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Committee votes to keep "Of Mice and Men" in Brainerd school curriculum

Of Mice and Men is a novella written by Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbec

A classic novel will stay in Brainerd High School curriculum, a committee voted Thursday.

John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” was brought under the microscope recently after parent Doug Kern told the Brainerd School Board he thought some of the language and terms used were vulgar and inappropriate.

Following protocol, when there is any dispute over literature, the district’s Resource Selection Committee met Thursday to both conduct a public hearing and to discuss the book.

Four parents spoke at the public hearing, two in favor of keeping the book in the curriculum and two against.

High school students read “Of Mice and Men” in 10th grade. Should the student or parents choose, they can read an alternate book: Steinbeck’s “The Pearl.”

During the public hearing Thursday, each resident was given three minutes to speak.

Kern argued terms used in the book like “Jesus Christ,” (used as curse words) “(the n-word),” and “Japs,” were “appalling.”

“I teach my kids respect. This book undermines everything we teach our children,” he said.

Kern continued, “If we allow a book like this, it’s undermining who we are. Not as just a nation, but a community.”

Doug Kern’s wife and school board member Sue Kern also spoke against the book.

Baxter parent Kevin Boyles, who has a child in 10th grade, said school officials shouldn’t remove a book based on one group’s views.

“Where would we draw the line?” he asked. “Would we begin to look at what offends anyone and everyone?”

Parent Amy Borash, whose daughter just finished the book, said removing the book from class would be “an enormous disservice.”

“Seeking to remove it because someone misunderstands the true intent is misguided,” she said. “Seeking to prevent my child or others from the benefits this book has to offer is an infringement on my rights.”

Members of the Resource Selection Committee all spoke in favor of keeping the book.

Committee member Pam Dyson, director of technology at the district, said when her two children read the book it caused her whole family to have conversations they otherwise wouldn’t.

“We learned a lot. We grew a lot together during those times,” she said.

Jill Marohn, committee member and literacy director for the district, said she wants her kids exposed to this type of literature.

Marohn said children will hear this type of language in life and “their response is important.”

Teenagers can talk about how the language isn’t appropriate, while in the safe school setting, said Misty Jobe, an eighth-grade teacher and committee member.

“It’s an opportunity to have the conversation with kids on why this language is not appropriate,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to think about it... I teach kids that words have power. If we don’t have the conversation, our kids will never learn.”

Student committee member Maya Hermerding, a senior at the high school, said the book opened her eyes to the world and “what the world could be.”

Hermerding said she was glad she read the book in the safe school setting, where she was able to ask her teachers and parents questions.

The unanimous vote to keep “Of Mice and Men” in the curriculum goes before the school board in its consent agenda. The decision could be protested by the public at that time.

JESSICA LARSEN may be reached at or 855-5859. Follow me on Twitter at