A Virginia Republican who wanted to let parents opt their children out of assigned reading called the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Beloved “moral sewage,” according to Gawker.
Virginia State Senator Richard Black called the book, by celebrated author Toni Morrison, “moral sewage” in an email exchange with a high school teacher about proposed legislation that would have let parents block their children from reading books they didn’t agree with.
“I was surprised by your personal advocacy of the book ‘Beloved.’ That book is so vile – – so profoundly filthy – – that when a Senator rose on the Senate Floor and began reading a single passage, several other Senators leapt to their feet to interrupt the reading,” Black wrote. “Susan Schaar, the Senate Clerk, quickly had embarrassed Senate Officials rush the teenage Senate Pages from the Senate Floor in order to protect them from exposure to this moral sewage.”
Black also told the teacher, Jessica Berg, an AP literature and language teacher at Rock Ridge High School, she should read some of the more explicit passages from the book in front of the school board.
Berg responded with a scathing letter.
Reading a passage does absolutely nothing, and that is what will happen if you force teachers to do this. You miss the entire point and context of the novel if you only read specific passages. Slavery was an atrocious and vile time in our nation’s history and the reader needs to understand that in order to grasp the reasoning behind Sethe’s actions towards her daughter. But I am sure you knew that because you were an English major and have studied literature in depth. And of course I am sure that you read the ENTIRE novel and not just passages. I mean, even my students get marked down for only reading parts of the novel, so I am sure you are leading by example, and have read the whole book before passing judgement.
She then pointed out that even if you “censor” books, you can’t control what teenagers see on the Internet and social media.
It’s ridiculous that you are trying to control education when you have no idea what in entails. You do not want free thinkers. You want people to adhere to your particular version of morality which does not encompass everyone. You also do not know teenagers. They are exposed to these issues each and every day. Would you rather it be from the Kardashians and snapchats or in an educational environment? And topic you deem taboo are topics that encompass the human experience in all of its evil and greatness. You cannot censor life.
Black also took issue with mentions of “penis/vagina/inside part,” and responded to Berg’s letter by calling her “appalling.”
“I want teachers who won’t teach such vile things to our students,” Black wrote. “Slavery was a terrible stain on this nation but to teach it does not mean you have to expose children to smut. The idea that you would oppose allowing parents the opportunity to be better informed about what their child is reading is appalling and arrogant. You do not know better than the parents.”