There are pictures for children who know how to look--Dr Fredric Wertham
In 1954, book burnings became commonplace in the United States as a psychiatrist proclaimed that comic books caused juvenile delinquency. The hysteria he prompted almost caused the destruction of one of only two American-created art forms*.
In 2013, the CEO of the Chicago Public School system took the first steps towards restoring that grand tradition.
On March 14th, CPS officials visited Lane Tech High School's principal Christopher Dignam and ordered all copies of Marjane Satrapi's multi-award-winning graphic novel Persepolis removed from classrooms and the school library immediately. No reason was given.
The principal was troubled by this unusual directive. In a letter to staff (see slideshow) he reposted the oddly-worded directive and commented that, if he learned the undisclosed reason for the action, he'd pass on the information.
However, before he could get an "official" answer to his inquiry, his letter was "leaked" and the Internet community ran with it.
Within a couple of hours, publishing, library professional, comic book/graphic novel, educational professional, and political blogs and boards were buzzing with chatter as Dignam's letter circulated all over the world.
The CPS reacted by presenting several different (and contradictory) explanations to the public including...
- The books were sent to schools by accident and had to be returned to the publisher since CPS wasn't going to pay for them.
- It's to be pulled from only 7th grade classes because of "graphic language and images that are not appropriate for general use in the 7th grade curriculum", despite being recommended by CPS itself for use at that grade level. (It's also part of CPS' 11th Grade, Literacy Content, and [ironically] Speak Truth to Power programs!)
- The directive was "misunderstood" by CPS subordinates, which begs the question of how many other instructions were "misunderstood" and not been corrected.
CPS CEO Barbra Byrd-Bennett issued a "clarification" (see slideshow) stating that, despite it being recommended by the CPS for use in 7th grade classrooms, it should not be used in 7th grade classrooms.
Why the contradiction? Look at the art at the top of this article. That's the reason. Simple, non-detailed, graphics portraying (as tastefully as possible) a major plot point in the autobiographical tale. No Walking Dead-level gore. No sensationalism. Yet it frightened someone at CPS enough for the bureaucracy to attempt to ban it entirely, then start retracting and denying and modifying the directive in the hope that the controversy would die down.
Ms. Byrd-Bennett is showing the same intellectual dishonesty demonstrated by Fredric Wertham, who was recently-discredited for falsifying his findings to validate his hypothosis by Carol Tilley, ironically a professor of library and information science at the University of Illinois.
That the entire CPS could be prompted to this sort of knee-jerk reaction to what was probably a single complaint is frightening, especially in this day and age when we're supposed to be a more intelligent and sophisticated society than recent actions have demonstrated.
*The other one is jazz music.