Literature, Top Stories

From To Kill A Mockingbird to Ballet Shoes: A Plea to Save Children’s Literature

The Peel District School Board straddles the outskirts of the Greater Toronto Area, with more than 150,000 students enrolled in its elementary and secondary schools. Visible minorities make up more than half of this culturally and linguistically rich catchment area. And occasionally, local controversy erupts when the progressive mandate of the provincially-run education system accelerates headlong into the more conservative attitudes of local parents, especially when it comes to sex education. Indeed, Ontario Premier Doug Ford campaigned successfully on a promise to roll back the most progressive elements of the curriculum put in place by the previous (Liberal) government.

But the problem runs deeper than discussions of birth control and safe sex: A recent Peel District controversy over Harper Lee’s classic 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbird shows how wide this gulf has grown between ordinary parents and the professional class that presumes to oversee the educational system.

To Kill a Mockingbird may only be taught in Peel secondary schools, beginning this school year, if instruction occurs through a critical, anti-oppression lens,” declared the School Board in a recent memo. “When To Kill a Mockingbird is taught outside of this context, the novel has the potential to cause hurt and harm. As educators, we have an obligation to provide learning environments that are safe and inclusive—that honour staff and students’ identities, cultures and lived experiences, including those of the Black community. Of this, there can be no debate.”

To be fair, To Kill A Mockingbird is a bit of a tired chestnut. This isn’t the first time that the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel has become a prop in the battle over political correctness. But the language used by the School Board—especially the jargonny reference to “a critical, anti-oppression lens” and the stark denunciation of “debate”—really does betray how little concern many educators have for the viewpoints of ordinary students and parents, most of whom would prefer that children read and appreciate a gripping and iconic morality tale than be subjected to turgid lectures cribbed from critical-race-studies texts.

The episode is symptomatic of a phenomenon I have observed as a schoolteacher elsewhere in Canada and beyond: The children’s literary canon is sinking into the muck of identity politics, with grievance-studies devotees seeking to either “de-platform” older books, or teach them through the single-issue lens of grievances studies.

One can see how these forces coalesce institutionally—often with good intentions, at least at first—through the minutes of a June 2018 Peel District School Board meeting, which featured discussion of We Rise Together (WRT), a group that was formed with Board funding to investigate and challenge systemic racism against black students. Out of that meeting came the demand “for changes in learning material that portrays black people in a negative context, to remove To Kill a Mocking Bird [from] the reading list, to have educators offer positive and encouraging comments to black students in classrooms,” and so on. The minutes specify that “A response will be brought to the next Regular Meeting of the Board.” And the times being what they are, it was evidently difficult for the Board to resist falling in line.

Minutes from a WRT Advisory Council meeting in April, 2018 shows how the process works at a granular level. WRT workshop participants, we are told, expressed a fervent desire for more materials and training about combatting racism (which seems credible, since, in the current environment, few educators would attend such a meeting and not feel inclined to publicly strike such a posture in front of their peers). We also are informed that “there is hunger amongst the White administrators to bring the information back to their home schools and to work in school teams within their local team context…If White teachers are concerned about going back to their White colleagues to tell them about what they are learning, what does this say? That we have a problem of White supremacy.”

Plow through these documents, as I have, and you will find that the ideal teacher is held up as the constantly on-message teacher-activist who has memorized a list of fashionable terms and aphorisms, and who labors tirelessly to proselytize colleagues in regard to these approved mantras. In a January 2017, Peel Board Meeting, for instance, Director of Education Tony Pontes gushed appreciatively about a colleague who’d done work “to help students succeed, such as equity and inclusion, providing gender-neutral washrooms, acknowledgement of First Nations lands, student census, and support for black boys.” As for the three R’s, well, there’s only so much time in the day.

In a recent Toronto Star column Rosie DiManno quotes some of the anonymous responses she received from educators about the To Kill a Mockingbird controversy, including this one: “What next, The Merchant of Venice because Shylock is a Jewish moneylender without remorse. Maybe they’ll decide Shakespeare isn’t appropriate for this age. Is this the first shot across the bow to see how much pushback they get?’’ Alas, this proved prophetic. Not so long after these words appeared, the leader of Bishop Strachan (BSS), a private Toronto girl’s school in Toronto, had to surrender her own pound of professional flesh after an English theatre company performed a satirically adapted, performance-art version of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice for BSS students. Principal Judith Carlisle’s last position had been head teacher at Oxford High School in England, where the same play had been staged, by the same company, without incident. At BSS, the reaction was very different. Carlisle resigned. Alumni were informed by email that “the process [of staging the play] failed to adequately prepare the students or provide appropriate context which exacerbated the damage, a reality for which we are deeply sorry. In hindsight, it was an error. An internal review is underway to establish guidelines and procedures to ensure this will not happen again.”

Such controversies aren’t new, of course: Every generation worries that modern students aren’t learning the beloved classics of their own childhood. And every cohort of educator should be alive to the possibility that the classics of yesteryear might need to be supplemented, or even replaced, by new books. But the use of social media as a tool of activism has turbocharged this process, with schools now stepping over one another in an effort to show how committed they are to ensuring that every single assigned book can be justified by direct reference to modern sensibilities. One private boys school in Toronto with which I am familiar, for instance, recently assigned its Grade 6 students the following books: Refugee by Alan Gratz (examination various modern refugee crises), The Other Boy by M.G Hennessey (gender transitioning), Shattered by Eric Walters (homelessness, PTSD, and the plight of military veterans), Bifocal by Eric Walters (racism) and We All Fall Down by Eric Walters (the 9/11 attacks).

Taken on their own, every single one of these titles is a perfectly legitimate, even laudable, choice for young students. And most parents would be proud to have a Grade 6 child capable of reading and appreciating such fairly advanced fare. The inclusion of a book about military veterans, moreover, will help assuage concerns that this is a component of a campaign of left-wing indoctrination. But the function of a reading list shouldn’t just be to educate students about current concerns. It should also be to awaken them to the great works of yore, on whose cultural foundation the modern literary firmament was built.

On a purely practical level, one of the functions of older books is that they introduce young readers to words, phrases and cultural references that, though now out of fashion, often will show up on standardized tests and in college coursework. Shakespeare alone created 1,700 English words, which took birth in fits of creation that still manage to take away a reader’s breath. This would include a word I used above, “fashionable,” which first stirred itself in Troilus and Cressida: “For time is like a fashionable host / That slightly shakes his parting guest by the hand / And with his arms outstretch’d, as he would fly / Grasps in the comer: welcome ever smiles / And farewell goes out sighing.” By what definition of “equity” would we deny exposure to such cultural treasures to students—especially public-school students whose parents might understandably wish them to be armed with the cultural tools stereotypically associated with the offspring of elites?

The pattern now is to denude language, not enrich it. In a recent article, children’s author and two-time Carnegie Medal winner Geraldine McCaughrean, put it this way: “While vocabulary used to be ‘free range,’ now it feels policed against political correctness and difficult language.” Words such as “mellifluous,” she said, had been rejected from manuscripts for teenagers because they were seen as too obscure. A “fellow author was saying that ‘superb’ had to be changed because no child will understand it. But they never will understand it if they don’t read it.”

One of the reasons I’ve chosen not to continue my work as a schoolteacher is that I have seen children and young adults gauzed up in the cotton wool of equity mandarins whose mandate is to reduce education to a process of indoctrination. And if a book is seen as interfering in any way with today’s fashionable dogmas, then it is the book that “farewell goes out sighing.”

* * *

This is personal for me. I am writing not just as an educator, but a book lover. When I was an asthmatic child growing up in New Zealand with a sway back, eczema and a raspy cough, I fell in love with a number of novels, none more so than Ballet Shoes, a dazzling 1936 tale of dance and adventure by Noel Streatfeild. My hometown of Christchurch was a parochial, garden city perched on the foothills of the Canterbury Plains—a place where residents were decidedly more interested in sheep than the Bolshoi. The height of sophistication was donning a Guernsey jersey to swan about Merivale Mall. Ballet Shoes took me to another world.

Like all great children’s books, the book provided a connective tissue between my own pedestrian daily life and the possibilities that awaited in the wider world. In my mind, the Fossil sisters—Pauline, Petrova and Posy—had a fourth companion named Carla. I adored my pet lamb Alice and chicken Peck. But, what I really longed for was a “smart motorcar,” a monkey, an ermine-trimmed coat and a long-lost uncle to regale me with stories of “the Continent”— whatever that was. Pink shoulder shrugs, pointy toe shoes and resin romanced my tender soul. True diversity, any good book shows, is about the person, not their race. Streatfeild’s characters brimmed with curiosity, ingenuity and resilience. It never would have occurred to me that these qualities would take any different form if they’d be personified by characters with different skin colors or pronouns.

Reading is a gateway to empathy and understanding. It is also a heady cocktail of language, characters and themes whose lingering memory shape our thinking for a lifetime. A curriculum shaped by equity officers—as opposed by true lovers of literature—will always ill-serve students, because it inevitably will focus on the limits of human experience, not its possibilities. Like so many other school boards, Peel Region has committed itself to teaching students that the defining features of their experience and consciousness is their status as racialized, disabled, transgender, cisgender, refugee, Indigenous, “settler,” black, white—grievances to be catalogued and parsed.

As a teacher, I have had the privilege of teaching unusually smart children. One of my best experiences in this regard came when I taught a class of 18 girls at a private Toronto school, almost all of them true bibliophiles. One of our read-aloud books that year was The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by the prolific Edward Irving Wortis (who writes under the pen name Avi). The rich language reflects the novel’s 19th-century setting. And the ritual of reading it out in class was a social act that brought us all closer together intellectually. A meeting of minds doesn’t require a sharing of hash tags.

If I did return to the classroom, this is a book I would teach. I would also teach the aforementioned Ballet Shoes, which contains any number of strong female leaders—including the headstrong Sylvia (or Garnie as she’s known), and her sidekick Nana as the unimaginative but necessary voice of reason. Certain boarders at their home can easily stand in as LGBTQ representation. Mr. and Mrs. Simpson, who own an auto-repair garage, represent the cause of the working class and the aspirations toward upward mobility. (They are a refuge for Petrova, the young Russian adoptee who prefers tune-ups to tutus.) Then there’s Madame Fidolia, the former Russian prima ballerina who fuelled my ballet fantasies all those years ago. She turns the young adoptees into professional working children of the stage, teaching them independence, humility and resilience.

Ballet Shoes showed me the many worlds that collided between the two world wars, complete with a magnificent London backdrop, in which nannies took their small charges to the Victoria and Albert Museum on rainy days. This portrayal of a bygone world deserves its place on modern reading lists not because it reflects the world we see around us, but precisely because it does not.


Carla Rosemary Wilson is a Toronto-based writer and teacher. Her works include Christmas at the Krak. Follow her on Twitter @carlarwilson.




  1. Peter from Oz says

    It is always interesting how the leftists just assume that there is sytemic racism. Do they ever actually check? Of course not, because their progressiveness is a new puritan religion. It is anti-enlightenment and anti-intellectual.
    WHat do we do about these people? We tell them that they are wrong. There is no racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia. There is only oikophobia, the progressives’ fear and loathing of their own culture.
    SInistra delenda est.

    • Squesh Bighorse says

      You know, I was about to get in a twist about all this. Then I happened to read something. This Jewish heretic with great spirit said:

      “Every plant that my heavenly father did not plant will be uprooted. Leave them: they are blind guides to the blind; and if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” (Ματθαιος 15:13)

      If the parents don’t stop this; and the government doesn’t stop this; and the administrators don’t stop this; and the teachers don’t stop this; and the children stare at their mobiles and don’t care where they step but only about what somebody said about what somebody wrote about what somebody posted five minutes ago … I wish them all luck. Really.

      Maybe they won’t fall into a pit.

      But I won’t follow them, even to call out warnings. For that puts me on the path to the pit, too. I do not want to fall into a pit. I choose another path.

      • George G says

        @Squesh Bighorse

        Interesting point and one I’ve been thinking over too. I’ve seen posts in these comment threads regarding Trans campaigners and Radical Feminists fighting it out, and basically saying let them destroy each other, just keep well away. It feels counter intuitive, I want to take some form of action to resist both these groups but maybe doing nothing is the best course of action?

        The enemy of my enemy is also my enemy, so fuck ’em ?

        I’m keen to get others thoughts on this

        • Ray Andrews says

          @George G
          That might just work. The neo-Marxists believe that power, and the oppression necessary to hang on to it, is the only thing that exists — which is why the only thing you need to say or even can say about the Patriarchy is that its only purpose is to hang on to power — it follows that once the Patriarchy has been smashed, the current coalition of the Victims (united by only one thing and that is the desire to smash) must themselves fight it out for power and the winner become the Oppressor in turn. Their doctrine makes it impossible for them to cooperate with each other for very long even in theory. Surely the black wimin will end up at the throats of the Privileged white wimin? Surely the lesbian wimin — doubly Oppressed — must fall out with the hetero wimin? As you say, we’ve already seen how vicious it can get with the recent scrap between the radfems and the transwimin.

        • Social justice is a cult where everyone can experience mystic revelation & become their own demagogue. You have to study it like epidemiology – I personally see it like The Peoples Temple. This was a new religious movement founded in 1955 by Jim Jones in Indianapolis, Indiana. Once they were going to be outed by local journalists in LA – Jones lead them into the jungle. In the case of social justice the followers will flea into their own mental wilderness hoping their religion will rescue them. Essentially it will drive a lot of kids to want to kill themselves. I believe the suicide rates among teens is booming – possible evidence that my proposition is true. Wow !

      • What an interesting thought, and approach. I would like to hear more about the ‘other path’ you speak of, and what it means to you.

        To me, perhaps, I take this away: this civilisation is rapidly unravelling. Maybe this is meant, or at least inevitable. What are we trying to ‘save’ here? A consumer culture which is eating the planet alive? Rabid individualist urbanism gone crazy? The craziness that Quillete reports upon so well is a symptom of a cultural disease. Technology and economics have driven us here. There is probably no way back. This is what a decadence looks like.

        What does a retreat from this instead look like?

        • Squesh Bighorse says

          @Paul and George:

          Yes. Yeshua bar Yosef and Siddhartha Gautama were both counterintuitive. I find their unintuitive wisdom rather subversive and fun. They taught to direct one’s own heart, not the hearts of others. Using force upon wisdom and the hearts of others brings disorder.

          For me, the other path is love and forgiveness. These break the cycle of disorder, recrimination, and violence. It’s the path of total responsibility, the warrior heart of the peace chief.

          It’s a steep path along a cliff edge, frightening and sometimes lonely. One must watch others suffer for the ignorance they choose, unable to do anything to stop it. Sometimes one must suffer fools and injustice against the self and say nothing. It’s a daily struggle with serial failures; but it is a struggle the Great Spirit (or the Father or Yahweh or The Way or Divine Mother or the Great Interdependence …) blesses.

          Who knows what precisely is happening or what will happen? No one, not even the great intellectuals. But if one desires spiritual order, Yeshua bar Yosef said:

          *Turn your cheek to blows and do not strike back (not to be confused with foolishness like “go looking for people to hit you and play the martyr”)

          *Practice charity to those around you; especially the poor, weak, and children

          *Obey the tribal law yourself and do your civic duty; but don’t confuse that with the upright thought you still owe the Father in your heart

          *Do not demand wealth and good fortune from the Father; he knows your heart and what you need

          *Treat others as you would desire them to treat you, and let that be your Spirit Guide

          *Spend no time attempting to fix the hearts of others who do not desire your wisdom or assistance

          *Sacrifice yourself for the good of others as a gift; and NEVER play the victim or condone victimhood

          *Refuse the temptation of unjust wealth and power

          *Ask the Father to give your heart the strength of faith and forgiveness; you will get it

          *Love your enemy for the opportunity he gives you to strengthen your heart

          *Remember that The Deceiver thrives in the weak heart and whispers to The Deceiver in other weak hearts


          Yeshua taught that those who practice these truths will become a great light to the world, a shining village on a hill. Great hearts change hearts by their example. Kindness and self-responsibility are viruses that cannot be contained, the strongest medicine.

          I talk about Yeshua in particular, because he guided the West and is familiar, and as wise as they come. His teachings have been lost in ceremony and intellectual repetition, but they are still there, waiting to be truly heard and taken in. I chose to read him in the Greek as a hobby, but since that’s not a hobby for most: I like a new translation that has come out recently:

          As for what’s happening around us: great suffering continues as is the way. The weak of heart and the fearful seek to control what they do not understand and fix others instead of fixing themselves. Our children suffer from depression, anxiety, and loneliness because we feed their intellects and their mouths but not their hearts. They abuse substances and play games to distract them from the gnawing hunger in their hearts.

          The poet T.S. Eliot wrote:

          “Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
          Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?”

          In the cycle of the world among peoples, sometimes a crisis, an intervention, needs to come, a fire set against the fire to keep the fire from burning on and on and slowly consuming the forest and the plain and the villages there.

          I have suspected for a while now that a worldly old war chief, alloyed by wealth and lust and fighting, a man who deeply understands great evil from all sides, a subtle trickster more clever and strategic than most suspect, has decided to encourage bickering among the tribes and nations to force the moment to its crisis, so that the village of his children does not slowly burn and leave them with no home in the world. I suspect we may soon witness that crisis. It’s a risky game that can go wrong, but there is always hope.

          We shall see. Till then, I will do my best to fix my own heart.

      • Constantin says

        @Squesh Bighorse – I am alarmed by your comment. I am no stranger to dark thoughts of abandoning the restless post-modern zealots to reaping the just deserts of their own making. Indeed, I could even contemplate a time when Islam may become both the only viable and the attractive alternative to a an abyss of tribal warfare brought about by insane identity politics. Do we really want to live to see that moment, or hope that our children will live to see it?
        Whichever form it may take, the wrath of God is both formidable, and very unlikely to spare those who saw it coming and washed their hands as Pontius Pilate is said to have done. The Schadenfreude may be very short lived, no matter how well deserved. 🙁

        • Burlats de Montaigne says

          ” Our children suffer from depression, anxiety, and loneliness because we feed their intellects and their mouths but not their hearts. They abuse substances and play games to distract them from the gnawing hunger in their hearts.”

          Sanctimonious tosh. The kids are doing fine. You sound like a cultist.

          • Boni G says

            The kids are doing fine? Have you been in a classroom lately?

      • Bruce Wing says

        If they fell into the pit quickly, I would agree with you. They don’t however. It takes decades. That means millions and millions of children are hurt by this. Fight it now. Please. Fight it now.

      • Circuses and Bread says

        @ squesh

        That Jewish heretic was a real smart fella. He also said: “And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.”

        Good advice. We should follow it.

    • Emmanuel says

      @Peter from oz, the whole point of saying that racism is systemic is that you no longer have to prove that it exists or is at play in a given situation. When you state that racism is everywhere and influences everything, it is no longer necessary to give evidence for racism. On the contrary, asking for evidence of racism becomes an evidence of racism. Systemic racism is a assertion-based and non refutable concept.
      Of course, such a worldview is incompatible with the fact that in every “systemically racist” western country there are many non white minority which, on average, fare better than the White majority. But, hey, as many have said before, the first thing a man ( or a woman/ non binary person/ gender queer thing/ transspecies folk) will do in the name of his convictions is lie.

    • There’s plenty of bias, but the laws have changed to prevent the state from doing the worst (slavery, segregation, prison labor…). It is funny to hear complaints about racism and sexism and homophobia, etc. and then have them proudly point out how different races, religions, sexes and such won elections, as if a bad society somehow gives power to those it fears and despises.

  2. Andrew Robinson says

    So, in the past we also banned books (Fahrenheit 451, 1984, To Kill a Mockingbird) because they talked about “unpleasant” subjects. Can you please write a post about the censorship of books like these and tell me how it was much different than today’s choosing books based on themes?

    • Kent M. Gold says

      “So, in the past we also banned books (Fahrenheit 451, 1984, To Kill a Mockingbird) because they talked about “unpleasant” subjects. Can you please write a post about the censorship of books like these and tell me how it was much different than today’s choosing books based on themes?”

      Yes, I can.

      There is a chasm of difference between banning new books because of incidentals offensive to the vagaries of present sensibilities and scrubbing a curriculum of works that contain timeless truths, so that those timeless truths don’t interfere with the New Thought Order.

      • Goshen Wizard (@Goshwiz) says

        @Kent Gold: “There is a chasm of difference between banning new books because of incidentals offensive to the vagaries of present sensibilities and scrubbing a curriculum of works that contain timeless truths, so that those timeless truths don’t interfere with the New Thought Order.”

        Indeed. This isn’t just banning Huckleberry Finn because parents or adminocrats are squeamish about the character Nigger Jim being called by his name.

        We have reached peak stupid, at which Stanferd, Hahvad, and Kale no longer ask students to have ANY contact with the classics if they don’t feel up to it, or it irritates their non-white skin.

        Thus, students have no sense of the big human questions, questions that don’t go away, even if you ignore them. Vague, feel-good sentiments (anti-oppression, diversity, inclusivity) have replaced timeless truths, and feel-good sentiments leave one prey to manipulation, chauvinism, and sophistry (“Israelis oppress the indigenous peoples of Palestine, so it’s fine to despite and boycott Jews. And it’s a racism to say the Canaanites were the indigenous people of Judea …”).

        The hippie drum circle song of “Every generation is just like another / And thinks the new generation is going to hell / But it all works out tra-la tra-la” may not apply in this time. Prussian education practiced indoctrination much like this into the late 1800s. Two consecutive, unpleasant international misunderstandings ensued as those children grew up.

        That’s right, I said that word: HIPPIE. Get over it.

    • X. Citoyen says

      When you lump everything together, it’s all meet the new boss, same as the old boss. But there are important differences. In the past (and still in the present) parents see sex, swearing, or violence in a book and they make a complaint. If they’re also in a position of power (e.g., school board), they might get the book removed from the local curriculum, though probably not the library. Eventually cooler heads prevail and the book goes back on the curriculum—that’s why you see the same books getting “banned” over and over again.

      The new boss is not protective parents, but activist educrats whose primary concern seems to be turning children into foot soldiers of the revolution. They haven’t gotten their way in the past, but they are now because their numbers in positions of power have grown. In case I need to spell it out, we’ve gone from short-lived bans instigated by over-heated parents to gov’t bureaucrats banning books that don’t promote the political attitudes they want your children to have. Apples and oranges, my friend.

    • I hink a closer analogy with the present censorship would be that of the former Soviet Union, and long before that, the Index of the Catholic Church.
      Both were concerted attempts to make some thoughts impossible.
      Who ever banned 1984?

      • Graham Kelly says

        And let us not forget the Texas Board of Education, whose conservative perspective and buying power has influenced the content of school books all across the USA for many decades.

  3. celf help says

    “Reading is a gateway to empathy and understanding.”

    I’d argue that most art is, or at least has the capacity to be, and perhaps that’s a reason why the West has largely drifted so far from both empathy and understanding.

    For the last few decades, art has been reduced to pure entertainment and/or ideological affirmation, with no regard towards its culturally transcendent power, leaving even most “underground” scenes scrambling to be the next hot/relevant trend, instead of the next sincere expression of self. The various art industries are now entirely focused on the same thing as our politics: money. We don’t even care about longevity anymore, as long as it makes us a quick buck; lovingly paired with how we encourage EVERYONE to be an artist now, every area is painfully oversaturated with half-hearted, casual “artists”, meaning there will be an infinite supply of fodder to rake the money in.

    Film, music, photography, and digital/traditional art were easy to devalue with the eras of Napster, torrenting, and “exposure” scamming; books however seem to be a little harder to kill, and this may well be exactly how they dissolve: policing their material with only the most recent social “standards”, until authors don’t even bother anymore.

    Seems like these days, you’re better off starting a podcast instead of writing a book.

    What continues to blow my mind though, is how the majority either isn’t catching on or can’t bring themselves to care. Art is continuously climbing upward in other parts of the world, and we’re willingly stuck here, eye-deep in stagnate muck.

    As much as I prefer other forms of art to books, books are the last line of defense and last ray of hope; if they fall, North America (at the very least) won’t be far behind them.

  4. Albigensian says

    The end stage is a relentless presentism in which nothing that was not written within the last few years with a careful eye toward inoffensiveness will be acceptable literature for public-school students to read. For what’s acceptable to current PC has become so narrow that only something written with contemporary standars can possibly thread this needle.

    And, is it necessary to point ou tthat school administrators are exquisitely risk-averse? Even if they are not entirely OK with this need to relentlessly scrub everything students read (or perform, or view) they have no wish to end up in the crosshairs of some SJW mob.

    As Ray Bradbury’s character Beatty put it in Fahrenheit 451,

    “Now let’s take up the minorities in our civilization, shall we? Bigger the population, the more minorities. Don’t step on the toes of the dog-lovers, the cat-lovers, doctors, lawyers, merchants, chiefs, Mormons, Baptists, Unitarians, second-generation Chinese, Swedes, Italians, Germans, Texans, Brooklynites, Irishmen, people from Oregon or Mexico. The people in this book, this play, this TV serial are not meant to represent any actual painters, cartographers, mechanics anywhere. The bigger your market, Montag, the less you handle controversy, remember that! All the minor minor minorities with their navels to be kept clean. Authors, full of evil thoughts, lock up your typewriters. They did. Magazines became a nice blend of vanilla tapioca. Books, so the damned snobbish critics said, were dishwater. No wonder books stopped selling, the critics said.”

    The past is truly a foreign place where they did things differently- in some ways better than we, but in others far worse. Better it be banished; let every year be Year Zero, with all school materials carefully scrubbed of anything that is not relentlessly, spotlessly clean until they just radiate their conformity to the requirements of this year’s PC.

    • George G says

      @ Albigensian

      great name , the Albigensian Crusade is one of the most fascinating incidents in history imo

  5. Nathan says

    This is the devastating part, the devastation of the soul and of self-understanding: “A curriculum shaped by equity officers—as opposed by true lovers of literature—will always ill-serve students, because it inevitably will focus on the limits of human experience, not its possibilities. Like so many other school boards, Peel Region has committed itself to teaching students that the defining features of their experience and consciousness is their status as racialized, disabled, transgender, cisgender, refugee, Indigenous, “settler,” black, white—grievances to be catalogued and parsed.”

    I teach in an American college English department, and I have put three children through the public schools. This is what I have come to again and again. We are not teaching the most important things. In fact, we are teaching that some of the least important things about us are the most important things about us. Love, war, suffering, friendship, family, freedom, hope, religion, philosophy, childhood, democracy, forgiveness, music, science, mathematics, mythology–beauty, justice, truth. There is a literature and a living body of these things. There is so much to be learned. So much meaning and so much possibility. Do we really want our children to understand themselves primarily in all the identity categories that distribute grievances and privileges and that force them to give up on the truly most important things?

  6. Professor Puppypants says

    I don’t know how much sympathy I have for any student who doesn’t have the stones and the curiosity to go out hunting for himself. By the time I was in sixth grade I had pretty much chucked the assigned curriculum and started reading Shaw and Jim Carroll and Tolkien and Lester Bangs on my own time.

    Schools are naturally going to teach reading as strictly a skill; they can’t teach you to have taste. So naturally they are going to use anodyne, sentimental, unobjectionable moralizing nonsense like Harper Lee. Either you care enough to seek out the China White on your own, or else you just go through life murmuring twaddle about equity and oppression.

    Thought experiment: assign the kids the odious Harper Lee. But just leave lying around on the lunch room tables, copies of “The Once and Future King,” “Mother Night,” “Arms and the Man,” “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.” The kids who secretly bogart those, are the ones worth actually educating.

    • DiamondLil says

      Puppypants: I’ve been thinking the same thing. What is more natural and predictable than that children will seek out the forbidden and hidden? As the excesses of PC groupthink become more monolithic in the schools, the students themselves rebel against them in private. T’was ever thus.

    • When I was about 10, the local librarian called my mother to see if she approved of my checking out the book, “The Foxes of Harrow,” a current best seller. I began reading westerns at age 6 and read a serialized novel in “Argosy Magazine” in 1946 that became the movie, “Shane.” I went on from there to the Iliad.

      • Peter from Oz says

        yes it all starts with a few pulp books and comics and before you know it, they’re on the hard stuff.
        I can’t remember how many times I have had to help some poor sod or sodette who picked up Proust or Powell and ended up actually knowing something that wasn’t about the inate sexism, racism, homophobia or transphobia of modern society. It is an addiction that we must help to stem. We can’t have people reading unapproved literature. Soon they will be telling us that people aren’t to be judged solely on their immutable characteristics. What kind of world will we have then? Will gangs of white youths roam the streets discriminating against people of colour? Will women be required once again to have abortions in alleys in between slaving barefoot at the kitchen sink for husbands whoo spend all day down t’pit? The whole future looks bleak unless we stop children from reading anything not approved by the education department.

  7. Farris says

    Five approved books listed in the article and three are by the same author.

    Today’s reading lists are reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution in China. All the approved art follows a strict script of focusing on the glory of identity and its grievances.

    So nice of the bureaucrats to free the children from hearing, reading or seeing anything that might be disturbing or thought provoking. This is state enforced ignorance.

    Future History books: In the U.S. the North and South fought a civil war over (an unmentionable topic). The South wore uniforms, played anthems and carried symbols (not to be pictured, heard or viewed). A group of people were freed from (an unspeakable) oppression. The good guys won but countless identities remained oppressed. The battles were commemorated in (nonsafe zones) throughout the country.

    • ga gamba says

      Five approved books listed in the article and three are by the same author.

      Presumably Eric’s mum is the headmistress.

      What confounds me is this is a private school, one where parents pay serious money to get their children away from the thin gruel served to the plebs.

  8. Circuses and Bread says

    Here’s the relevant part of policy/program memorandum no. 131 from the Ontario Ministry of Education: “When parents give a board written notification of their intent to provide home schooling for their child, the board should consider the child to be excused from attendance at school, in accordance with subsection 21(2), clause (a), of the Education Act. The board should accept the written notification of the parents each year as evidence that the parents are providing satisfactory instruction at home.”

    There you have it, straight from the horse’s mouth. So why get all stirred up about this when a solution is readily at hand?

  9. ga gamba says

    Of this, there can be no debate.

    In education there are a few things that ought to be “no debate” such as “don’t groom the students for abuse by paedophiles” and “don’t set the buildings alight”, but declaring a book had better be taught in one particular way, through one “lens”, or else the teacher will face consequences, as heavily implied with the “there can be no debate” full stop, is exceedingly authoritarian. Even then when sensitivity is exercised, things go awry because someone is always going to be offended. When it’s racialised be assured the media is on it like flies on muck. Further, it’s as if the authorities hadn’t read To Kill a Mockingbird or have completely missed its point.

    What in the book instills such fear? Reading news reports of a variety of school districts where demands for its banning occurred, the reporters write, “the language makes people uncomfortable.” Often the articles themselves don’t dare mention what the language is. It’d wager it’s harmful and scary though. That “language” is – brace yourselves, and those with heart conditions ought to cease reading here – the word nigger. I find often even the kinder, gentler code “n-word” is too much to bear for the journalist to put in the article: it’s simply “language” and the harm it does.

    This complaint is the most conspicuous one and it’s also the easiest to substantiate; “nigger” appears several times – 48 times to be precise – in the book. Yet it’s never used in a flippant or incendiary manner. (When I was young it was The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn that was sparking the complaints, but I haven’t heard much about the book in recent years so I guess it’s been removed quietly from the curriculum.) So touchy are people about the word that other words such as niggardly and snigger, ones that have nothing to do with nigger, have been swept up in the maelstrom. What next? Naggers? “It’s a dog whistle!”

    When criticising the books opponents claim “America hasn’t come to terms with the legacies of slavery”, which sounds insightful but then you realise “come to terms with” is left undefined. Is there a “let’s bring back slavery” movement raging across the States I hadn’t heard about? Are people denying slavery occurred? The many blessings of slavery? “Come to terms with” appears substantial and nourishing yet in and of itself it’s a thin broth. The irony of shelving such books away from students is they’re not exposed to the lesson, and with that goes the “coming to terms with” expectation the pundits mention. That many of the same people also advocate neo segregation and the racism of positive discrimination suggests to me they have their very own coming to terms with to, well, come to terms with. Heavens! Can it get more bizarre and twisted?

    Why not revise the books and use a less “incendiary” word? Heck, the Bible has been revised numerous times and that’s the word of God. No? It violates artistic integrity? OK, how about only the black students read aloud the sentences where the word nigger appears? This conforms to the rule that only blacks may say the word. They may even drop the hard r, if they choose.

    Actually, I think there’s more than the conspicuous “nigger” at play here. Over the past few years I’ve seen the rise of “stay in your lane” admonishments and “white saviour” accusations amongst the progressive chattering class. To Kill a Mockingbird violates both: a highly regarded novel written by a white progressive featuring a heroic white protagonist benevolently exercising power with a black character relegated to the margins. Yet at the same time there exists the demand that whites “do more” in their performance of allyship. I suppose an appropriately woke To Kill a Mockingbird, authored by a black writer naturally, would feature a kickstarter appeal for whites to hire a black lawyer to defend the accused. Better still, the accused would be sent to a critical legal theory law school and return years later to not only defend himself but also topple the systems and the institutions.

    • yandoodan says

      I once used the word ‘chigger’ in the presence of a black employee, and was called out to my boss. He, of course, knew what the word meant (as does everyone who has ever sat on the ground in the sandy Coastal Plains of the South) and I got in no trouble. This was thirty years ago. True story.

  10. Susan says

    The copy of Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” which I was recently assigned substituted “rigger” for the n-word. Also, as others have pointed out, “To Kill a Mockingbird” has become more problematic since Atticus Finch did not believe all women.

  11. The blander the school curriculum becomes the more students will turn to the internet for more interesting writing.

    The current approach in Peel encourages a parental backlash. If Ontario’s new Premier receives complaints about this he may well amend some legislation to prevent it.

    • I can only imagine the scene: teachers protesting outside with their armies of proselytized (and highly politicized) young charges and the CBC giving us daily coverage and interviews with poor traumatized students.

      In retrospect, having gone through the Ontario public school system in the 90s, recent developments shouldn’t be that surprising. Back then it was generally just the teachers themselves who were preaching the left-wing mantra. But clearly it had its effect as my generation is now graduating into positions of power in various branches of government bureaucracy – especially education.

  12. Farris says

    What happens if a student elects to do a book report on “Huck Finn” or to “Kill a Mocking Bird”? I’m guessing the book would not be approved or the teacher would simply assign books but not being a teacher I don’t actually know. Wouldn’t rejecting a kid’s book choice as racist be stigmatizing?

    • E. Olson says

      It would mean going straight to the principal’s office, and probably some sort of re-education to wash those bad ideas out of the errant student’s head.

  13. Morgan says

    On hearing a similar criticism of modern education, an acquaintance casually remarked that the “generalized stupidification” of the young is giving hers a superb competitive edge.

    • George G says

      @ Morgan

      I’ve been wondering about this myself, @ Squesh Bighorse , made a similar point above. Maybe it’s counter productive to fight the culture wars, perhaps the best thing to do is bunker down like an intellectual survivalist? Take responsibility only for your own education and those you care for.

      Emerge once the world has become like Idiocracy and become King / Queen.

      • Morgan says

        Independently of the state of affairs, one must always take responsibility for one’s own, starting with oneself, then one’s family, then one’s social environment, and so on.

        I would say that the aspiration to become a “monarch” is fundamentally delusional. The perceived power of governance carries with it the inherent responsibility of the position. Fools desire it while the wise carry their burden and seek no more.

  14. E. Olson says

    I for one applaud these initiatives to shield young people from bad words, uncomfortable topics, patriotism, and other topics and themes that show the diversity of both good and bad in the real world. It should be clear to any observer that exposure to the writings of racist, sexist, homophobic, dead-white males (and a few token white females with the same undesirable qualities) are the primary cause of poor black and Hispanic performance in school. Rather than learn out-dated concepts and vocabulary of Shakespeare or Twain, it would be far better for school curriculum to focus on the more inclusive and up-to-date poetic themes and language of more modern artists such as Ice Cube, Iggy Azalea, and Snoop Dog. It is also clear that other school topics such as math and science are inherently racist and sexist as they force students to learn so-called facts such as 2+2 = 4 as the only “correct” white male derived answers, without considering the diversity of other possible “correct” answers that provide higher self-esteem to students from historically disadvantaged backgrounds. In fact, since school seems to be such a divisive tool for separating people based on such intimidating and obsolete concepts such reading comprehension, writing skills, and math mastery, it might be best to do away with all traditional classroom topics so that more time could be devoted to correcting social injustices.

    • George G says

      @E. Olson.

      Not everyone can be a genius but everyone can be made to be equally stupid.

      Interestingly many UK left-wing labour politicians went or sent their own children to private schools, Corbyn, Chakrabarti, Abbot and McDonald all benefited. It just the usual, do as we say not as we do. Ignorance for your kids and a job at the top for mine.

    • Ray Andrews says

      @E. Olson
      “such as 2+2 = 4 as the only “correct” white male derived answers”

      Doubleplus goodthinking there. Not too long ago The Conversation (always at the vanguard of Correctness) had an article about the need to ‘Decolonize math’. Away with Euclid and Pythagoras and Gauss and Newton and all of them! We need a mosaic of mathematicses that are homonormative and Afrocentric and 50% female.

  15. Eric the Half Bee says

    Presumably a narrow, boring curriculum will tend to put young people off studying literature at university, and so enrolment in English and related departments will fall – as I believe it has already – and academics specialising in it will find less demand for their services.

    • DiamondLil says

      Eric: Sadly, this leads to such faculty desperately hanging on to relevance by racheting up CRT underpinnings of their curriculum.

  16. annaerishkigal says


    I’ve got three kids in high-school and middle-school right now, and for the past year I’ve been assigning them an extra 2 hours each day of “deprogramming” by assigning extra (related) reading to do with each homework chapter; paired with a l-o-n-g list of written questions to make sure a) they read and understand it; b) make sure BOTH sides of an issue are presented; and c) debunk the worst of the progressive rubbish.

    Those who say “just homeschool” obviously have no idea how MUCH information kids have to learn these days … it takes me 3 hours per kid, per day (9 hours a day) to read through what the school assigned to them each night, search out readings that both reinforce the legitimate lesson, but counteract obvious brainwashing, and then make out a list of questions that ask thoughtful things that will help the kids see the big picture, including other concerns at play (i.e., the U.N.’s progressive Agenda 21 vs. national sovereignty and U.N. corruption). And that’s BEFORE I seize their electronic devices, sit over them, answer questions, discuss the subtleties, and then read their answers and give the appropriate tea-and-cookies-and-praise reward for doing all this extra work. I can’t imagine how much time it would take, times 3 kids who are all at different levels, to flesh out and teach a full 30-hour-per week school day. I sought out “homeschool curriculum” because initially I wanted to just yank them out of school, but nearly all of it is written by fundamentalist Christians who want to teach “creationism.” I don’t want right-wing brainwashing any more than I want left-wing brainwashing.

    READ your kid’s textbooks!!! Your jaw will drop when you see what b.s. they’re teaching your kids these days. Even hard science textbooks have become contaminated with “progressive” brainwashing. :-/

    Unfortunately, I just can’t afford to send 3 kids to private school :-/ And most of the private schools around here are even more “progressive” than the public schools, so that’s an ixnay.

    • Circuses and Bread says


      I was puzzled by your post. Seems to me that for the amount of time spent in reprogramming, you could be designing and tracing your own curriculum. And while I believe that most homeschooling families are religious, there is a significant minority who are not. And they are being catered to. A quick internet search on secular homeschool materials yields dozens of sources, peer groups, and the like. And if that doesn’t work, the academies offered by many states will provide the materials at no cost to you.

      One thing that I have noticed about home school families is that they generally try to share the load. I.e. they teach kids in small groups with parents specializing in certain topics.

      • annaerishkigal says

        @Circuses and Bread

        I live in Massachusetts, one of the bluest, most “progressive,” biggest brainwashing states in the country. There AREN’T any families in my area who aren’t full-blown “resistors” except for the rare evangelical Christian. I’m a political moderate. I don’t want propaganda from EITHER side.

        As for the “curriculums”, even the non-Christian ones were extremely expensive and of questionable quality. The independent ratings cited too many kids who failed to pass MCAS using those programs. All the families I know that homeschool have produced kids who struggled to graduate, and then couldn’t compete and dropped out of college. So … eh … meh… I’m a “consumer reports” kinda mom. The ratings, and the results, just don’t match the hype.

        So, yes, I -could- design my own curriculum from scratch. With the exception of upper level math, which I just don’t have the skill to teach so I’d have to delegate that to my husband, I’m quite capable of teaching everything from Plato to the Space Program. But there are no like-minded families in my area to share the load, so I’d be doing it all myself. And then there’s the fact I’d be socially isolating my kids from their friends, they wouldn’t be able to play sports and participate in clubs anymore, nor would they be able to go to dances or homecoming or the senior prom. My kids have made it quite clear they have no intention of dropping out of school and staying home, and at 16, 14 and 12 they have a lot of say.

        Seriously, people who say “just homeschool” have no idea how much work it is, how expensive it is, or what you’re asking kids to give up. Homeschooling is like communism, good in theory, but when the rubber meets the road, the result usually results in (academic) genocide.

        At least I’m lucky that my kids are well-behaved and ambitious enough to give up an extra 2 hours every afternoon, and 6 hours on the weekend, for “extra” curriculum.

  17. Daniel says

    Wow. Anyone else ever have that wonderful line from the movie, Valkyrie just pop into their minds?

    “Every problem in the world can be solved with the careful application of high explosives.”

  18. Ken A. says

    The more naive readers of this site might be forgiven for coming away with the impression that there really is a “thing” call “Grievance Studies”. As in “I plan to pursue a doctorate in Grievance Studies over the summer”

    In reality, “Grievance Studies” is a wholly imaginary bugbear fabricated by those who are offended by the uncomfortable idea that persecuted minorities might actually have legitimate grievances.

    Remember, to a Stalinist “The Gulag Archipelago” is a Grievance Study.

    • Yes, the missing chapter from Solzhenitsyn’s great work undoubtedly contains detailed descriptions of incorrect pronoun usage and exposure to inappropriate Halloween costumes suffered by Stalin’s prisoners.

      • Ken A. says

        Thanks for your reply, in which I did detect just a faint whiff of sarcasm. 🙂

        Attempting to follow your drift, I’m guessing your point is that some grievances are justified (e.g. about being imprisoned in a Stalin-era labor camp) whilst others are trivial (such as being bothered by “inappropriate” Halloween costumes).

        I’m going to make a radical suggestion here: Community norms about what is decent and acceptable in even so trivial a thing as Halloween costumes might help elevate a society to a point where Stalin-like policies would tend to fail.

        But I’m curious about your underlying position: Is nothing “inappropriate”? Does “everything go”? Are all community norms invalid?

        • Alistair says


          “Attempting to follow your drift, I’m guessing your point is that some grievances are justified (e.g. about being imprisoned in a Stalin-era labor camp) whilst others are trivial (such as being bothered by “inappropriate” Halloween costumes).”

          Well, at the risk of being pedantic I would say the second instance is not a “trivial” grievance at all; it is NOT a legitimate grievance at all, full stop. It is distinguished by manner, not degree. You start with bad ethical premises; that somehow you (or others) have a right not to be offended, and that breach of this “right” constitutes a legitimate grievance, however slight.

          Au contraire, puritanical “community norms” and legally protected classes do not elevate a society above Stalinism. They are the descent into Stalinism itself. Try saying a bad word about the Communist party on the streets of 1950’s Moscow.

          Yes, “Grievance Studies” is indeed a shorthand to describe a range of fields with specious historical theories, scientifically nonsensical beliefs about biology, unfalsifiable critical theory methodology, pseudo-Marxist economics, and above all a marked hostility to open enquiry. It is a good shorthand and a real thing. In fact, it is the reason Quillette came to be (especially the hostility to open enquiry).

          You are welcome to protest the existence of “Grievance Studies” of course, but frankly most people here simply don’t and won’t believe you.

          • Ken A. says


            Very interesting and thoughtful reply! Totally wrong though, needless to say. 🙂 Your final sentence suggesting that Quillette is simply a mindless ideological echo chamber is discouraging, but I refuse to believe it, what what all the “accepting dangerous ideas” rhetoric.

            Let’s do this in two parts

            1) Puritanical Community Norms

            -Let’s say I see you on the Main Street of my small southern town wearing a t-shirt depicting Jesus being fucked by a pig. As a good Christian man, (and sensitive to community norms) I stop you and point out that I find this offensive. You can either:
            –Apologize and say you had no idea anyone would be offended and take off the offending shirt
            –Tell me to fuck off and that you have the right the wear any fucking shirt you want to.

            Both responses would be within your rights, but one response would make you a dick and the other one wouldn’t. So the question would be, do you want to be a dick?

            2) Please share a few examples of what the dreaded “fields” you so fear actually are.

            –Is one of them perchance “Post-Structuralism”? I’m with you there! Post-Structuralist raccoons are always getting in my garbage at night, waking me up!

            Thanks, just trying to have some fun. Something sadly lacking in most of the dire comments on this gloomy website. Lighten up, people!

      • Ray Andrews says

        One needn’t be exposed to an inapproprate Halloween costume, one need only know, or suspect, that there might be one of two of them out there, somewhere, to be triggered.

        • Ken A. says

          Wow, is that actually true? Can you point me to the relevant study?

        • Alistair says


          Thanks for the reply.

          1) I see where you are going. No one likes dick behaviour. But let’s be honest; this isn’t a debate about niceties and avoiding gratuitous insult aka Jesus Pig. The speech codes and puritanism are almost entirely about shutting down the public discussion of legitimate points of public debate under the guise of them being “insensitive” and intimidating political opponents. The puritanism is not aimed at stopping the “dicks” aka Jesus Pig. It is aimed at stopping the non-dicks who simply disagree.

          Too much immigration for social optima? Racist. Men and Women not entirely identical in psychology? Sexist. Transgenderism has dubious biological basis and obscure epidemiology? Transphobe. Don’t want to bake a cake? Homophobe. Black criminality is disproportionate to group size? Racist again. Persistent IQ differences across social groups? Double triple badthink racist.

          These are all points on which reasonable men should be able to differ and argue it out on the data, but have been hounded out of the public sphere by mob action and shaming. I call foul. And so does most of Quillette’s readership.

          More directly, we may say the Left is not concerned with “politeness”. It is concerned that it never, ever, hears certain arguments advanced in the public sphere. We see this clearly in the panel data that shows ethnic minorities (and others supposedly being protected) are much LESS concerned about such ideas and speech than the Left generally. And that the “protections” only ever seem extend to offence against groups and causes favoured by the left. C’mon; don’t insult our prima facie observations and attendant modus tolens here.

          (By the way, the concept of “cultural appropriation”, the loci of your initial claim, is another logically incoherent idea with evil consequences. )

          2) Well, I think you know the fields perfectly well, you and your post-structuralist raccoons. I recommend leaving copies of anything by Russell or Popper under the garbage, that will soon deter them.

    • georgopolis says

      @ Ken A.

      Grievance studies is indeed a contrived term, but an aptly named one. Your exercise in mind reading the authors of the grievance studies fiasco is uncalled for. They do not object to the idea that minorities may indeed have real grievances. If you came away with that conclusion, you haven’t listened to what the professors themselves said, nor the fact that their little exercise proved their point.

      Disagreeing with whole disciplines that frame every imbalance in society as the result of oppression is a far cry away from being “offended by the uncomfortable idea that persecuted minorities might actually have legitimate grievances.”

      • Ken A. says


        Let’s be serious: The obvious fact that obscure academic journals with tiny readerships publish nonsense and have low standards for peer review is hardly news. This hardly portends the downfall of Western Civilization, as some here would imagine.

    • Peter from Oz says

      You ask the wrong questions, so you get the wrong answers. This comes from starting at the wrong point. You assume people are persecuted, without any proof. The grievance studies people did the same. They started from the premise that various types of people were persecuted and then went looking for a justification for that belief. But they never find it. if they did, then policy could be made to correct the problem. But they don’t.find any proof at all, but rather engage in endless babbling about nothing.
      And lot of these people are probably quite intelligent. But if you get into the labyrinth of leftist thought, your intelligence goes for nought. You are caught in a world of irrelvancy and politics where everything is subsumed in the power vortex. These people waste so much time and effort on things that have no value. WHy aren’t they out there trying to find cures for cancer or a new accounting system or a way that we can ensure better environmental condiditions without ruining the economy, digging ditches etc?
      It’ seems that they think it’s more imprtant sweating over a non-issue in order to gain a little bit of power, than to do something useful.

      • Ken A. says

        In your opinion, has anyone ever been actually persecuted, ever? Or does the word “persecution” itself have no meaning?

        Frankly, you sound a bit persecuted yourself, what with all these crazy leftists and their annoying ideas. 🙂

        • Alistair says


          Of course people get persecuted. Most of human history is someone getting the short end of the stick. You don’t need to be a historian or economist to know that (but it helps!).

          But the current framing of persecution through a race/gender/sexuality lens with it’s strange hierarchy of oppression is insane. It explains almost none of the variance in observed outcomes and behaviour in the real world. It makes few good predictions. It is convoluted and internally contradictory.

          It’s simply substantively false. It’s a bad, horrible, theory And that’s before we get to the adverse social consequences it holds.

          (There are good meta-reasons to distrust the Grievance Studies fields too; It’s remarked hostility to free enquiry, weird moralising content, and its historical origins and clear intellectual debt to Marxism. But I’ll settle for saying that it’s major claims are predominantly false. It is simply not true.)

          • Ken A. says

            Please state explicitly what the very bad horrible theory you object to actually is. Who knows, I might agree with you, particularly if the theory isn’r falsifiable.

            Unfalsifiable theories are just pseudo-intellectual junk to me.


      • Ray Andrews says

        @Peter from Oz

        “But they don’t.find any proof at all”

        Sure they do! Most of their daily work is finding new proofs: unequal outcomes. And since no Identity has an equal outcome with any other Identity, it follows that everyone is persecuting everyone else and that the people with the lowest/worst outcomes are being persecuted by everyone. It follows quite logically from the premise that all Identities have exactly the same interests and exactly the same abilities.

  19. Alan Appel says

    One of Wilson’s less emphasized points” “Like so many other school boards, Peel Region has committed itself to teaching students that the defining features of their experience and consciousness is their status as racialized, disabled, transgender, cisgender, refugee, Indigenous, “settler,” black, white—grievances to be catalogued and parsed.”

    And what is the resulting model for the students? That they must embrace, above all things, guilt for their world in any direction that they look. Even if they are an acknowledged and lauded victim in one category (e.g., being transgendered) they must still take on the guilt for all other categories. It is the secular version of original sin, but without any means of expiation.

    Atticus Finch, on the other hand, is a worthy model of someone actively confronting the ills of the world, not someone who just wallows in guilt for a culture that he did not originally create. Thank you.

    • Ray Andrews says

      @Alan Appel
      “they must still take on the guilt for all other categories”

      I think that’s backwards. Of course Victimology is not a science that explains itself in detail — the Correct ‘just know’ how these things work — so for we Incorrect these matters are open to discussion, but it seems to me that one Victimhood rather absolves one of the collective guilt incurred by one’s other intersectional impurities. Thus the Privileged white feminist considers herself to be absolved of her whiteness by virtue of her Victimhood as a female, no? A gay man is not a member of the Patriarchy, nor is a transman guilty of any of its sins. Victimhood is a salvation that washes away sin. Even men, *even* if they are not gay, can be tolerated in polite Victim society if their self-flagellation is intense enough and if they have utterly surrendered to the Victocracy. They cannot be Victims, but they are tolerable as a sort of dhimmi and their wailings of self loathing are welcome. People who are only 1/8 Indian are absolved of their 7/8ths settler blood. Their Victimhood is undiluted. One is saved or one is unsaved, there is no grey area.

      • @Ray – A withering statement that should not just be buried in the middle of the comments section. – Impressive.

  20. Pizza says

    Pay for teachers directly and cut out the middle man and have DIRECT control over what is actually taught ….CONTRACTUALLY

    you will limit the number of students ,,,what can be taught etc etc

    no more unions …no more criminals allowed in/back in to the classroom

    Its all Contractual

    • RalphB says

      You’re right, Pizza, and I was hoping someone would point out that the reason we have a problem is that the grievance hustlers have gained control of collectivist (i.e. “public”) education. Your proposal will be met with a chorus of “whatabouts” (the poor, disadvantaged, etc.) that require a plain answer: “There will be no disadvantaged children because kind-hearted persons such as yourself will always be eager to contribute the money they save on school taxes to scholarship funds — and more — for the needy. We believe in you.”

      Some will choose to send their children to schools that prioritize social-justice awareness. Others will be more interested in classically important cultural and scientific knowledge and in the developent of cognitive excellence in their children.

      It will be a lot like ordering pizza: everyone can have it the way they like it.

  21. What I find remarkable here is how Ms. Wilson wants to lecture others like the WRT Advisory Council, while refusing to engage with them.

    She doesn’t actually converse with members of the group, and listen to their concerns; No, she simply reads minutes of their meeting and derides them as Philistines.

    No wonder she views them as strange and incomprehensible adversaries. And no wonder the regard is mutual.

  22. Nate D. says

    I recently taught a series on Anxiety and Depression. During my preparation I was initially confused by the statistics which seem to indicate that middle-class and upper-middle-class white kids struggle the most with anxiety and depression (especially since I’m currently raising kids within this demographic). A simple suggestion might be that these groups have easier access to interventions and are thus diagnosed and recorded in greater numbers. But I think there are actually a myriad of societal factors at play that are creating a recipe for anxiety and depression in these kids. Here are a three that overlap with the ideas presented in this article (keep in mind, these mostly apply to middle-class and upper-middle-class whites):

    1) Their affluence provides them with the means to sterilize their environments from adversity. This comes in many forms, be it coddling from parents and educators, to child-run homes in which parents cater to the whims of the children (where they vacation, what they eat, etc), to educational television shows that lack any real archetypal nemesis. Bullying is strictly policed in the school. Playgrounds have stringent rules about how many kids can climb on the slide at a time, and where the line for the swingset is to queue up. And, as per this article, books deemed to make people uncomfortable are expunged from the curriculum.

    Like a muscle that atrophies due to lack of use, these kids have no muscle for dealing with adversity. The lack of heavy lifting in their lifestyle and education makes them ill-equipped for their future – with its drudgery, power struggles, and heavy responsibility. (Coined “adulting” by millennials.)

    2) As Alan Appel mentioned above, “Even if they are an acknowledged and lauded victim in one category (e.g., being transgendered) they must still take on the guilt for all other categories. It is the secular version of original sin, but without any means of expiation.” Progressivism offers no map to redemption. If you’re raised on this current victim-hood narrative, you’re keenly aware that there is no path to redemption. That slavery happened in America is a historical fact that will never go away. It will always hang there, like a stench in the air, and talking about it only makes it more noticeable. It’s a scab that can never heal because Critical Theory’s m.o. is built upon picking at it incessantly – so it is destined to be a festering wound rather than ugly scar. This is your life white kid. Get used to it. Either acknowledge it and live with the guilt on a daily basis and sabotage your own potential for the sake of the narrative, or move past it and be called a racist and an abuser of your “white privilege.”

    3) Their exposure to ideas is so limited. This “lens” that the schools push is giving kids a myopic worldview that can’t really shed any light on the existential struggles they will face moving forward. The fact is we need exposure to ideas in order to become well-rounded individuals. I’m a conservative, but I let my kids read whatever books they want – just as my conservative parents did me. Barring my kids from certain books only does two things: a) creates an irresistible curiosity where one need not exist; and b) convinces my kids that I’m concerned the worldview I’m bequeathing them cannot withstand the marketplace of ideas. We attend church every Sunday, and my kids see C. Hitchens on my bookshelf and S. Harris on my podcast app. I need these men and value their insight – even as their ideas often make me stagger. This is how I teach my kids that we need people who see the world differently.

    How is the school system in question showing kids that they need exposure to different ideas? It isn’t, and it runs the risk of falling prey to items a) and b) in the paragraph above.


  23. Is this sarcasm??: “Such controversies aren’t new, of course: Every generation worries that modern students aren’t learning the beloved classics of their own childhood. And every cohort of educator should be alive to the possibility that the classics of yesteryear might need to be supplemented, or even replaced, by new books.”

    Please tell me it is.

    • Whoops. I read this incorrectly. I thought it said, “Every generation worries that modern students ARE learning….”
      In that context, it would have undercut the article. My mistake. Overall, fantastic article!

  24. What possible good would it do for anyone to read a book about “transitioning”. The whole world would be a better place without the entire idea that you can be born the wrong gender and somehow make yourself that gender through hormones, cosmetic surgery, and dressing a certain way. Its one of the most dangerous ideas ever cooked up by man kind.

  25. codadmin says

    You non-leftist teachers ( most of you locked in the closet against your will ) should start to have fun with your captors — just mention, meekly at first, the 100% lack of representation from ‘conservatives of colour’.

  26. X. Citoyen says

    We’re witnessing a massive shift in the aims of education. We used to educate the individual in the common culture on the assumption that the well-formed individual was the foundation of (as we say in the North) peace, order, and good government. Now we indoctrinate kids with socially desirable attitudes on the assumption that the social objectives of the day supersede the cultivation of individuals. Our children are no longer persons to be cultivated, but carbon units to be programmed for the optimal functioning of the hive.

  27. Without direct experience with children and teaching, I still sometimes come across the stuff the poor kids these days have to learn. I’m stupefied, it’s about the opposite we used to learn (about geography, history). Africa, so I read, once was a prosperous continent, until the westerners came there to discover and conquer it, divide it among them and take away all their richnesses, resources and even people. And made their wealth in the West with it.
    And all that where we were taught about the poor devils there, that prospered only somewhat because of our gifts and development efforts. In school, we had to save and contribute pennies for the poor and hungry and the mission there. I,m wondering what the influence of this new learning material will be, and on the way they look later, as adults, at that continent , the economic possibilities, the politics, the north-south relations.

  28. Jezza says

    I have on my shelf a book titled “Banned Books” which lists books banned between 387BC and 1978AD. It seems every book which has ever brought me pleasure or illumination has, somewhere or sometime, been banned by a cultural deadhead. A few examples: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, banned in1931 by the Governor of Hunan Province because “Animals should not use human language . . .”; ‘Studs Lonigan” by James T Farrell; “The Grapes of Wrath” and “The Wayward Bus” by John Steinback. Authors who have had multiple works banned include Upton Sinclair, Theodore Dreiser, Emile Zola, Thomas Hardy, Mark Twain, Balzac, P B Shelley, Voltaire (nine titles listed), Cervantes, Immanuel Kant, Erich Maria Remarque and so on. To what end? I ask you. The Talmud, the Koran, every version of the Holy Bible, anything that mentions sex, all have been reviled and excoriated. And yet they endure. So I say to anyone who wishes to quench the fire of curiosity,” Go stick your head up your bum and yodel.”

  29. Great article. Removing literature that deals with racial tension from curriculum seems like an illogical way of educating children on racism or help to put an end to it.

  30. Kevin Michalson says

    Much of the foundation for the formation of my essential psyche was created or influenced by childhood and adolescent reading. I won’t go into much detail about individual books or the particular effects they had on me, but from age six I read everything I could get my hands on. Reading is self-education, and reading at a young age is essential to the beginnings and nurturings of a child’s thought processes, which continuously build upon each other into a psychological, intellectual, runaway thought train as those millions of synaptic connections continually form in the young brain. Synaptic connections and formations (synaptogenesis) of course eventually slow, basically, from what I’ve read, so that our brains can keep us fairly sane. From age five, greatly because of reading, my synapses fired (there were other factors involved of course) and began to set the bases for my curiousity about a thousand things, which in turn began to make me. At age seven I received “A Biography of Harry Houdini” as a Christmas gift. From this book I learned about possibilities of genius, strength, deception, fortitude and death, though I think I more “absorbed” than “learned” these things, but they were in there…discernible yet?..probably not, but the best chili dishes or Bechamel sauces or the haunting melodies of the Blind Tibetans are wonderful and beautiful but, but not identifiable by a single ingredient, but by their utter lack of non-homogeneity. When I read “Tom Sawyer” and “Huckleberry Finn”, I saw the same things as in “Houdini”, but was also introduced to black people, slavery, child abuse, abandonment, the importance and price of sacrifice, true friends, successful ruses, dependence, survival, the Mississippi river, insanity, hatred and murder. Those books didn’t hurt me…they continued to form me, fed my curiousity, helped me to form opinions and questions. They’re now banned in most US dtates.”The Biography of Jim Thorpe” didn’t make me hate Native Americans. It made me realize that anybody can overcome adversity, anybody can rise above condemnation and condecension, prejudice and insecurities. That particular book inspired me to get involved in sports, excell in track, baseball and football. THAT BOOK did that. It inspired me to aspire to complete the “Presidential Fitness Test”, the requirements of which appeared in every US newspaper each week in the sixties and seventies. A boy had to be ten years old to apply. I practiced for two years. My point is that the Jim Thorpe book that I read at age eight inspired me, taught me, formed me. It still does to this day. I’m 57 years old. That book is also banned in several US states. The other books I’ve mentioned that I read as a kid also inspired me, though not overtly, but as subtle parts of my overall formation as a human being. I’m not a racist, not afraid of homosexuals, I don’t hate anybody but my ex-wife, I don’t throw bricks through Congressman’s office windows or burn buildings when I don’t like the outcome of an election because I’ve read books. I am fairly well adjusted. When books are forbidden to children, not only is literature denied, but thought is; the inability to think quashes creativity, and without creativity, a human being cannot exist. What seems to be on an especially fast track in at least the US, the UK and Canada is a nearly complete implementation of Lenin’s “Communist Manifesto” instructions, especially concerning the eradication of mention of any sort of “spirituality” from public schools and universities; the expulsion of courses and teachings of one’s country’s own history; the second generation of “teachers” (in the US, at least) that cannot correctly speak their own country’s language, or correctly punctuate a sentence. Mathematics is no longer taught. The books that taught those things are gone. Cursive writing was deemed “unnecessary five years ago. To people who read everything from a young age, is there really a question as to why those in charge of our schools now want to continue their drive to Leninist Communism, or at least Socialism?. Our children (and their parents) have been groomed to become Socialist automatons for forty years. Their takeover is approximately 50% complete. The recent US elections boosted it to 54%. Inability to critically think breeds ignorance and blind following of the sheep herders that blow their horns in their falsely fertile fields. In 313 BC, the Chinese Emperor Shih Huang Ti burned all books that his guys could find in China upon his ascension. In 1258, the Mongals did the same thing when they sacked Baghdad. In 1933, Hitler’s boys followed suit…replaced all Bibles with Mein Kampf of course; a terrible book by the way. I’ve read it, and it didn’t give my a bloodthirsty urge to kill people. We are now in the midst of another book burning campaign (figuratively of course), but even more profound in its insidiousness, profundity, destructiveness and lasting, permanent harm. It’s over. Does anybody know where I can get a copy of “Another Boy…Gender transitioning”? …or is that only available to ten year old children? I’m gonna blow my damned head off now. Goodnight.

  31. Kevin Michalson says

    That was a fairly incomplete comment that I made above, I think. My conclusion is: one must bend and weaken one’s will and mind in order to subdue his thoughts. Oh well…just racked a round.

    • Daniel says

      Kevin Michalson, it was an interesting comment. I’m not sure how it was incomplete, except for maybe paragraph breaks. 😉

  32. Daniel says

    “Taken on their own, every single one of these titles is a perfectly legitimate, even laudable, choice for young students. ”
    Another Boy is perfectly legitimate, even laudable for young students?
    Reserve me a front-row seat in the inevitable lawsuits that are coming. Cara Wilson, I hope you get the book thrown at you.

  33. Craig says

    Thanks for a real article with real information and meaningful analysis! It will likely never see the light of day outside this site for obvious reasons. This article is a spot-on validation of Eric Blair’s seminal thoughts on the vanguard of power structures. I wonder if the process of subverting reality will go completely unnoticed by the screen tapping masses, or if the blatant absurdity of it all will generate recognition and abhorrence. The real question for those who still think is; does the complicity of those in positions of authority stem from ignorance, apathy or allegiance? Do these people need to be educated or persuaded to reverse such corrupted ideas before they permanently delete independent thought?

    • Ray Andrews says


      “I wonder if the process of subverting reality will go completely unnoticed by the screen tapping masses”

      A nephew of mine is a pretty standard example of a millennial who spends his whole day looking at his device. He was taught almost nothing in school and has no idea what it might be to educate himself or what it would feel like to know something. But the other day over dinner the subject of trans came up and he ventured that this idea that one’s gender is whatever one wants it to be is utter nonsense. Some folks will always know which way is up.

  34. Hilarious, the author decries rising issues of identity as if they’re absent in the classics (which definitely drives both the old and new canon of kids lit, yet there’s a tremendous gulf between Huck Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird – the former self-reflexively uses ‘racism’ as a lens for satire and conveys a multi-layered consciousness, the latter stays dead-serious about ‘race’, nearly religious; can anyone say “the Church of the Pulitzer”?).

    Then she shoots her foot waxing pathetically about fossils from her youth starring sisters literally named Fossils.

    Give me a break. It’s not Leftist or Right-wing. It’s about consciousness, and providing children a group of associations about relationships at ALL scales of society. Tools for navigating bias that’s inherent in the brain.

    • Jeremy H says

      “It’s about consciousness, and providing children a group of associations about relationships at ALL scales of society. Tools for navigating bias that’s inherent in the brain.”

      Could you clarify this? Because honestly I can discern no meaning in it in relation to whether To Kill a Mockingbird belongs in school classrooms or not.

      • To Kill a Mockingbird stays dead-serious about ‘race’, nearly religious; can anyone say “the Church of the Pulitzer”?

        Mockingbird definitely does NOT belong in the classroom anymore. Despite its reverent tone, cardboard stereotypes populate the book, not archetypes. (whereas the stereotypes of Huck Finn are fleshed out and contradictory.. i.e.: they’re actually complex characters underneath stereotypes.) Huck Finn will ALWAYS be relevant in both classroom and canon.

        What that means is, Mockingbird has little ability to convince people with bias to change their tune, since its lessons are strictly moral, whereas Finn has an the potential for getting readers to consider just what bias is and how it changes per context.

        If you need to ask about the differences between stereotypes and archetypes and how they influence children in different ways, then study psychology and linguistics.

        • Jeremy H says

          Presuming your interpretation of each work is correct, then that is still no argument for removing it from the curriculum. By your own analysis the works could be taught side by side with reference the discrepancy between stereotype and archetype. I would hope this is actually what the Peel Board has in mind with its diktat: “To Kill a Mockingbird may only be taught in Peel secondary schools,.., if instruction occurs through a critical, anti-oppression lens”, but I fear they mean something much cruder.

          • It’s so cardboard cut-out and wooden, why bother torturing children with Mockingbird’s monoplane of ideas?

            You sound even more into programming children than school boards do.

            Why bother when there are astounding books with incredible levels of gradients rather than the simplistic dichotomies we have to bear in Pulitzers like Mockingbird?

  35. Leif Erickson says

    As educators they have an obligation Not to shield students from influential literature. 20 years ago I was part of a cast which performed Kern’s Showboat which is a musical play about race. The first word in the show is the N word and the casting is ‘to type’; the black characters are real black people! and the white characters are real white people! After getting agreement from the black cast we stuck to the lines in the original script – this is hardcore racist language and it drives the racial energy of the story. Modern shows have the strong language removed which takes away the point of the show. I’ll never forget my lines spoken out in a small theatre to hundreds in the audience – it really made me understand why they produced a play about this issue in 1927. It was to bring home the brutal truth of racism in southern society to the New York audience. Interfering with original works of art really is a mindless philistine thing – imagine crudely modifying a Picasso or a Boticelli painting with a black marker pen? It is a form of post-editing. Like unleaded petrol, decaffeinated coffee, Diet Coke. “We can remove the nasty bits so your own mind doesn’t have to”. You will no longer be able to appreciate how cruel racism is as the author intended you to. We have decided that your mind is too delicate to handle it. Your mind must be protected by us. “As educators, we have an obligation to provide learning environments that are safe and inclusive—that honour staff and students’ identities, cultures and lived experiences, including those of the Black community. Of this, there can be no debate.”

    This is the beginning of the end for arts education in North America.

    • Paintings aren’t directly modified where they’re hung. Musicals are interpreted EVERY time they’re performed. The initial BWAY staging of Sweeney Todd included a Victorian socio-poli-interpretation even Sondheim disagreed with but was forced to agree to as he was NOT the director.

      If you can’t fathom why historically inaccurate and simplistic understandings of racism (“Show Boat”) are being edited out of relevance today, then you don’t understand how all culture slowly rejects its dinosaurs.

      You’re falling prey to nostalgia. Go write a musical.

      • Jeremy H says

        “…then you don’t understand how all culture slowly rejects its dinosaurs.”

        Cultures typically don’t reject their dinosaurs (the Egyptians clung to theirs tenaciously for over 3000 years) they just get replaced by younger cultures whose “dinosaurs” out compete the older ones. Cultural growth is never accompanied by censorship, this is always a symptom of one culture attempting to replace/suppress another. “Progressive” culture desires to dominate the narrative regarding race relations and is, thus, in the process of weeding out all the cultural artifacts of the previous, more liberal, century that don’t conform to their narrative. Rejecting this has nothing to do with nostalgia, which is always something internal to a single culture, but part of a cultural war between two world outlooks: liberal vs progressive.

        • Yes, the Egyptians had their dinosaurs, like the Greek, Sumer, Romans. Look at the early cults and watch some skeletize and watch then others disappear. I’d read some Franz Cumont for info.

          This is not a supportable statement “Cultural growth is never accompanied by censorship, this is always a symptom of one culture attempting to replace/suppress another.”

          First of all I could easily argue German cultural growth 1933-1943 was massive, and it involved severe levels of restriction. Want to know why? Because there are neo Nazis scattered all across the globe now. The same goes for Leninist practices and USSR. That’s massive cultural growth as well that’s led our very own Steve Bannon to proclaim he’s a “Leninist” without irony.

          Have you ever really had a debate?

          • Jeremy H says

            The Wiemar Republic could hardly be called a cultural unity. The “levels of restriction” to which you refer are among the tools of domination that Nazi “culture” used to to do dispossess of power all the competing cultures in Germany at that time. The dominating culture of a state (i.e. Brahmans, patricians, etc.) always uses cultural restrictions/taboos to separate themselves from the lower cultural strata.

            Being grouped together under the political designation of a “nation” hardly implies a unity of culture, even at the best of times. Unless you’d care to argue that being U.S. citizen at the present indicates belonging to a unified culture? Historically the greatest cultural wars have taken place within a polity not between them and I’d argue that this is what we’re witnessing in the U.S. right now, as opposed to the “growth” of culture.

        • Sorry I was a student of Mosse in the 80s. Gotta read “Nazi Culture” to see all about their culture (without any “” around the word.). And yes it WAS a culture that people inhabited. I don’t know where your fudging the Weimar into this. Weimar dies in 1933.

          This statement is completely unsupportable since I can find examples, however few that refute this. “The dominating culture of a state (i.e. Brahmans, patricians, etc.) always uses cultural restrictions/taboos to separate themselves from the lower cultural strata.”

          “Always” is the tell. If you need insight into this arena I recommend Cassirer’s “Myth of the State” as a base back in time and flow into the newer bibliographies into people like Yoffee and Scott “Seeing Like A State”.

          Debating the unity of cultures at various scales is not applicable to the basic argument that began in this article, as cheesy as it was, about debates over children’s lit. We’ll have to go back to the definition of culture (does it begin with wasps 300 million years ago as Bonner claims) or does it begin in Erectus/Habilis with shelter design, or does it begin with entoptics in the Paleolithic?

  36. btw Does the ghost of Saladin play ‘Christmas Past’ in Christmas at the Krak?

    Christmas at a crusader fortress! That is f***ing hilarious.

  37. R Henry says

    Western cultures are incrementally rejecting their own philosophical foundations. Before long, the whole edifice will come tumbling down. That will be a very unpleasant historical moment.

    • Well, EVERY culture eventually changes its phil foundations. Some do it rather drastically. Don’t use the continuum of history to back up your argument unless you know what you’re talking about, chief.

      • codadmin says

        @R Henry

        The West is in the same position as the Russians were before the Bolshevik revolution.

        Oppressed Westerners are not rejecting their own culture. Their culture is being conquered.

        • You mean a single woman called them/you deplorable and as all false victims (dominant group seeking more dominance), they ubiquitized it as a political shield.

          Same tactics as before, this time so strategy to speak of.

  38. David says

    I see the “progressives” have read and utilised 1984 as an instruction book and are now moving onto Fahrenheit 451.

    Maybe the issue they have with To Kill a Mockingbird is it’s representation of a false rape accusation.

    How can they #BelieveAllWomen if a book like that exists?

    • “84” was instructional, it provided a ‘stark’ difference for the West’s conflict with the iron curtain. It’s point is moot today. The REALNESS now, our druggy state from media and big pharma is Huxley cubed. We are in the brave new world. Can kids unplug from corporate-govt oversight from within?

      To Kill a Mockingbird is a piece of cardboard. It’s dated. Its simplistic, it’s bland, dump it.

  39. It seems that many thought leaders are attributing student efforts to shut down speech / free thought to their emotional and intellectual fragility. Perhaps that is true, but from my perspective it really strikes me that they are motivated primarily by power and attention seeking.

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