October 10, 2019
#MeToo authors in the classroom: OK or nah? The “Gray Lady” weighs in
by Mike Lindgren
Among the many vexing questions to arise in the wake of #MeToo: is there a place in the classroom for books written by men who have been accused of sexual harassment? Tough one, we say! We need guidance! Never fear, though … the New York Times is ON IT! A piece by Emma Goldberg titled “Do Works by Men Toppled by #MeToo Belong in the Classroom” provides a very New York Times-ish answer: maybe?
Treading cautiously, as is their wont, the Times relies on their favorite source: the ineluctable “some,” as in “some argue that,” etc. Careful over there! Fair and balanced! The Times gravely notes that “tossing out works by men accused of abuse creates an opportunity to break up the ‘old white guys’ club that for too long defined school reading lists.” Amen to that, we say! But wait … “Others,” our friends at the 620 observe, “have stuck to their reading lists, sometimes even addressing the moral stakes of their decisions in class.” Well, that sounds reasonable too! Confusing!
The situation can result in some very precise moral calculus indeed: when news of the Junot Díaz’s alleged sexual assault broke, some bookstores decided to split the difference by continuing to carry Díaz’s books, but by refusing to place them face out or otherwise advertise them. Sensible! Others (see? it must be catching!) hold firm to the line that the book-buying public must be the final judge of such things. Eh … sounds like a cop-out to us. Our two cents: why not use the potential open slots to turn students’ attention to under-represented writers and genres? It’s not like there’s a shortage of good writing out there, people! Problem solved!
Michael Lindgren is the Managing Editor at Melville House.