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Texas School Fires Teacher For Aggravated Offense Of 'Teaching Anne Frank's Diary'
Can't have children reading thoughts of a child who was murdered by Nazis.
Anne Frank was just 15 years old on August 4, 1944, when the Gestapo raided a secret room in an Amsterdam factory where Anne and her family had hidden for two years. On her 13th birthday, Anne’s parents gave her a diary to write in, and she kept it dutifully. She even began revising it, rewriting entries on loose sheets of paper with an eye to publishing it after the war. She dreamed of becoming a famous writer when she grew up, but because her home country was taken over by a sociopathic nationalist who promised to protect the purity of German culture by driving out all degenerate influences, she didn’t get to grow up.
The diary she left behind did become an international bestseller, a beloved book for millions of readers, and a staple in American junior high and high school classes. Not surprisingly, sociopathic nationalists in America have targeted Anne’s diary as a degenerate influence from which American children must be protected. You see, Anne was a very talented writer, and she was also a young teenaged girl who wondered what sex was all about and wrote about those very common adolescent questions. Her father, Otto Frank, left out those sections — and unflattering observations Anne made about her mother — in the original published version of the Diary, but most editions published since 2001 have included the previously expurgated material.
That upsets some of our more excitable moral guardians, who have managed to get the Diary pulled from schools in Texas and Florida. And last week, a Texas teacher was fired for allowing eighth-graders — kids about the same age Anne was when she was writing her diary — to read a graphic novel adaptation of the Diary that includes the full text of its English translation. The adaptation by Ari Folman and David Polonsky, the Washington Post notes, is “fully authorized by the Anne Frank Fonds, the Switzerland-based foundation that oversees the copyright to Frank’s diary” — for all the good that’s done in censorship cases in the US.
The Hamshire-Fannett Independent School District in Beaumont, Texas, hasn’t disclosed to the media precisely how the fired teacher was using the graphic novel in the class. KFDM, the Beaumont TV station that broke the story last week, spoke to a parent who was unhappy that, according to her kids, students in the class apparently read sections of the book aloud, including some of the sex-related passages. District spokesperson Mike Canizales claimed the book was not approved for classroom use, although KFDM reported that it was included in a “reading list sent to parents at the start of the school year.”
An email sent to parents the day of the teacher’s firing said in part —
It was brought to the administration's attention tonight that 8th grade students were reading content that was not appropriate. The reading of that content will cease immediately. Your student's teacher will communicate her apologies to you and your students soon, as she has expressed those apologies to us.
Again, it’s not clear how much of the adaptation the class read, or what the lesson plan was; based on a parent’s comments as reported by KFDM, the assignment that got the teacher fired appears to have included the diary entry for January 6, 1944, in which Anne wrote about getting her period and “feeling that in spite of all the pain and discomfort, I’m carrying around a sweet secret.” In the same entry, she recalled suggesting to a friend that they show each other their breasts as proof of their friendship (kids are weird, in the 1940s and in 2023). After the friend said “absolutely not!” Anne wrote “if only she had known my terrible desire to kiss her.”
She also wrote in that entry,
Every time I see a female nude, such as the Venus in my art history book, I go into ecstasy. Sometimes I find them so exquisite I have to struggle to hold back my tears. If only I had a girlfriend!
Here’s how Folman and Polonsky illustrate that entry; apparently those nekkid lady statues also upset some parents:
Pretty normal diary-confessiony stuff; interestingly, Anne herself, as she revised her diary, left it out of her second draft altogether. (Wingnut chorus: “See? She knew it was too obscene for anyone to read!”)
KFDM also reported that its reporters “reviewed a section of the diary […] in which Frank wrote about male and female genitalia,” adding that the “passage was not suitable for broadcast.”
We have no idea. Anne definitely wrote about manparts and ladyparts, including a funny section from January 24, 1944, about how Peter van Pels, the teen son of the other family hiding in the secret annex, figured out that the cat in the factory was indeed a male. Maybe a discussion of cat peener isn’t suitable for broadcast.
Or perhaps it was one of the sections where Anne wrote about her own body, what with being an adolescent and all; she marveled that “The little hole underneath is so terribly small that I simply can't imagine how a man can get in there, let alone how a whole baby can get out!” She also wrote that when she was younger, she mistakenly thought that the clitoris was where pee comes from. Oh, sweetie.
It’s just heartbreaking how absolutely normal that is, but they’re really among the sections that regularly gets called “pornographic” by people who think the word vagina is porn and that a girl writing about her own sexuality (to herself in an attic while hiding from Nazis) is “pedophilia,” because decent children don’t even notice they have genitals until they grow up and get married.
The Hamshire-Fannett school district is investigating the incident, although it’s anyone’s guess whether the results of any investigation will be made public. KFDM reports that shortly after the teacher was fired, a “source close to her” contacted reporter Angel San Juan and told him that
the principal of Hamshire-Fannett Middle School had approved the syllabus with that version of the book in it. That source also tells us the teacher has an attorney.
Nobody in the district is speaking to the media other than Canizales, the spokesperson.
Bizarrely, a self-proclaimed “school choice evangelist” claimed in a suggested “community note” on Xitter that the January 6, 1944, conversation Anne wrote about was a scene of “molestation,” adding yet another level of confusion — an inaccurate claim that was subsequently amplified by KFDM in an inaccurate “fact check” Wednesday. Hell, I guess when I’m on break I’ll try contacting the reporter.
Oh, what a wonderful time to be discussing literature!
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