News & Politics

New York Students Required Read to Rep. John Lewis's Racially-Provocative Graphic Novel

Photo credit, Megan Fox, from "March" by John Lewis

A middle school in Western New York is under fire for an assignment in the eighth-grade English language arts (ELA) class. Moravia Middle School eighth graders were assigned the graphic novel March, written by Democrat Congressman John Lewis. The book is part of a graphic novel series that Lewis wrote about his experience in the civil rights movement. Unfortunately, the book contains offensive racial slurs and bad language that some parents find unacceptable for their children.

(Photo credit, Megan Fox, from “March” by John Lewis)

Daniel Walters has a student in the class taught by John Cronin. “I asked to meet with John Cronin and I wanted to have a conversation about the book with him,” Walters told PJ Media. “I wanted some substance as to what the conversation with the eighth-grade class would be [relating to] the content of the book.” Walters checked the New York curriculum guide and did not find the book there. “I was curious as to why the book was not included with [New York State] ELA Engage, New York curriculum, or why it was not included in the ‘Program of Studies guides,'” said Walters. “We as a nation all agree that the language in that book is offensive and it is wrong to introduce to an eighth-grade class. The school and John [Cronin] should have given parents notice about the scheduled book, this graphic novel.”

So far, Cronin has not met with Walters.

The book deals with racially upsetting themes and portrays white people as vicious brutes. “This book and its language is not needed in a middle-school classroom or any classroom,” continued Walters. “The ‘n-word’ is a painful word and black, white, native or Hispanic, nobody wants to hear that word,” he said.  “As a white student you read this book and it will make you feel awful about yourself as a white person because all it does is degrade [white people] and create more division between races. This book is the exact opposite of what Martin Luther King Jr. would have wanted.”

Walters pointed out that schools have banned Huckleberry Finn because of the n-word and other racial slurs.

(Photo credit, Megan Fox, from “March” by John Lewis)

John Lewis touts his relationship with MLK Jr. regularly, but did he learn anything from him? “Mr. Lewis says that he got his ideas of the narrative and the comic style of writing from the book ‘The Montgomery Story,’ I read that book a few days ago and it was nothing in comparison as to Lewis’s book. It was a clean understanding of the civil war and slavery and, like Mr. King had wanted, a peaceful resolution,” said Walters. “John Lewis’s book is the exact opposite.”

Another parent, who declined to be named, said, “There are better ways to teach about the civil rights movement without the need for vulgar, questionable language. Students this age are impressionable. I can see it leading to problems such as bullying or lowering self-esteem.”

Like Walters, the anonymous parent thinks there is more to the story than just a civil rights lesson. “I believe the underlying tone here is to push the agenda that white people of today should feel responsible for actions of some in the past [to instill] white guilt. This graphic novel is not grade-level appropriate and is poorly written. Also, this was assigned for ELA, not history. That doesn’t sit well with me either…I think there is more going on than meets the eye.”

(Photo credit, Megan Fox, from “March” by John Lewis)

The irony is not lost on Walters that the use of the same language in Lewis’s book would result in a suspension for any student caught uttering the words. “There are six pages of disciplinary procedures as to how to handle misconduct,” said Walters. “Of course discrimination of race and color is in the language. So on a formal level [if a student were to use] that language, you are looking at discipline, anything from an oral warning to a permanent suspension from school.”

PJ Media reached out to Bruce MacBain, principal of the Moravia Middle School, for a comment but received no answer by the time of publishing. We will update if that changes.

Megan Fox is the author of “Believe Evidence; The Death of Due Process from Salome to #MeToo.” Follow on Twitter @MeganFoxWriter