The McMinn County School Board recently made headlines when they voted to remove Maus from the eighth-grade curriculum. At a recent school board meeting, opponents of the book’s removal spilled into an overflow room. The outcry has not persuaded the school board to reconsider. 

Author Art Spiegelman has expressed bafflement at the board’s decision and seized the moment to foster conversation about censorship.1

“It’s certainly about Jews, but it’s not just about Jews,” Spiegelman said earlier this week during a virtual discussion on book bans hosted by the Jewish Federation of Greater Chattanooga that more than 10,000 people attended.

“This is about othering and what’s going on now is about controlling … what kids can look at, what kids can read, what kids can see in a way that makes them less able to think, not more. And it takes the form of the criticisms from this board,” he added. “It’s a book that breaks through in a way that others can’t,” he said. “It allows an entry point for people. I just don’t want it to be boxed in as only about the Holocaust or only about the Jews.” 2

You may be wondering why a graphic novel like Maus would be so essential to teach in the classroom. Maus should be included in your curriculum for several reasons. 

IT IS A PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING BOOK

First and foremost, it is a recognized work of Holocaust literature. In addition to being a Pulitzer Prize-winning book, numerous scholars and historians praise it as an essential work for understanding the Holocaust. Because it is a graphic novel, it is less dense and more engaging than many other works of Holocaust literature. Furthermore, it is one of the few Holocaust-related works accessible to young people.

In addition to its literary merits, Maus is a great educational tool. The book can be used to teach about the history of the Holocaust and, more broadly, about racism and bigotry. Maus is an excellent way to bear witness to one of the most important events of the twentieth century. As Elie Wiesel once said, “For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.”

IT TEACHES EMPATHY

Furthermore, Maus is an excellent tool for teaching empathy, as it humanizes the experiences of Holocaust survivors in a way that classic texts often cannot. In addition, the format of a graphic novel can engage reluctant readers and provide a new perspective on history. 

One of the most important lessons we can teach our students is empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. It is an essential skill for living in a world where we constantly interact with different people. 

Maus is an excellent example of how literature can be used to teach empathy. Through Artie’s eyes, we see his father’s experience in Auschwitz and Dachau, and we feel his fear, pain, and confusion. By reading Maus, students can develop empathy for Holocaust survivors and better understand their experiences. 

GRAPHIC NOVELS

In recent years, there has been an increase in the popularity of graphic novels. Graphic novels are an excellent way to engage reluctant readers. They can also provide a new perspective on history. 

Maus is a prime example of how a graphic novel can offer insights that traditional texts cannot. Pictures allow readers to see the events unfolding before them rather than just reading about them. Students whom a traditional history book might otherwise turn off may be more interested in reading Maus because of its format. 

Furthermore, Spiegelman uses images to reveal more to his audience than he does in his words. As Jeanne Ewert says in her article “Reading Art Spiegelman’s Maus as Postmodern Ethnography.”3

 “The novice reader of Maus will assume that the comic merely illustrates the textual narrative, and is more likely to read the captions and speech balloons than she is to “read” the cartoon images themselves, missing that specific contribution to (and sometimes contradiction of) the stories told within the balloons.” 

There are many reasons why Maus should be taught in the classroom. a Pulitzer Prize-winning book! It is an important tool for teaching empathy and can engage reluctant readers while providing a new perspective on history.

  1. https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/local/2022/01/27/tennessee-school-bans-maus-author-art-spiegelman-speaks-out/9241897002/
  2. https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2022/02/11/maus-graphic-novel-holocaust-removed-mcminn-county-school-board-art-spiegelman/6757150001/ 
  3. See my Maus II product for more information on this article: MAUS II

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Thanks for stopping by! 

Linda Jennifer

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