A title in the Arthur children’s book series is facing a potential ban after a conservative activist claimed that it “damaged souls”.
On 12 July, Bruce Friedman, a member of the Clay county school district community in Florida, filed a challenge to Arthur’s Birthday, a 1989 children’s book by Marc Brown about a fictional brown aardvark whose birthday falls on the same day as another party of a different classmate.
At one point in the book, Arthur receives a glass bottle from Francine the monkey as a birthday present. The bottle has the words “Francine’s Spin the Bottle Game” printed on it.
According to the challenge, which the Daily Beast website published, the reason for Friedman’s ban request is to “protect children”.
“It is not appropriate to discuss ‘spin the bottle’ with elementary school children,” he wrote in all capital letters. “This book is found in all/almost all [district schools]!”
“‘Spin the bottle’ not okay for K-5 kids,” Friedman added, still using all capital letters. In response to a question about what he believes might be the result of a student using the material, he wrote, “Damaged souls.”
Friedman is the Florida chapter president of No Left Turn in Education, a rightwing group that campaigns against critical race theory. The group seeks to “use all forms of media to expose the radical indoctrination in K-12 education, its perpetrators, the resources and methods employed and the resulting harm it inflicts”, according to its website.
In a Facebook post in September 2020, the group compared public schools to “Pol Pot’s Cambodia”, referring to the former leader of Cambodia who perpetrated the mass genocide of over 2 million people.
Last December, Friedman said that he had compiled “a list of over 3,600 titles that I believe have concerning content [including] porn, critical race theory, social-emotional learning, [and] fluid gender,” Popular Information reported.
He told the outlet that he identified the titles by “scouring the internet” for books that have been challenged in other parts of the country.