Education cancelled: The "Odyssey" stayed on a weekend road trip
An anti-racist culture is not a one of cancellation, but of changing perspectives.
For a few years now, theorists like Angela Nagle have been warning of the oil slick that is looming on the Internet through the culture wars between an increasingly lenient alt-right, which was largely involved in the rise of Donald Trump, and a dangerously "canceling" progressivism.
But the witch-hunt on the net, which, although harmful, also leaves some room to investigate school.
To cancel school is to put knowledge in shackles.
A certain conservative wing has accustomed us to laud book censorship, which even affected Latino authors, as Elvia Diaz recalled in the Arizona Republic. In a recent article, she highlights the dozens of books, among which was Rudolfo Anaya's classic Bless Me, Ultima, censored in Tucson on charges of spreading anti-American sentiment among its students.
But now a thin line separates anti-racism from puritanism threatens to turn education into a neural desert, and a breeding ground for thoughtlessness. It's even more so when the social justice and feminist movements are tasked with a change of perspective on reality, and not the burning (symbolic or not) of books.
A few days ago, Meghan Cox Gurdon echoed in the Wall Street Journal a movement of ideologues, teachers, and agitators who condemned the classic texts from Twitter.
Described as "a movement to reconstruct the literary canon using a lens of critical anti-racist literacy," under the hashtag #DisruptText, teachers and know-it-alls are dedicated to condemning the reading of certain books in high schools, like Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter and even Homer's The Odyssey — a central book of classical culture from which generations of authors have drawn inspiration.
They also do not speak of "prohibition," but of eliminating The Odyssey from the reading curriculum.
Heather Levine, a Massachusetts English teacher, explained the trend during a commentary on a tweet posted by Shea Martin over the summer:
"Very proud to say that we have taken The Odyssey out of this year's curriculum," she wrote.
It was not long before criticism mounted both to Levine's commentary and the #DisruptText movement that Gurdon referenced in her article.
While one reader commented that it was "an educated version of book burning," another noted that "banning books is an act of cowardice by people who fear the ideas they want to hide and suppress."
In the midst of the battle to get schools to include seminars and courses on Black, Latino, and Native American history in their curriculums that reflect the diversity and sum of this country's legacies, instead of taking advantage of the movement to create a critical student body that can question the constructed narratives, they were set them aside in the name of justice.
But against justice.
A society whose culture is scrutinized is on its way to committing the errors of the past. Neither art is much less moral, nor were the struggles for civil rights founded on a complete lack of knowledge of what they were fighting for.
A school is indeed a temple. Not of dogmas, but questions.