Streaming songs, reading books are political statements this week
School boards are pulling books from classrooms.
Parents are being asked to inform on teachers who teach “objectionable” material.
Streaming services are pulling down music rather than misinformation.
This might be the information age, but there have never been more questions about who can get what information, and from where.
Here’s a group of stories from this week.
Spotify chooses Joe Rogan after Neil Young’s ultimatum
Earlier this month, a group of scientists and health professionals asked Spotify to label a Joe Rogan podcast as misinformation about Covid-19 vaccines. This week, Neil Young, in a now-deleted post on his website, told the streaming service it could either stream his music or Rogan’s podcast.
Spotify chose Rogan and, at Young’s request, took down his music.
“We have detailed content policies in place and we’ve removed over 20,000 podcast episodes related to covid-19 since the start of the pandemic,” Spotify said in a statement to the Washington Post. “We regret Neil’s decision to remove his music from Spotify, but hope to welcome him back soon.”
The streamer is the exclusive platform for Rogan after a 2020 deal worth $100 million.
At a time when other artists like Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen are cashing in on the rights to their music, Young is using his to push against misinformation.
And late Friday, Joni Mitchell followed suit, saying she would be removing her music from Spotify and calling out “irresponsible people” for “spreading lies that are costing people their lives.”
“I stand in solidarity with Neil Young and the global scientific and medical communities on this issue,” she said in a statement posted on her website.
Holocaust novel ‘Maus’ pulled from one school district
A Tennessee school district pulled the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel “Maus” from classrooms.
The book, which is excellent, tells difficult truths about the Holocaust by transforming Nazis into cats and Jews into mice.
Among the things board members found objectionable: strong language — the word “damn” — and a single, small image of nudity, in which author Art Spiegelman portrays his mother after she cut her wrists in a bathtub.
“Being in the schools, educators and stuff we don’t need to enable or somewhat promote this stuff,” said McMinn County School Board member Tony Allman, according to minutes of a January 10 school board meeting. “It shows people hanging, it shows them killing kids, why does the educational system promote this kind of stuff, it is not wise or healthy.”
After anti-vaccine activists yet again compared public health efforts to the actions of Nazis recently, this may not be the time to stop teaching about the Holocaust.
The public support for “Maus” was evident when the book sold out on Amazon after outcry about the school board decision.
“It has the breath of autocracy and fascism about it,” Spiegelman told CNN’s “New Day” on Thursday. “And it has a real problem with asking the parents to be on board to decide what’s OK to teach the kids. The values are too far away from those I can recognize to see how they got there.”
A trend in the classroom
While the immediate effect is a burst of support for “Maus,” the Tennessee school board decision is not a one-off.
Pulling “Maus” from curriculums is in line with some US states moving to restrict how schools teach lessons about gender.
In particular, the graphic novel “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” by Maia Kobabe, has become the subject of multiple local and statewide debates about what children should have access to in schools.
Often, bans on books are reversed, such as in districts in Pennsylvania and Virginia. But the efforts are ongoing elsewhere.
Informing on teachers
Controversy over how to teach about sex and gender has tracked alongside uproars over how to teach about race and a history of slavery.
A Brookings Institution review last year found nine states that have passed laws aimed at restricting critical race theory and nearly 20 more considering such laws.
Critical race theory is not an official curriculum taught in US schools but has still become the cause celebre on the right.
Newly inaugurated Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin — a Republican who is fighting school districts that have refused to comply with his executive order against mandatory masking in the classroom — has set up an email tip line for parents to inform on teachers who they feel are acting “objectionably” and teaching “divisive” material.
Parents and students are essentially encouraged to report on teachers to the state. The implication is that teachers can’t be trusted.
Streaming a podcast for profit is not the same as teaching a language arts or history class. But this week, the simple act of playing a song or reading a book feels like a political statement.
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