Ohio

Eye on Education

Ohio Board of Education President Wants Toni Morrison Novel Scrubbed from State Common Core Materials

Author Toni Morrison is a winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Mike Strasser/USMA PAO/West Point / Flickr

Author Toni Morrison is a winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature.

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.

Last month, an Alabama state senator called for the book to be removed from school reading lists and school libraries. And a conservative blog described the book as “Common Core Approved Child Pornography.”

(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:

The Bluest Eye was a selection for Oprah’s book club, but has often been the target of attempts to ban it from schools.

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.

Comments

  • @Anti_Intellect

    How are you going to ban The Bluest Eye in Ohio and Toni Morrison is from Ohio? Have you no respect for your Nobel Laureate?

    • rlm_Lorain

      Not only is she from Ohio, she is from LORAIN, Ohio, the town featured in the book. I am also from Lorain and I’ve read The Bluest Eye. It was probably my favorite of all of Toni Morrison’s books, and it goes to the mindset of black children growing up in a different era. I found it fascinating. This “educator” needs to pull her head out of the sand.

  • tasiam

    I am continuously amazed by efforts to ban
    this book, especially because it deals with so many issues that teens
    are dealing with on a daily basis, such as: race, poverty, beauty and
    body image and, yes, rape and incest. To see a representation
    of one’s experience isn’t going to make that representation come to
    life but would decrease the isolation these issues engender. To label
    _The Bluest Eye_ as “pornography” of all things is to add to the stigma
    attached to these issues and in an odd move aligns one with the abusers
    the book simultaneously humanizes and condemns. And for this to come out
    of Ohio, Toni Morrison’s home state, of all places! Debe Terhar needs
    to check herself.

    • eyebeam

      There are certain people who cannot understand a rape scene in literature as anything other than titillation. These people then project their lust onto children.

    • Caroline McCann

      I cannot speak for anyone’s children but my own. They are not exposed, God-willing, to rape and incest on a daily basis. I love Toni Morrison — her books are my favorite — but not sure this book is appropriate for school age children. I would not wish my under-18 child to read it as part of curriculum. Perhaps as independent reading so we (parent and child) can discuss the inevitable questions that will come up. There is alot of great literature children can read in its place that do not deal with such adult themes. #LoveToniMorrison

      • MizLit

        How is the subject of incest any more appropriate than the subject of war? If you object to this novel, you must also object to Lord of the Flies, 1984, The Red Badge of Courage, Macbeth, etc …

    • RJM

      You said it better than I could have and I could add that these Republicans are always seeming to want to control what other people do. This is absurd and I am surprised its coming from a former Montessori teacher.

  • L. Morris

    West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette stated, “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion . . . . If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.” 319 U.S., at 642.

    #precedents

  • Meegan Gamble

    Toni Morrison’s books should be suggested reading for all and every school. Especially in Ohio.Ms.Morrison’s books have so much to teach all of us. It is upsetting that these supposed leaders for education are insulting the intelligence of students and frankly their own. This is censorship and ignorance and just shameful.

  • Concerned Citizen

    This wouldn’t be the first ill-advised opinion Terhar has offered publicly.
    I would be surprised if she hasn’t already Tweeted it out to all of her followers.
    Can we afford to have a Board president who wants to keep students sheltered from the world around them and pretend that serious problems of poverty and race don’t exist? This is as ludicrous as banning Fahrenheit 451 because it was a story about book burning.

  • Rebecca

    It seems apparent from her missteps that Ms. Terhar is poorly read and/or truly ignorant.

  • Emaggs

    I quite frankly wouldn’t be surprised if Terhar had not actually read the full novel. No one can read a full novel of Morrison(pick one, any one) and not be moved, but especially The Bluest Eye. How can this woman (these people, these filthy book banners) try to prevent any student from reading a Nobel prize winner ((from Ohio? Yes? Maybe?) ? That speaks such volumes on such delicate subjects with such decorum and class? Especially when these subjects are screaming from all around them: tv, media, music, the neighbors’ house, in their own homes, other students? I wish Toni Morrison could’ve taught me about all the difficult things before life did. How is this really objectionable? Sadly, this actually only does more to silence Pecola- which was a major talking point (if not THE point) of The Bluest Eye. Some are silenced and it isn’t right. I’m out of words now.

    • Caroline McCann

      I love Toni Morrison — her books are my favorite — but not sure this book is appropriate for school age children. I would not wish my under-18 child to read it as part of curriculum. Perhaps as independent reading so we (parent and child) can discuss the inevitable questions that will come up. There is alot of great literature children can read in its place that do not deal with such adult themes. #LoveToniMorrison

    • psychareus

      Agree, EMaggs. As a psychological counselor in Ohio,(and a Christian) I have first hand knopwledge of “subjects screaming from all around.” Children’s innocence will not be preserved by banning books, especially of the level of Toni Morrison’s. By the time many children are 7 to 14, some younger and older, they have already had their innocence stolen by family members and neighbors, who have taken advantage of their innocence and potentially ruin these young lives. This isn’t a novel just about black children, but about children of all races and colors, including whites and their all too real life experience, which generally gets no validation from culture, sex-education, or church. . Little Debe needs much more education, before she is president of anything, unless it is the Tupper Ware Club, and then, I’m not sure. Book banning in Ohio! For shame! No wonder Education in Ohio is in such trouble! Get somebody in there, that knows what is going on in Ohio and the world, for God’s sake. .

  • JP

    I can only imagine what kind of watered down drivel this woman would approve of for a literature class. Our kids are falling behind because twits like this don’t want them challenged or thinking critically.

  • Denise

    What a beautiful passage, sad that so many people aren’t emotional.

  • timshel

    The Bluest Eye is one of the most beautiful books I have ever read – and I read it because I had to in high school.

  • DollySosa

    Debe Terhar wants to make sure that students don’t read anything controversial. That would take away from their time learning to write cursive

    • Toya Taylor

      Or from reading about issues they deem is the truth, but is really lies like Christopher Columbus

  • Arlene Dunn

    It is unfortunate that generations of life experiences are unmentionable in our classrooms. Exposure usually lessens the occurrence and the acceptance of negative behavior. The Bluest Eye is a story of many realities that are unmentioned and misunderstood. If for no other reason…..the book is important for conversation about a society and sometimes family relationships that are not always welcoming or affirming.

  • SantanaNyla-aka-Dawn

    I thought the treatment of Pecola was exceptionally harsh and over the top-but then Morrison retrieves herself with ‘Sula’, who is a bit more rebellious and independent.Of course there is Nadine in ‘Tar Baby’ and countless other strong figure women…but the characters always need to be reconciled due to the author’s underlying issues.

  • Toya Taylor

    It’s always something. Books like “the bluest eye’s” is something that will be a useful teaching for students. Children in high school are just the right age to talk and teach what going on in her novel. I think the teachers are weak minded and just doesn’t want to explain why things like rape and incest happens and they probably wouldn’t know how to. I can imagine them talking about it now scared and bothered.

  • Gail Spicehandler Burkholder

    Ms. Terhar has a history of hoof in mouth disease. She is an embarrassment.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/22/dede-terhar-obama-hitler-_n_2528837.html

  • Tremahne Lockhart

    I’ve read it several times. And I enjoy pornography. Bluest eye is a FAR cry from pornography. Reading comprehension goes beyond the meaning of the words. It includes intent of the text. I believe this is being ignored.

  • pamela

    I’m an Ohioan by birth and I can’t believe the efforts going on around our country to purge the collective racial memory as told by our finest writers. How do we raise our children to have compassion for themselves and others if we hide our true history best shared through fiction? If our youngsters aren’t required to read these great, honest works in high school, most will remain blissfully ignorant for the rest of their lives. I grew up in an all white town, kept that way very purposefully. “The Bluest Eye” was the first glimpse I ever had into the lives of kids who grew up without the comfort and protections I took for granted. I thank God for Toni Morrison and her storytelling genius.

  • gjwinfield

    i agree that book should not be apart of the common core. Black children do not need to have blue eyes or straight hair to be beautiful since they are already beautiful than any blue eyed or straight dead hair child. To teach them otherwise is stupid. Teach them to love who they are. I do not care if this writer is from Ohio, her fictional book has no place as a common core. a fictional book report maybe, but nothing else. Why have I not seen Carter G Woodson as a common core, or Anna Cooper? let get some real stories in the common core, lets teach our children some truth, not some lies

    • Navel8

      How about teaching our children not to make totally inaccurate presumptions regarding “lies” and “truth” in books they clearly have not read?

    • Ian Osmond

      …. that’s kind of the point of the book….

    • MaryMactavish

      Have you read this book?

  • Chellen

    One of the best books I have ever read. A friend recommended it in high school, and I will forever be grateful. High school is the best time to read such a passionate novel, I remember being amazed at how alive the writing was, how visceral. Truly one of the greats, and it should be taught in Ohio schools. The shame is that we do not talk more about what a wonderful author Toni Morrison is and celebrate her as an Ohioan.

  • Judy Price

    Is it not the responsibility of parents and guardians to monitor what their children read? When a group of individuals acting in the” best interest’ of the public decide to determine what can be read that becomes censorship. If I am raising my children to be thinking people who are moral, respectful and law abiding then a book such as Ms. Morrison’s will not change my teachings. I find the state’s Board of Education’s decision rather dictatorial and somewhat insulting.

  • Aphropik
  • Sandy

    I am and educator and am appalled at such acts by our government. Unfortunately rape and incest are a part of society. It is NOT just an
    adult theme. This book may allow someone (boy or girl) struggling with these horrible
    issues to seek help. In elementary schools they talk about, “good touch,bad touch.”
    These issues must be addressed. This is a high school reading book. One should not place their heads in the sand because the subject matter makes them feel uncomfortable or you think if you do not talk about it, it does not exist. IT DOES EXIST– and we as a society need to address these issues head on. The Bluest Eye is a true literary work of art. STOP BOOK BANNING!!!!

  • Sandy

    DO NOT –RE -ELECT– Dede Terhar — such a closed minded person to our government– the land of the FREE the home of the brave—

  • Sandy

    I am and educator and am appalled at such acts by our government.
    Unfortunately rape and incest are a part of society. It is NOT just an
    adult theme. This book may allow someone (boy or girl) struggling with
    these horrible
    issues to seek help. In elementary schools they talk about, “good
    touch,bad touch.”
    These issues must be addressed. This is a high school reading book. One
    should not place their heads in the sand because the subject matter
    makes them feel uncomfortable or you think if you do not talk about
    it, it does not exist. IT DOES EXIST– and we as a society need to address these issues head on. The Bluest Eye is a true literary work of art. STOP BOOK BANNING!!!!

  • Kent Millstead

    Debe Terhar is just another Beulah Gasnick from “Field of Dreams.” She claims to have a background in Montessori education which places an emphasis on independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child’s natural psychological, physical, and social development and yet she wants play the role of a tea party book burner. Resign and take care of business at home before your husband follows the path of his predecessor.

  • Angela

    My parents were from the south and their lack formal education was a result of racist practices during the 1940′s and they like many African American families were a part of the great migration to the north. I recall my father giving me a book to read and while it was pulp fiction and if no great literary value it was a seminal moment in my life for two reasons; it marked my moving into his world of reading and he loved me enough to give me the priceless gift of a life long joy of reading. We lived near a library and un-tethered I read EVERYTHING. I read what they weren’t teaching in school, or talking about in the cafeteria. In not exposing our “delicate” children we wrap them in the cocoons of ignorance and bound them in the straits of silence leaving them unprepared to engage and question what is not real…a world that they need to change.

  • HydeeLou

    As an English teacher and a librarian I can tell you there are always parents who object to just about any type of book. Banning anything is pointless and ridiculous and simply draws attention to the act of banning rather than the material being banned. Why can’t we figure out that decisions on how to teach this type of material should be left to those who know the students and their abilities and maturity levels? There are ways to accomodate the parent who really doesn’t want this material assigned to his/her child. I respect a parent’s right to parent and a student’s right to an alternate assignment if this material is too disturbing, but these things can be done on a case by case basis. I am against drama queens who automatically stamp mature material as ‘pornographic’ even more than I am against people who fight on the same side I do in this and yet stereotype me as wanting to control what other people do simply because I’m registered Republican. Try case by case basis, RJM, in politics as well. I’m sure their are people on your side who are guilty of idiocy.

  • Pearl Pullman

    This is not about Toni or her book’s worth. It’s about telling young men that it’s a positive experience to violate young girls. If they hear it from other males, at least, they didn’t hear it in school.

  • Pearl Pullman

    Here are the passages that are objectionable. http://politichicks.tv/column/warning-graphic-common-core-approved-child-pornography/#bFyc8IO5QmIltWzY.99 Page 181: “The little girls are the only things I’ll miss. Do you know that when I touched their sturdy little t*** and bit them—just a little—I felt I was being friendly?—If I’d been hurting them, would they have come back? . . . they’d eat ice cream with their legs open while I played with them. It was like a party.”

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