Pedophilia, Incest, and Graphic Sex: Excerpts from a Common Core Reading List Book for 11th-Graders That Will Make You Blush
Aug. 22, 2013 10:12am Mike Opelka
Editor’s note: The following story contains graphic language. Discretion is advised.
Common Core, the controversial set of education standards being pushed by many state governors and education leaders, is coming under fire for its selection of a book that’s on the suggested reading list for 11th graders (i.e. 16- and 17-year-olds). The book — a past selection of Oprah’s Book Club — has graphic sex scenes and descriptions that are likely to make you blush.
Toni Morrison's book
Morrison’s first novel
The work in question comes from Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison. Listed on a Common Core reading list linked on the website, “The Bluest Eye” carries this description from the curriculum’s preferred bookseller: An Eleven-Year-Old African-American Girl In Ohio, In The Early 1940s, Prays For Her Eyes To Turn Blue So That She Will Be Beautiful.
That description sounds tame and appears to be a solid lesson about the problems of desiring beauty over anything else. And if you read the Common Core website, here’s an excerpt from the 11th grade exemplar text:
One winter Pauline discovered she was pregnant. When she told Cholly, he surprised her by being pleased. He began to drink less and come home more often. They eased back into a relationship more like the early days of their marriage, when he asked if she were tired or wanted him to bring her something from the store. In this state of ease, Pauline stopped doing day work and returned to her own housekeeping. But the loneliness in those two rooms had not gone away. When the winter sun hit the peeling green paint of the kitchen chairs, when the smoked hocks were boiling in the pot, when all she could hear was the truck delivering furniture downstairs, she thought about back home, about how she had been all alone most of the time then too, but that this lonesomeness was different. Then she stopped staring at the green chairs, at the delivery truck; she went to the movies instead. There in the dark her memory was refreshed, and she succumbed to her earlier dreams. Along with the idea of romantic love, she was introduced to another—physical beauty. Probably the most destructive ideas in the history of human thought. Both originated in envy, thrived in insecurity, and ended in disillusion. In equating physical beauty with virtue, she stripped her mind, bound it, and collected self-contempt by the heap. She forgot lust and simple caring for. She regarded love as possessive mating, and romance as the goal of the spirit. It would be for her a well-spring from which she would draw the most destructive emotions, deceiving the lover and seeking to imprison the beloved, curtailing freedom in every way.
Keep in mind, that is an excerpt, selected by Common Core. And when they publish these online, they are accompanied by this statement: (emphasis added)
When excerpts appear, they serve only as stand-ins for the full text. The Standards require that students engage with appropriately complex literary and informational works; such complexity is best found in whole texts rather than passages from such texts.
Again, when you read the selected passage, a couple of things stand out — Morrison’s powerful command of the written word cannot be denied and the story appears to teach that over-the-top devotion to physical beauty is “one of the most destructive ideas in the history of human thought.” But the snippet posted above is just the excerpt presented online for teachers and interested parents to peruse and doesn’t mention what else is between the pages.
What else is in there? Simply: The the entire book has numerous questionable sexual sections that may not be appropriate for minors.
Macey France, a writer for the online site Politichicks, actually combed the entire text of “The Bluest Eye” and catalogued some of the more offensive and questionable parts. And they are graphic:
Pages 84-85: “He must enter her surreptitiously, lifting the hem of her nightgown only to her navel. He must rest his weight on his elbows when they make love, to avoid hurting her breasts…When she senses some spasm about to grip him, she will make rapid movements with her hips, press her fingernails into his back, suck in her breath, and pretend she is having an orgasm. She might wonder again, for the six hundredth time, what it would be like to have that feeling while her husband’s penis is inside her.”
Pages 130-131: “Then he will lean his head down and bite my t** . . . I want him to put his hand between my legs, I want him to open them for me. . . I stretch my legs open, and he is on top of me…He would die rather than take his thing out of me. Of me. I take my fingers out of his and put my hands on his behind…”
Pages 148-149: “With a violence born of total helplessness, he pulled her dress up, lowered his trousers and underwear. ‘I said get on wid it. An’make it good, n*****, Come on c***. Faster. You ain’t doing nothing for her.’ He almost wished he could do it—hard, long, and painfully, he hated her so much.”
Pages 162-163: “A bolt of desire ran down his genitals…and softening the lips of his anus. . . . He wanted to f*** her—tenderly. But the tenderness would not hold. The tightness of her vagina was more than he could bear. His soul seemed to slip down his guts and fly out into her, and the gigantic thrust he made into her then provoked the only sound she made. Removing himself from her was so painful to him he cut it short and snatched his genitals out of the dry harbor of her vagina. She appeared to have fainted.”
Page 174: “He further limited his interests to little girls. They were usually manageable . . . His sexuality was anything but lewd; his patronage of little girls smacked of innocence and was associated in his mind with cleanliness.” And later, this same pedophile notes, “I work only through the Lord. He sometimes uses me to help people.”
Page 181: “The little girls are the only things I’ll miss. Do you know that when I touched their sturdy little t*** and bit them—just a little—I felt I was being friendly?—If I’d been hurting them, would they have come back? . . . they’d eat ice cream with their legs open while I played with them. It was like a party.”
Those six graphic excerpts cover incest, rape and pedophilia. In her research on the book in question, Macey France also exposes some pretty shocking support for those topics, from the author herself:
In fact, the author of the book, Morrison, says that she wanted the reader to feel as though they are a “co-conspirator” with the rapist. She took pains to make sure she never portrayed the actions as wrong in order to show how everyone has their own problems. She even goes as far as to describe the pedophilia, rape and incest “friendly,” “innocent,” and “tender.” It’s no wonder that this book is in the top 10 list of most contested books in the country.
The presence of the book on Common Core’s list, combined with Morrison’s descriptions of incest, rape, and pedophilia as “friendly,” “innocent,” and “tender” have sparked outrage in some communities. Parents in one Colorado school district are petitioning for the removal of “developmentally inappropriate and graphical content from the instructional reading list.” They are not asking for the book to be banned or even removed from the library, just taken off the suggested reading list.
Colorado school petition
Ms. France also cites a 2011 Harris poll on the banning of books and limiting of certain types of books in school libraries. In that poll, Harris showed:
83% say children should be able to get The Holy Bible
76% support access to books that discuss evolution from school libraries
62% say books with explicit language should not be available to children in school libraries.
With an overwhelming majority of parents supporting restricting – but not banning – young student’s access to books with explicit or questionable content, should Common Core pull this book from it’s list of exemplars?