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Northern Idaho School Board Agrees to Keep Of Mice and Men on Reading List

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After one trustee reminded his colleagues that John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men that, "This little novel has been by all counts the most argued text in American public education in the last 50 years," the Coeur d'Alene School District board of trustees voted 4-to-1 Monday night to keep the book on ninth-grade reading lists for whole-class instruction.

"There are some folks on both ends of the spectrum regarding this book who are upset," said trustee Dave Eubanks. "A middle ground designation for them simply will not do. So here's the path I have found toward resolving this issue."

And that's when Eubanks reminded trustees that the Steinbeck novel had been on the district's reading list for nearly a dozen years, yet there had never been a parent in the district requesting an "opt-out," meaning they would have preferred that their child not read the book as part of their education.

This morning's Coeur d'Alene Press reports that prior to the vote to keep the book, an English teacher from Lake City High School told the board that Of Mice and Men was a "gripping novel" that many students strongly relate to, especially "young men who are often the most difficult to engage with literature."

But a member of the board's ad-hoc committee, which was asked to investigate the controversy over the book, told trustees that she had become the target of harassment for her opposition to keeping the book on the reading list.

"At this point, I have to be cautious answering my phone, opening my front door, and I receive emails from strangers," said Mary Jo Finney, one of four ad hoc committee members who voted to remove the novel from whole group instruction. "This is bullying mentality at its highest level. It is shocking that there is such outrage because a person is outspokenly conservative."