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I Don't Speak German

Feb 10, 2022

So, McMinn County School Board in Tennessee decided to remove Maus - Art Spiegelman's classic graphic novel about the Nazi Holocaust and historical memory - from their syllabus, on the grounds that some simply sketched mouse nudity and a few very mild swears would upset and corrupt their pupils, which is obviously very reasonable and evidence of extremely well balanced priorities.  Actually, alongside the epidemic of attempts across the US to remove certain sorts of books from school libraries and curricula, it is evidence that an insidious reactionary agenda is gaining traction.

In this episode we talk about the decision of the school board, and look through the minutes of the meeting.  Daniel even gives an impromptu dramatic reading.  We talk about where the appalling decision comes from, and what it really means both for the students and in terms of the wider culture.  Along the way we consider the lies of slimy propagandist Christopher Rufo and the spluttering fanaticism of the increasingly unhinged James Lindsay.

Content very much warnings.

Podcast Notes:

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Episode Notes/Links 

Judd Legum tweet about the banning of Maus


"Continuing the recent spate of conservative book-banning initiatives, The Mcminn County School board just voted to ban the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel “MAUS” by Art Spiegelman from all of its schools, citing the inclusion of words like “God Damn” and “naked pictures” (illustrations) of women."

Official Statment from the McMinn County School Board

CNN, "Maus" author reacts to his book being banned

Exposed by CMD, ALEC Inspires Lawmakers to File Anti-Critical Race Theory Bills

  • The December ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) workshop was led by the Heritage Foundation’s Bridget Weisenberg and featured Heritage’s Jonathan Butcher and Angela Sailor, Discovery Institute’s Christopher Rufo, American Enterprise Institute’s Ian Rowe, and Woodson Center’s Robert Woodson. Thirty-one state legislators from 20 states attended, along with corporate representatives from Guarantee Life Insurance, EDP Renewables, and State Farm Insurance.
  • In order to combat the alleged threat that critical race theory poses, speakers promoted curriculum materials from Trump’s failed 1776 project and a Goldwater Institute model bill to make curriculum materials transparent. They also discussed school privatization measures such as education savings accounts and charter schools.
  • ALEC highlighted a New York Post opinion piece written by Heritage Foundation staff that argued, “The goals of the Black Lives Matter organization go far beyond what most people think. But they are hiding in plain sight, there for the world to see, if only we read beyond the slogans and the innocuous-sounding media accounts of the movement.”
  • Several ALEC lawmakers in attendance got the message. GOP state Rep. Beryl Amedee of Louisiana attended the workshop and later co-authored an op-ed arguing that critical race theory:
  • “is an outgrowth, and little more than a new version of, the Marxist ideology of class warfare with the end goal of societal collapse and the re-making of society. If you know history, it’s easy to both spot and identify. The problem for those confronting this potential catastrophe is how they are explaining their end goals for dealing with it.”

James Lindsay at New Discourses, Groomer Schools 2: Queer Futurity and the Sexual Abuse of Your Children

Dyer, Hannah, Queer futurity and childhood innocence: Beyond the injury of development


  • Because it is so often said that children are the future, queer theory’s attention to (and searing debates on) queer futurity offers something new and important to studies of childhood. Drawing on and deepening recent attempts to meld the fields of childhood studies and queer theory, I dwell on the contradiction that results from the synchronous assumptions of the child’s a-sexuality and proto-heterosexuality to show how emphasizing sexuality within a discussion of children’s education is constructive. In the service of my interest in the renewal of thought concerning children’s psychosexual development, I offer a critical reading of the It Gets Better social media campaign (particularly, its consequent critiques and revisions). I begin with engagement of Eve Sedgwick’s 1991 seminal essay on queer childhood “How to Bring Your Kids Up Gay” and then, from there, trace contemporary queer theory’s use of the figure of the child and consideration of the impact of “innocence” on childhood. In an effort to consider the contemporary residues of historical violence on theories of “healthy” child development, I also consider how histories of colonialism and trans-Atlantic slavery extend into the future and leave traces on contemporary theories of child development.

McMinn TN school board minutes for January 10, 2022

The Advocate, Mississippi Mayor Withholds $110k in Library Funds Over LGBTQ+ Books

Maia Kobabe, The Washington Post, Schools are banning my book. But queer kids need queer stories.

Distribute the Wealth Worksheet

Image of the school board members who voted to ban Maus


  • Mike Cochran- It doesn’t matter, it’s in the curriculum, all this stuff keeps popping up. So, I want to read it, you guys can fire me later, I guess.
  • “I’m just wild about Harry, and Harry’s wild about me
    The heavenly blisses of his kisses, fill me with ecstasy
    He’s sweet just like chocolate candy
    Just like honey from the bee
    Oh I am just wild about Harry, and he’s just wild about me.”
  • One of the discussion questions is define what this word “ecstasy” means. My problem is, all the way through this literature we expose these kids to nakedness, we expose them to vulgarity. You go all the way back to first grade, second grade and they are reading books that have a picture of a naked man riding a bull. It’s not vulgar, it’s something you would see in an art gallery, but it’s unnecessary. So, teachers have gone back and put tape over the guys butts so the kids aren’t exposed to it. So, my
    problem is, it looks like the entire curriculum is developed to normalize sexuality, normalize nudity and normalize vulgar language. If I was trying to indoctrinate somebody’s kids, this is how I would do it. You put this stuff just enough on the edges, so the parents don’t catch it but the kids, they soak it in. I think we need to relook at the entire curriculum.

Rufo's New York Post piece:

Christopher Rufo and the Critical Race Theory Moral Panic (

How a Conservative Activist Invented the Conflict Over Critical Race Theory | The New Yorker

Rufo tweet about Maus/McMinn

Judd Legum responds

Tennessee pastor held a "witchcraft" book burning where followers were encouraged to bring Harry Potter and Twilight books to hurl into the flames: Right-Wing Pastor Greg Locke Holds 'Witchcraft' Book Burning (

Book bans in schools are catching fire. Black authors say uproar isn’t about students. (

Book banning in Texas schools: Titles are pulled off library shelves in record numbers (

The critics were right: "Critical race theory" panic is just a cover for silencing educators |

Calls to Ban Books by Black Authors Are Increasing Amid Critical Race Theory Debates (

Moms for Liberty has turned ‘parental rights’ into a rallying cry for conservative parents - The Washington Post

Unmasking Moms for Liberty | Media Matters for America

Friend of the pod Talia Lavin: Brownshirts vs. the Board of Education - by Talia Lavin ( & How To Report Subversive Books And Teachers in YOUR School (

A. R. Moxon: Profanity and Obscenity | Revue (

Southlake school leader tells teachers to balance Holocaust books with 'opposing' views (