(Editor’s Note: In 2013, Macey France wrote this very disturbing and critically acclaimed article for PolitiChicks. As a result, Macey was nominated for a CPAC award and Al Jezeera even had a panel discussion about it. In 2014 we transferred PolitiChicks.com to a new server which wiped out all the shares, but the last count for this was over 100,000.
We are re-publishing her article because as of July 2015, The Bluest Eye is still being used in schools. An update has been added by Macey at the end of the article.)
Following are graphic and explicit excerpts from The Bluest Eye, which is on the Common Core’s list of exemplar texts for 11th graders. If you are easily offended you may want to skip them and go straight to the story.
(Note from editor: Even heavily edited, this is still very graphic.)
Pages 162-163: “A bolt of desire ran down his genitals…and softening the lips of his anus. . . . He wanted to f*** her—tenderly. But the tenderness would not hold. The tightness of her vagina was more than he could bear. His soul seemed to slip down his guts and fly out into her, and the gigantic thrust he made into her then provoked the only sound she made. Removing himself from her was so painful to him he cut it short and snatched his genitals out of the dry harbor of her vagina. She appeared to have fainted.”
Page 174: “He further limited his interests to little girls. They were usually manageable . . . His sexuality was anything but lewd; his patronage of little girls smacked of innocence and was associated in his mind with cleanliness.” And later, this same pedophile notes, “I work only through the Lord. He sometimes uses me to help people.”
Page 181: “The little girls are the only things I’ll miss. Do you know that when I touched their sturdy little t*** and bit them—just a little—I felt I was being friendly?—If I’d been hurting them, would they have come back? . . . they’d eat ice cream with their legs open while I played with them. It was like a party.”
Pages 84-85: “He must enter her surreptitiously, lifting the hem of her nightgown only to her navel. He must rest his weight on his elbows when they make love, to avoid hurting her breasts…When she senses some spasm about to grip him, she will make rapid movements with her hips, press her fingernails into his back, suck in her breath, and pretend she is having an orgasm. She might wonder again, for the six hundredth time, what it would be like to have that feeling while her husband’s penis is inside her.”
Pages 130-131: “Then he will lean his head down and bite my t** . . . I want him to put his hand between my legs, I want him to open them for me. . . I stretch my legs open, and he is on top of me…He would die rather than take his thing out of me. Of me. I take my fingers out of his and put my hands on his behind…”
Pages 148-149: “With a violence born of total helplessness, he pulled her dress up, lowered his trousers and underwear. ‘I said get on wid it. An’make it good, n*****, Come on c***. Faster. You ain’t doing nothing for her.’ He almost wished he could do it—hard, long, and painfully, he hated her so much.”
I understand that after reading those excerpts a lot of you may be angry that this is approved for reading in any school. I could probably end the article here.
However, there are many things that need to be addressed and I have detailed for you here with much help from Jill Manning, PhD.
Adams 12 5 Star School District is the 5th largest school district in Colorado and has transitioned to the new Common Core standards. The book, Toni Morrison’s 1970 novel, “The Bluest Eye,” is among Common Core’s exemplar texts for 11th graders.
I was recently afforded the opportunity to discuss the book with Dr. Jill Manning, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She has been involved in social policy and research and has testified for legislators on these issues. Dr. Manning is also a former Social Science Fellow at the Heritage Foundation. She knows what she’s talking about and she also happens to be a concerned mother.
Obviously the reason behind some parents calls for removing the book are the graphic depictions of incest, rape and pedophilia. And not just that, the book actually lets the reader see the depictions from the perpetrators point of view.
In fact, the author of the book, Morrison, says that she wanted the reader to feel as though they are a “co-conspirator” with the rapist. She took pains to make sure she never portrayed the actions as wrong in order to show how everyone has their own problems. She even goes as far as to describe the pedophilia, rape and incest “friendly,” “innocent,” and “tender.” It’s no wonder that this book is in the top 10 list of most contested books in the country.
The Bluest Eye is the story of Pecola Breedlove, a young black girl, who prays every day for beauty: for the blond hair and blue eyes that she believes will allow her to fit in. As her life begins to disintegrate in the face of adversity and strife, such as being raped by her father and beaten by her mother, she finally appeals to Soaphead Church, a pedophile, to help her attain blue eyes. After being impregnated by her father, she loses her baby and ultimately loses her mind.
Dr. Manning is one of 5 people to introduce research-based arguments to remove this book from approved literature in the classroom. Among the five people were two concerned parents who had children that were negatively impacted by the book, an English teacher, a lawyer, and Dr. Manning.
The parents who are actively petitioning the school board to have it removed from the classroom do not want a complete ban on the book nor its removal from the school; rather they would like it to be removed from the approved reading list in the classroom, where students spend three to four weeks reading and discussing, in depth, the developmentally inappropriate material.
There are people out there advocating to let this book remain in the classroom because 11th and 12th graders have the ability to read this material especially those in Advanced Placement classes. As Dr. Manning points out, there is a huge difference between being labeled a mature reader, as in one that is technically capable of reading challenging novels, and biopsychosocial maturation. One of the top reasons behind choosing this book is the fact that it is on the Common Core Standards list of exemplar texts. It aligns with the standards and meets the course objectives and needs of students.
Children are simply not mature enough to process the violent, incestuous sex scenes in the book. And yes, high school kids are still considered children! They are minors. They are not adults, and they are not in college. We need to use some common sense when choosing texts to be studied in the classroom. Children’s developing brains do not need to be assaulted with this notion of sexual violence. Educators are supposed to protect children from violence.
The American Academy of Pediatrics studies and develops policies pertaining to youth from birth through age 21, and specifically lists books as part of the mass media environment examined by their institution. The AAP states that exposure to violence in media has a significant risk on the health of children and adolescents and can contribute to aggressive behavior, desensitization to violence, nightmares and fear of being harmed. It is also associated with teen pregnancy and promiscuity. The AAP has also called on schools specifically to do more in the way of preventing young people from being exposed to and negatively impacted by harmful media.
Although this group of concerned citizens in Colorado, including Manning, have repeatedly asked to see any research that would back up the notion that this book and this kind of content is appropriate for children, they have yet to receive any evidence along these lines. Why?
Because there is no evidence that would suggest this book or this kind of content is proven to beneficial or not harmful to children. On the contrary, there are numerous studies from a wide range of fields showing a wide range of harmful effects and risks.
Through some bizarre loopholes in educational policy, this book and others like it are allowed in the classroom. It is able to slip past the checks and balances that we have in place to protect children from violence because even though it does not meet the common standard of decency, it is not a form of entertainment. It’s all in the name of English. No matter the level of filth in the book, it’s English! Therefore it must be allowed.
The Superintendent’s Policy actually has a section that should clearly cause for halt of having this book in the classroom: (“SP”) 6220, Section 2.2.2 requires that “[s]ensitivity to practices and beliefs of other cultures shall be manifested in instructional methods and academic content” (emphasis added). SP 6230, Section 4.0 adds that “[i]nstructional materials shall be selected which: . . . 4.2 enrich and support the curriculum taking into consideration the varied needs, interests, abilities, and maturity levels of pupils served.
Using just the smallest amount of common sense we can deduce that if the book cannot be read aloud in the class, could not be viewable if it was a movie and couldn’t be played on the stereo if it was a CD, then why is it okay for it to be read and discussed; in school of all places! In fact, according to one lawyer, if the incidents in this book were a movie or a picture there would be a very clear cut case for prosecution for child pornography.
I would imagine that a great deal of parents, especially anyone with any semblance of morality in their bodies would be opposed to this book being proffered by a teacher to his or her classroom. A teacher is a trusted adult and surely if they recommend a book for a student to read, that book then has more weight and is seen as “acceptable” with perhaps even “acceptable behavior” in it.
In fact, the teachers mark the pages that can only be read at home. The sexually explicit scenes that take place are noted by page numbers and the kids have to read those portions of the book at home. It’s truly astounding. If there are parts of the book that are so explicit that they can’t be read in school, you’d think that would be a giant red flag to keep that book out of the hands of children.
I’m all for freedom of speech but I draw the line when it comes to children and minors. Our schools are supposed to be working in tandem with parents to enrich children’s lives and teach them valuable lessons, not including introducing them to graphic, sexual violence with no mental health resources or context provided. Of course, if a book is chosen that would require mental health resources, again, you have a flashing red sign that reads: Not for children!
Not only that but it’s irresponsible to introduce this literature to kids who you have no idea of knowing their past experiences with rape, incest, or violence. Imagine the scenario where you send a child who has been abused or raped home to read the illicit portion of the book and he or she has to not only read it, and be confused by the portrayal of the perpetrator as a normal human being, but the child also happens to be living with their very own perpetrator who happens to be a family member.
People and educators who are in favor of this kind of book are misinformed. They are perhaps not aware of or understand the social science and medical research that suggest it is not an appropriate choice for the classroom. Many who have read the book still praise it due to its “the multi-layered structure” and comparisons to blues music. Dr. Manning believes that, in part, their praise highlights more of a desensitization to sexually explicit material and/or ignorance to the well-documented effects of this kind of material. And then you have people who just haven’t read the book themselves so they don’t know the graphic nature. They look to the lists of books that are deemed appropriate and trust the people who determined the book makes the list. The only caveat is sexual content is not on that checklist of things that would make a book inappropriate for school.
Recently a student, a minor, at one of the CO high schools has started her own petition to keep the novel in their classrooms. This reminds me of a small child advocating for more candy before dinner. Does a child know better than an adult? In most cases, no. In this case, especially.
In fact, in a Harris poll it shows that a 62% of Americans say that books with explicit language should not be available to children in school libraries. The same poll shows that a majority of Americans think no books should be banned completely (56%). This shows you that American’s are against book banning but wants limits by seeking the community standard of decency for books in schools.
Advocates also say that this book is necessary for college preparation. It’s beneficial to a student who can read these kinds of novels to prepare them for academic success. How is reading a filthy book filled with pornographic scenes beneficial and preparing a student for success in college? Oh, but it’s not a filthy pornographic book, it’s not entertainment, it’s for educational purposes! We just want to introduce the kids to different ways of life!
In case you’re just thinking, “Opt out” I have to tell you, opting your child out of reading this book doesn’t protect him or her. They are still surrounded by the other students who are going to be saturated with this book.
Students that are opted out were being sent to the library for self-guided study for three weeks. This actually violates the equal educational opportunity policy. According to Dr. Manning, the superintendent has now ruled that if this book is being taught, two classes must be offered that don’t use the book; however, again, this does not deal with the issue of harm. This ‘solution’ only deals with the fact that some people may not like the book. Opt out works when you have similar levels and appropriateness to the material being offered and when none of it goes into the realm of harmful material.
And let’s use the ever-elusive common sense here. If you have a movie that was rated R, a child under 17 couldn’t see it without parental guidance. It certainly couldn’t be shown in the classroom, so why in the world would it be okay to let the child read a book that contains the same sort of things that require parental authority?
This child pornography is protected and lauded because it resides between the pages of a novel. It is located in libraries and written by an author who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in the 1990s. Don’t forget Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace prize for…well, that’s still a head scratcher, so I don’t put too much stock into Nobel prizes.
This is not different than if I take some manure and spread it on a canvas and then place it in a gilded frame and hang it in an art gallery. I call it art, therefore, it is art. I encourage people to get up close with the “art” and even encourage touching it so they can really process it.
Now the same thing is true for the novel and for my manure art. It is subjective, it is potentially very harmful to people and in the end, it doesn’t matter the label you slap on it it’s still just a pile of manure.
Recently I touched base with one of the parents involved in the book challenge and was told a few interesting tidbits. One thing is clear: This is still a very unclear situation.
From my correspondence:
The only news I have is that the new district policy has made it easier for teachers to get instructional materials approved, and that parents are still asking for a clear policy on instructional materials so everyone knows what kind of content is going to be allowed- as they have for all other forms of media. The BOE is looking at all their policies this summer but seems very hesitant to state a content standard for curriculum. Now individual schools can approve books to go on the district list and parents can only access suggested materials for 30 minutes at the district main office.
I went to the Adams 12 website and accessed the Superintendent’s instructional policy section. There is quite a bit of red tape a complainant must go through, but ultimately the Superintendent has the final decision when curriculum or books are challenged.
According to my source, in other school districts surrounding Adams 12, there are many different novels for children to choose from when doing a unit study including the one offered on The Bluest Eye. In Adams 12, many students who opt out of doing the unit on questionable novels are still sitting in the library for the entire 3 weeks of the unit without any alternative lesson or unit.