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Portugal. the Man Offer to Send Alaskan Students Books Banned by School Board

Matanuska-Susitna Board voted to pull The Great Gatbsy, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, more from curriculum

protugal the man book ban high school alaska school board
Portugal. the Man, photo by Ben Kaye
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    Like many Alaskans in the borough of Matanuska-Susitna, Portugal. the Man are upset with the local school board’s decision to remove five classic novels from high schools’ curriculum. In response, the Grammy-winning alternative rockers have offered to send copies of the books to any student or parent in the district.

    As CNN reports, the Mat-Su Borough School Board had a meeting last week to approve the district’s High School English Elective Curriculum, which included a required reading list. While the meeting was livestreamed, no one from the community had requested to appear for comment ahead of time — ya know, ’cause they were preoccupied with the pandemic. So when an amendment was introduced to pull five books from the curriculum, no one was there to voice their dissent. The removal was approved on a five-two vote.

    The books in question are all literary classics widely taught in schools across the country: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, and Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

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    “These titles are often considered staples for junior and senior English classes across the country,” Portugal. the Man said in a statement. “We believe this decision is narrow-minded and un-Patriotic, and we are not OK with it. That is why we are putting out a standing offer that if any student/parent in the Mat-Su Borough School District wants a copy of one or more of these books, we will mail them to you.”

    To get a copy, all you need to do is reach out to sticksandstones@portugaltheman.com.

    Amazingly, the Mat-Su Board decided to remove the books based off only summaries, a one-page flier, and “lengthy discussion” — again, a discussion in which community members weren’t involved. The flier called out Gastby for “language and sexual references,” said Catch-22 features dialogue written with “typical ‘military men’ misogyny and racist attitudes of the time,” and criticized Caged Bird for detailing Angelou’s “sexual abuse” and “‘anti-white’ messaging.”

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    Despite voting in favor of the removal, board vice president Jim hart had said he’d only ever read one of the “controversial” books. “When you have books that you could not read publicly without going to [Equal Opportunity Office], that’s probably a pretty good litmus test,” he said, referring to I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

    It’s worth noting the books aren’t entirely banned, as they aren’t being removed from libraries, only the elective English curriculum. Still, PTM aren’t the only ones POed by the decision. A member of the city council has been using Facebook to give nightly readings of selections from her favorite book. Meanwhile, attorney DanaLyn Dalrymple started the “The Mat-Su Valley Banned Book Challenge”, entering any student who reads all five books into a raffle for $100. Apparently, the response has been so overwhelmingly positive she’s considering upping the prize.

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