Alaska School Board Bans ‘The Great Gatsby’ and Other ‘Harmful’ Books

The Great Gatsby
Warner Bros/IMDB

An Alaska school board has decided to ban The Great Gatsby and other classic literary works over concerns that the books contain content that is “harmful” to students. Educators around the nation have criticized the decision, arguing that the decision amounts to censorship.

According to a report by NBC News, the Mat-Su Borough School District in Palmer, Alaska, has come under fire this week over its decision to ban several novels that school board leaders have deemed “controversial.”

The banned book list includes The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, and Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. The school board voted 5-2 to ban the books during a meeting that took place last week.

Why exactly were the books banned? School board officials that the books contain content that is inappropriate for high school students. “‘Caged Bird’ was derided for ‘anti-white’ messaging,’ ‘Gatsby’ and ‘Things’ are loaded with ‘sexual references,’ ‘Invisible Man’ has bad language and ‘Catch-22’ includes violence,” the district claimed.

School board Vice President Jim Hart argued that it was appropriate to ban the books because they would not be permitted in a corporate environment. “If I were to read these in a corporate environment, in an office environment, I would be dragged into ‘EO,’ an equal opportunity complaint proceeding,” Hart said.  “The question is why this is acceptable in one environment and not another.”

Parent Rachel Gernat condemned the decision, arguing that banning these books will not prevent the students from encountering “inappropriate” content.

“Every class will have … at least a student who has been the victim or a family member has been the victim or has been discriminated against or has experienced violence in their life,” Gernat said. “To think that by not reading ‘Why the Caged Bird Sings’ means therefore children will not be exposed to sexual abuse is … closed-minded and ignorant,” she says.

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