John Steinbeck’s ‘Of Mice and Men’ survives censorship attempt in Idaho

John Steinbeck's novel "Of Mice and Men" has survived a censorship challenge in Idaho.

John Steinbeck’s novel “Of Mice and Men” has survived a censorship challenge in Idaho.

(Underwood Archives / Getty Images; Penguin Classics)

John Steinbeck’s classic 1937 novella “Of Mice and Men” won’t be banned from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, classrooms after all. The city’s school board voted Monday to keep the book as part of the ninth-grade school curriculum, disappointing community members who wanted it restricted to “voluntary, small-group discussion,” reports the Spokesman-Review of Spokane, Wash.

The vote to preserve the book was 4 to 1. School board trustee Tom Hearn praised the decision, saying: “We need to trust the judgment of our English teachers to use this book wisely, as we have since 2002.”

The book was challenged last month by community members, including Mary Jo Finney, who said the novella “is neither a quality story nor a page turner.” She and others objected to profanity in the book, including “bastard” and “God damn,” and found the novella, set in California during the Great Depression, too “negative” and “dark.”


Finney addressed the board before the vote, saying: “It has been 10 long years that I have worked to get this district to be more accountable to parents with safeguards and standards, and now I would suggest that parents pull their children from [School District] 271, or better yet, never put them in.”

The Boise Weekly reports that Finney alleges she has been the target of harassment because of her attempts to remove “Of Mice and Men” from the high school curriculum. “At this point, I have to be cautious answering my phone, opening my front door, and I receive emails from strangers,” she told board members. “This is bullying mentality at its highest level. It is shocking that there is such outrage because a person is outspokenly conservative.”

Some parents objected to Steinbeck’s use of the N-word in the book, but one Coeur d’Alene English teacher wasn’t convinced that was a reason to remove it. According to Boise State Public Radio, Brianna Cline told school board members that “casual use of the N-word among white high schoolers is significantly more destructive than controlled exposure followed by an intellectual conversation in a healthy classroom environment.”

“Of Mice and Men” is widely considered one of the best books by Steinbeck, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962. It’s also one of the most frequently challenged books in U.S. schools, according to the American Library Assn.


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