities), there’s more of that in here.  Still a great movie, and Maus is a great graphic novel.

    • #2
  3. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell
    @JimMcConnell

    My question is why use a comic book to teach about the Holocaust? Haven’t these middle-schoolers progressed to reading actual books?

    • #3
  4. James Salerno Inactive
    James Salerno
    @JamesSalerno

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):

    My question is why use a comic book to teach about the Holocaust? Haven’t these middle-schoolers progressed to reading actual books?

    Jim, this is a problem I’ve had with teachers for a long time. I remember watching Braveheart in a high school history class. Great movie!

    But movies are entertainment. They can have historical context, but shouldn’t be used as academic sources. When I was in college, someone was actually allowed to use Spielberg’s Lincoln as a source. The mind boggles…

    I’m of the opinion that teachers should engage. Passing off the work of others to your students, as a replacement for engaging, shows that you’re disconnected and disinterested. But I guess that’s why I’m not a teacher.

    • #4
  5. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    James Salerno (View Comment):
    When I was in college, someone was actually allowed to use Spielberg’s Lincoln as a source. The mind boggles…

    “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” would have been more entertaining, at least.  :-)

    • #5
  6. Caryn Thatcher
    Caryn
    @Caryn

    Agreed.  I think with all of you.  There are so many age-inappropriate things being taught in schools.  Can’t we let kids be innocent and kids for a little longer before exposing them to overt and graphic sex and violence?  Of course the realities–at an age appropriate level–of historical atrocities should be taught in school, but I’d think Maus is more like college level.  I think Elie Wiesel’s “Night” would be a wonderful book for that age group, at least for the older ones.

    Yes, too, it is a rotten thing to have this mischaracterized as “right-wing, holocaust-denying book banning.”

    An aside, I thought I’d heard a while back of Maus being banned as if it were Nazi propaganda because it showed Nazi symbols and characters.  A complete inversion of the reality.  Do any of you remember hearing that?  Google-break, found it: A 2015 Russian Law prohibiting Nazi propaganda led to the book being pulled from stores and internet sites because of the swastika on the cover.

     

    • #6
  7. DonG (Keep on Truckin) Coolidge
    DonG (Keep on Truckin)
    @DonG

    I don’t get it.  If the book has a little nudity and some adult words, just make an 8th grade edition without the nudity and the problematic words.  Nothing will be lost. 

    • #7
  8. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    Someday soon, no one will remember what the “N” word is.  It is 100% taboo everywhere in any kind of polite society, and if more than one person is in the room, a parent cannot tell their child what the word IS, much less what it means and why it is taboo.

    I have an incendiary blog, but one line I cannot cross there is using the “N” word, and I have given it lots of thought.  I resent that someone has 100% control over a word, any word.

    • #8
  9. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    Someday soon, no one will remember what the “N” word is. It is 100% taboo everywhere in any kind of polite society, and if more than one person is in the room, a parent cannot tell their child what the word IS, much less what it means and why it is taboo.

    I have an incendiary blog, but one line I cannot cross there is using the “N” word, and I have given it lots of thought. I resent that someone has 100% control over a word, any word.

    As long as there are “rappers” people will know it and what it means.

    • #9
  10. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge
    Fake John/Jane Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    They can say it with a straight face because they own the culture, the media, social media, academia and most the government.  What they say is what the truth is.  It is what the majority of Americans will hear and believe.  It is how history will remember it.  There is absolutely no reason why they should not have a straight face.  It is their reality and thus will become the true reality by their belief.

    • #10
  11. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    BDB (View Comment):
    But it’s no Diary of Anne Frank + Man’s Search for Meaning

    Books the critics of the Tennessee school board have probably never read. 

    I object to any graphic novel being included in a school curriculum. WTH? There are so many excellent books with, you know, more words than pictures out there that are appropriate at various grade levels, there’s simply no excuse for using comic books. None.

    Now, my mom was a book snob and we were only able to buy/read comic books once a year when we stopped for gasoline on a vacation trek across the country (remember when you could buy cheap comic books at the gas station?). I don’t think that’s a good direction either. My kids were allowed to read anything age-appropriate, and often borrowed graphic novels from the library. They became readers. That’s the important thing. But, graphic novels should be reserved for recreational reading, not school curricula.  Puh-leaze!

    Public education establishment delenda est. Especially the teacher training at lefty universities. But, I repeat.

    • #11
  12. Henry Racette Member
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Once again, speaking as a free-speech extremist: nothing about free speech entitles a particular book to be stocked in a school library, any more than freedom of speech demands that a teacher should be free to express any idea in class without potential consequences.

    I don’t know anything about the Maus book, and will defer to the local school board. The Holocaust is an important topic that should be taught, along with the Holodomor, the Cultural Revolution, and every other collectivist/authoritarian/central planning exercise in state control. There are any number of books that can be used.

    James, thanks for taking the time to do a little research. I share your skepticism whenever I hear of “right-wing censorship.” I know it happens, but it’s a real man-bites-dog story: we all know which side is interested in silencing the unapproved viewpoint.

    • #12
  13. davenr321 Coolidge
    davenr321
    @davenr321

    Maus is an inspired work of art. My son read my copies at ten. He simply took them from the self and read them without my knowledge. And, after he was done, he asked me questions. Maus is sophisticated; a cogent presentation of a very personal story that deserves reading. 

    I don’t recommend it for 10-year olds (unless they’re really smart – like my son) but definitely for teenagers. Anne Frank I recommend as well; they ought to be read together. And hey, it’s expensive, but you can go on a field trip to the actual locations. There’s a video of Kiss’ Gene Simmons’ at the Anne Frank house. It’s more powerful than the film versions of her diary, frankly, and hardened metalhead teens learn more from that than from … say… i dunno, lots of things.

    Real art can be delivered in any medium. Art Speigelman does avant-garde comics, plenty irreverent, but the art comes first except for the commercial work he did like Whacky Packages… I am against pulling this from the library. What’s next? Not letting kids look at Goya? Bosch?

    • #13
  14. DaveSchmidt Coolidge
    DaveSchmidt
    @DaveSchmidt

    Fake John/Jane Galt (View Comment):

    They can say it with a straight face because they own the culture, the media, social media, academia and most the government. What they say is what the truth is. It is what the majority of Americans will hear and believe. It is how history will remember it. There is absolutely no reason why they should not have a straight face. It is their reality and thus will become the true reality by their belief.

    1619

    • #14
  15. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    davenr321 (View Comment):

    Maus is an inspired work of art. My son read my copies at ten. He simply took them from the self and read them without my knowledge. And, after he was done, he asked me questions. Maus is sophisticated; a cogent presentation of a very personal story that deserves reading.

    I don’t recommend it for 10-year olds (unless they’re really smart – like my son) but definitely for teenagers. Anne Frank I recommend as well; they ought to be read together. And hey, it’s expensive, but you can go on a field trip to the actual locations. There’s a video of Kiss’ Gene Simmons’ at the Anne Frank house. It’s more powerful than the film versions of her diary, frankly, and hardened metalhead teens learn more from that than from … say… i dunno, lots of things.

    Real art can be delivered in any medium. Art Speigelman does avant-garde comics, plenty irreverent, but the art comes first except for the commercial work he did like Whacky Packages… I am against pulling this from the library. What’s next? Not letting kids look at Goya? Bosch?

    It wasn’t just in the library. It was assigned in the curriculum.

    There’s this odd dichotomy in our culture where kids stay on their parents’ insurance until they’re 26 and rarely move out of the basement before then. And, yet, we weirdly believe that their brains are ready for exposure to all manner of sex and violence and are mature enough to handle it. Then you hear about Georgetown administrators listening to their moaning students and “learning” from them.

    Kids rarely teach us anything except how hard it is to parent/teach them.

    Kids are blank slates. It matters what you write on them. It matter to their future and ours. I’m sure this is a fine graphic novel — for adults.

    • #15
  16. DaveSchmidt Coolidge
    DaveSchmidt
    @DaveSchmidt

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    davenr321 (View Comment):

    Maus is an inspired work of art. My son read my copies at ten. He simply took them from the self and read them without my knowledge. And, after he was done, he asked me questions. Maus is sophisticated; a cogent presentation of a very personal story that deserves reading.

    I don’t recommend it for 10-year olds (unless they’re really smart – like my son) but definitely for teenagers. Anne Frank I recommend as well; they ought to be read together. And hey, it’s expensive, but you can go on a field trip to the actual locations. There’s a video of Kiss’ Gene Simmons’ at the Anne Frank house. It’s more powerful than the film versions of her diary, frankly, and hardened metalhead teens learn more from that than from … say… i dunno, lots of things.

    Real art can be delivered in any medium. Art Speigelman does avant-garde comics, plenty irreverent, but the art comes first except for the commercial work he did like Whacky Packages… I am against pulling this from the library. What’s next? Not letting kids look at Goya? Bosch?

    It wasn’t just in the library. It was assigned in the curriculum.

    There’s this odd dichotomy in our culture where kids stay on their parents’ insurance until they’re 26 and rarely move out of the basement before then. And, yet, we weirdly believe that their brains are ready for exposure to all manner of sex and violence and are mature enough to handle it. Then you hear about Georgetown administrators listening to their moaning students and “learning” from them.

    Kids rarely teach us anything except how hard it is to parent/teach them.

    Kids are blank slates. It matters what you write on them. It matter to their future and ours. I’m sure this is a fine graphic novel — for adults.

    Yes!

    • #16
  17. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):
    Kids are blank slates. It matters what you write on them. It matter to their future and ours. I’m sure this is a fine graphic novel — for adults.

    There’s nothing in there a 16 year old can’t handle. There’s nothing salacious or titillating. At the very least, it expands a kid’s idea of what this genre of art can tackle, and makes the modern woke comics look ridiculous.

    The idea that it should be walled off until one is 18 or 21 seems absurd – particularly since the young men who might profit from its history lessons are romping through WW2 battlefields in online games. What Maus writes on the blank slate is a story of horror and compassion and survival in the face of racialist statism, in a way that’s accessible to a visual generation. I’m just surprised some people didn’t object because the mice smoked cigarettes. 

    • #17
  18. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    Age appropriateness of a given text or film is certainly an important matter and the class in question was a junior high class, correct? I can certainly understand and would defend not assinging them Maus just as I would not show them an unedited version of Schindler’s List. The scene wher Kommandant Goeth puts his loaded rifle in the crotch of a naked prostitute alone disqualifies that work for that audience. There are many other age-appropriate options for Holocaust education.

    • #18
  19. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    Age appropriateness of a given text or film is certainly an important matter and the class in question was a junior high class, correct? I can not assinging them Maus just as I would not show them an unedited version of Schindler’s List. The scene wher Kommandant Goeth puts his loaded rifle in the crotch of a naked prostitute alone disqualifies that work for that audience. There are many other age-appropriate options for Holocaust education.

    Middle schoolers. 11, 12, 13-year-olds. Not 16, 17, 18.  These are all young, impressionable minds. We know (it’s science!) that pornography rewires the brains of 16, 17, and 18-year-olds. Talk about plagues!

    Why? Why is it necessary to expose these forming brains to such ugliness and darkness. You can teach them the history and even show an occasional photograph from the camps to make an impression. But for “art’s” sake? No, I’d be voting with the members of that school board in Tennessee. 

    Jordan Peterson is good on this — look to the higher things. We should always be trying to elevate the minds of our young people. They’ll encounter the grim and base soon enough. They don’t need “public” education for that.

    Lucky for Tennessee, it seems they’ll be getting their grade school curricula from Hillsdale.

    • #19
  20. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    Age appropriateness of a given text or film is certainly an important matter and the class in question was a junior high class, correct? I can not assinging them Maus just as I would not show them an unedited version of Schindler’s List. The scene wher Kommandant Goeth puts his loaded rifle in the crotch of a naked prostitute alone disqualifies that work for that audience. There are many other age-appropriate options for Holocaust education.

    Middle schoolers. 11, 12, 13-year-olds. Not 16, 17, 18. These are all young, impressionable minds. We know (it’s science!) that pornography rewires the brains of 16, 17, and 18-year-olds. Talk about plagues!

    Why? Why is it necessary to expose these forming brains to such ugliness and darkness. You can teach them the history and even show an occasional photograph from the camps to make an impression. But for “art’s” sake? No, I’d be voting with the members of that school board in Tennessee.

    Jordan Peterson is good on this — look to the higher things. We should always be trying to elevate the minds of our young people. They’ll encounter the grim and base soon enough. They don’t need “public” education for that.

    Lucky for Tennessee, it seems they’ll be getting their grade school curricula from Hillsdale.

    Quite right.

    • #20
  21. HankRhody Freelance Philosopher Contributor
    HankRhody Freelance Philosopher
    @HankRhody

    James Lileks (View Comment):
    There’s nothing in there a 16 year old can’t handle. There’s nothing salacious or titillating.

    I think you’re forgetting exactly how easy it is to titillate a sixteen year old boy.

    • #21
  22. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    James Lileks (View Comment):
    The idea that it should be walled off until one is 18 or 21 seems absurd – particularly since the young men who might profit from its history lessons are romping through WW2 battlefields in online games. What Maus writes on the blank slate is a story of horror and compassion and survival in the face of racialist statism, in a way that’s accessible to a visual generation. I’m just surprised some people didn’t object because the mice smoked cigarettes. 

    Just to correct the record — Maus wasn’t banned, nor was it removed from the school library. It was removed from the 8th grade curriculum (8th grade — 13-year-olds). But, the lie that those bumpkins in flyover Tennessee are banning books and have Nazi sympathies is very convenient to advance the truly anti-Semitic Left’s agenda:

    https://redstate.com/jimthompson/2022/01/27/the-left-claims-a-tennessee-school-board-banned-a-holocaust-book-fact-check-false-n513264

    h/t: former member Old Buckeye, who steps up to defend her current home state.

     

    • #22
  23. Henry Racette Member
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):
    Kids are blank slates. It matters what you write on them. It matter to their future and ours. I’m sure this is a fine graphic novel — for adults.

    There’s nothing in there a 16 year old can’t handle. There’s nothing salacious or titillating. At the very least, it expands a kid’s idea of what this genre of art can tackle, and makes the modern woke comics look ridiculous.

    The idea that it should be walled off until one is 18 or 21 seems absurd – particularly since the young men who might profit from its history lessons are romping through WW2 battlefields in online games. What Maus writes on the blank slate is a story of horror and compassion and survival in the face of racialist statism, in a way that’s accessible to a visual generation. I’m just surprised some people didn’t object because the mice smoked cigarettes.

    That may well all be true. As I mentioned, I’m unfamiliar with the book.

    My interest in commenting is to distinguish between the suppression of ideas, on the one hand, and a local school board, local parents, etc., making what are essentially editorial decisions about the specific materials used in the classroom. I think that was the point of the original post: it defends the teaching of the subject, while allowing for local standards regarding the form of instructional material used.

    Contrast this with the left’s efforts to control the expression of ideas. They don’t object to the form, but rather to the substance of the ideas expressed, whether they’re heterodox views regarding COVID, global warming, election fraud, gender identity, etc.

    What’s important to keep in focus is that there is no objection from the right to teaching about the Holocaust, nor about other excesses of totalitarian governments. There is no viewpoint censorship. That is, with virtually no exceptions, the left’s shtick.

    • #23
  24. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):
    Kids are blank slates. It matters what you write on them. It matter to their future and ours. I’m sure this is a fine graphic novel — for adults.

    There’s nothing in there a 16 year old can’t handle. There’s nothing salacious or titillating. At the very least, it expands a kid’s idea of what this genre of art can tackle, and makes the modern woke comics look ridiculous.

    The idea that it should be walled off until one is 18 or 21 seems absurd – particularly since the young men who might profit from its history lessons are romping through WW2 battlefields in online games. What Maus writes on the blank slate is a story of horror and compassion and survival in the face of racialist statism, in a way that’s accessible to a visual generation. I’m just surprised some people didn’t object because the mice smoked cigarettes.

    That may well all be true. As I mentioned, I’m unfamiliar with the book.

    What’s important to keep in focus is that there is no objection from the right to teaching about the Holocaust, nor about other excesses of totalitarian governments. There is no viewpoint censorship. That is, with virtually no exceptions, the left’s shtick.

    Point of interest: Germans do almost exactly what you call absurd. They do not even broach WWII era history in anything but a cursory way until …after seventh grade. And the Holocaust?  Not until 9th or 10th. Not at all, except in the very general, yes, this happened. The “and Opa might have been in the SA” part does not come until kids are 15, 16. Then the field trips to Dachau, Buchenwald and so on start. I find the way that German schools deal with World War II, the Holocaust and all of their history infuriatingly wrong, almost criminal. 

    • #24
  25. DaveSchmidt Coolidge
    DaveSchmidt
    @DaveSchmidt

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):
    Kids are blank slates. It matters what you write on them. It matter to their future and ours. I’m sure this is a fine graphic novel — for adults.

    There’s nothing in there a 16 year old can’t handle. There’s nothing salacious or titillating. At the very least, it expands a kid’s idea of what this genre of art can tackle, and makes the modern woke comics look ridiculous.

    The idea that it should be walled off until one is 18 or 21 seems absurd – particularly since the young men who might profit from its history lessons are romping through WW2 battlefields in online games. What Maus writes on the blank slate is a story of horror and compassion and survival in the face of racialist statism, in a way that’s accessible to a visual generation. I’m just surprised some people didn’t object because the mice smoked cigarettes.

    That may well all be true. As I mentioned, I’m unfamiliar with the book.

    What’s important to keep in focus is that there is no objection from the right to teaching about the Holocaust, nor about other excesses of totalitarian governments. There is no viewpoint censorship. That is, with virtually no exceptions, the left’s shtick.

    Point of interest: Germans do almost exactly what you call absurd. They do not even broach WWII era history in anything but a cursory way until …after seventh grade. And the Holocaust? Not until 9th or 10th. Not at all, except in the very general, yes, this happened. The “and Opa might have been in the SA” part does not come until kids are 15, 16. Then the field trips to Dachau, Buchenwald and so on start. I find the way that German schools deal with World War II, the Holocaust and all of their history infuriatingly wrong, almost criminal.

    As you describe it, I think this is exactly the correct way to do it.  

    • #25
  26. Henry Racette Member
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    DaveSchmidt (View Comment):

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):
    Kids are blank slates. It matters what you write on them. It matter to their future and ours. I’m sure this is a fine graphic novel — for adults.

    There’s nothing in there a 16 year old can’t handle. There’s nothing salacious or titillating. At the very least, it expands a kid’s idea of what this genre of art can tackle, and makes the modern woke comics look ridiculous.

    The idea that it should be walled off until one is 18 or 21 seems absurd – particularly since the young men who might profit from its history lessons are romping through WW2 battlefields in online games. What Maus writes on the blank slate is a story of horror and compassion and survival in the face of racialist statism, in a way that’s accessible to a visual generation. I’m just surprised some people didn’t object because the mice smoked cigarettes.

    That may well all be true. As I mentioned, I’m unfamiliar with the book.

    What’s important to keep in focus is that there is no objection from the right to teaching about the Holocaust, nor about other excesses of totalitarian governments. There is no viewpoint censorship. That is, with virtually no exceptions, the left’s shtick.

    Point of interest: Germans do almost exactly what you call absurd. They do not even broach WWII era history in anything but a cursory way until …after seventh grade. And the Holocaust? Not until 9th or 10th. Not at all, except in the very general, yes, this happened. The “and Opa might have been in the SA” part does not come until kids are 15, 16. Then the field trips to Dachau, Buchenwald and so on start. I find the way that German schools deal with World War II, the Holocaust and all of their history infuriatingly wrong, almost criminal.

    As you describe it, I think this is exactly the correct way to do it.

    I don’t know what is the “right” age at which to bring up various topics. I’m sure it varies by individual, and perhaps by national character and culture. Germany is obviously a special case with special challenges — though, as World War II recedes into history the traumatic aspect must recede as well, as our own long-past history with slavery should now be tempered by distance.

    Tangentially: Having raised a bunch of young men, I think it’s good to consider at what age boys — specifically boys — are likely to be sensitive to certain kinds of tragedy and drama.

    One of the joys of parenting for me was reading out loud to my children. I remember reading The Hobbit to my older three boys when they were young. When we got to the death of Thorin, the only one in the room not in tears was my then-youngest boy who, at age five, simply didn’t experience the sense of loss like the rest of us did. I think young men may be relatively insensitive to accounts of suffering, tragedy, and injustice until they’ve gained perspective. For that reason, though my boys were avid readers I recommended that each hold off reading 1984 until I thought he had the sensitivity to appreciate the awfulness of it.

    (I read 1984 in late elementary school, but it made a much greater impression on me when I reread it years later.)

    I don’t know to what extent young teenage males would recoil from accounts of the Holocaust, unless those accounts are particularly graphic. Maybe that’s an argument for vivid graphical or textual accounts, or perhaps it suggests that this kind of material should be saved until it can make an impact.

     

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