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Posts Tagged ‘nab

If you have been following the story behind this children’s book, you might know that:

  • The author depicted a bully who was “dark-skinned with a head of oily curls”.
  • A reader flagged the book as racist.
  • The National Library Board removed the book from the children’s section shelves for review.

The latest news article revealed that the three-month review brought the book back to the shelves, but this time to the family and parenting section.

The publisher of the book, Marshall Cavendish Education, apologised and said it would stop selling the book and recall it from stores.

From an educator’s point of view, this is a perfect case for social studies or any lesson on critical thinking. Here are some things to think about.

There is no question that the depiction of the character was racist even if the author denied intent. The fact that the review processes did not catch this and put the book out for sale and on library shelves illustrates the same problem. The racism was so insidious that it has become normalised.

The decision to put the book out of sight of children is a masterful administrative stroke. It looks good on paper (we have addressed the issue) but does not actually deal with the issue (insidious racism was not called out).

The move to allow parents to use the book to educate their kids presumes that adults will teach children good values. What if they parents do not point out the racist depiction, or worse, reinforce it?

The responses of the review board and publisher were patronising. Consider these quotes from the latest news article:

  • “NLB acquires about 1 million books annually, we rely on patrons’ feedback and the review by the panel”
  • “Marshall Cavendish Education said it ‘welcomes’ NLB’s decision to move the book to the adult section”
  • “We will continue to work closely with our myriad of passionate authors to produce content that supports, nurtures and inspires students”

All the statements reek of avoiding responsibility — there are too many books to review, the review board made the decision to keep the book on the shelves, and we will keep publishing such books without a clearly revised review process.

The agencies might try to push the issue out of sight. But the responsible and critical will not allow them to push it out of mind.

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