Alaska-grown Portugal. The Man joins backlash against Mat-Su’s ‘unpatriotic’ book ban

Members of Portugal. The Man join protestors in demonstrating during Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy's address at the annual AFN convention on Oct. 17, 2019. (Photo by Defend the Sacred Alaska)

Whether the Mat-Su Borough School Board banned five books, including “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” for its “anti-white” messaging, or it merely removed them from the curriculum, effectively banning teachers from using the books in the classrooms, the backlash to the small-minded actions has been loud and fierce.

Today, Wasilla-grown and Grammy-winning Portugal. The Man joined the backlash, calling the ban “narrow-minded and un-Patriotic”, and pledged to donate the books directly to students. Last week, the Mat-Su School Board voted 5-2 to remove F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man,” Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22,” Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried,” and Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” from the teaching curriculum.

“These titles are often considered staples for junior and senior English classes across the country. We believe this decision is narrow-minded and un-Patriotic, and we are not OK with it. That is why we are putting out a standing offer that if any student/parent in the Mat-Su Borough School District wants a copy of one or more of these books, we will mail them to you,” the group said in a statement.

The group, which is no stranger to wading into Alaska politics after having performed at an anti-veto pro-University of Alaska rally last year and members took part in protesting Dunleavy during his address to the Alaska Federation of Natives’ annual convention, pledged to donate copies of the books directly to students, inviting them to contact them at [email protected].

Members of the the Mat-Su School Board supported removing the books though many acknowledged that they had never read them, only skimming online summaries, and have since griped with the coverage of their actions. It’s not a ban, they claim, and instead a liberal media frenzy over a simple removal of the books.

It’s an accusation that Mat-Su Frontiersman Publisher Dennis Anderson didn’t take lightly, penning an editorial defending reporter Tim Rockey’s work on the original stories and excoriating the board from removing the opportunity for such books that containing difficult ideas from being taught in the classroom.

“Removal and banned go hand in hand in this case. While some supporters of the removal of these books want to hide behind the facade of the liberal media is at it again. They fail to make a compelling argument as to why the books should have been removed in the first place,” he said. “There will be no apology from the Frontiersman for using the word ban or for correcting the original story. I stand behind our reporter Tim Rockey and Managing Editor Jeremiah Bartz 100%.”

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