The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

August 30, 2013

Holtzclaw asks for book removal

By Kim West
kwest@athensnews-courier.com

— A Toni Morrison novel published 43 years ago has attracted the ire of at least one constituent of state Sen. Bill Holtzclaw.

Holtzclaw, R-Madison, sent a letter Wednesday to state Superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice requesting that he remove “The Bluest Eye” from the state’s reading list.

Holtzclaw said Bice and Department of Education officials have “the flexibility” under Alabama’s College and Career Ready Standards — “Alabama's personalized version of the Common Core State Standards” — to remove the book.

“I have reviewed excerpts of this book and find the book highly objectionable. I see no value or purpose in this book, educational or otherwise,” said Holtzclaw in his letter to Bice. “I request that you, along with the state Board of Education — using your full control over establishing Alabama’s curriculum standards and content — ensure this book is not included in any reading list adopted by the state of Alabama for any grade level.”

Holtzclaw, who represents five school systems in Madison and Limestone counties, said the CCSS are an independent national project that started with the National Governors Association. He said Alabama created its own more rigorous variation of the standards to maintain local control of state curriculum.

“Alabama needs to have high educational standards that are best for Alabama children,” said Holtzclaw. “My request of Dr. Bice is an example of the state’s ability to direct and control its own curriculum without out-of-state influence.

Curriculum officials for the Athens and Limestone school systems said on Wednesday “The Bluest Eye” is not on the required reading lists for their systems. The book is available to cardholders at the Athens-Limestone Public Library.

Morrison is a Pulitzer Prize winner for “Beloved” and won the 1993 Nobel Prize for Literature. Her debut novel “The Bluest Eye” is about an 11-year-old black girl who prays for blue eyes because she believes the physical transformation will alter her unhappy life but she instead experiences tragedy, including sexual abuse.

The American Library Association ranks it No. 15 on its list of most challenged books. The ALA reported more than 5,000 challenged books from 2000 to 2009.