Ohio Board of Education President Debe Terhar wants all mentions of the Toni Morrison novel The Bluest Eye removed from state guidelines for schools teaching to the new Common Core academic standards.
The novel tells the story of a young black girl living in Lorain, Ohio, who dreams of having blue eyes so that she will be as beautiful and beloved as white children.
The book has become a target for some critics of the Common Core, a new set of academic standards for math and English that Ohio and 44 other states have adopted, because it describes scenes in which the girl’s father rapes her.
(The Common Core also emphasizes that students should be able to analyze both non-fiction and fiction texts, which has led some Common Core critics to worry that the new standards will eliminate classics like The Catcher in the Rye from schools.)
A passage from the Toni Morrison novel is currently included in a list of sample texts on the Ohio Department of Education website.
The passage was intended to illustrate the suggested difficulty level of texts assigned to 11th graders in schools that are teaching to the Common Core.
The passage does not describe rape or incest:
At an Ohio Board of Education meeting yesterday, Terhar called the novel “pornographic.”
“I don’t want my grandchildren reading it and I don’t want anybody else’s grandchildren reading it,” she said.
But Terhar said she supports the implementation of the Common Core in Ohio. And she said she was not suggesting that the state actually ban the book.
If individual districts want to assign the book to students, “that’s up to districts,” she said.
Ohio Department of Education curriculum and assessment director Sasheen Phillips told the board the novel had been included in the Common Core materials as one example of the “text complexity” that teachers should use with students.
“It wasn’t to say that these are the [books] that all districts should use,” she said.