A school district in Wisconsin is under fire from concerned parents for materials that were added to their virtual library. Elmbrook School District recently added five volumes of the Japanese manga Assassination Classroom by Yusei Matsui to the virtual e-library used within the school for the 2021-22 school year.
What’s Assassination Classroom About?
The basic setup is that this yellow, smiley-faced octopus-like creature has decided to give the world an ultimatum. In this, he states that after one year has passed, he will destroy the Earth. And the only way to prevent this is to assassinate him prior to that time. His only demand beyond that is that he asks to teach a Junior High Class of students(specifically class 3-E), all of whom are at the bottom of the educational rung for one reason or another.
So he teaches them the ways of assassination but also helps them improve their grades over time to the point where the true antagonists feel more like self-doubt. The Class 3-A students are at the top of the pyramid and reek of privilege and don’t see Class 3-E as worth respecting.
The series serves as a uniquely whimsical critique of an educational system that feels almost as if it needs certain kids to be left behind in the name of preserving the status quo instead of providing a means to open up the potential of those who aren’t as suited to the standard structure. Through a combination of assassination training and studying, the children of Class 3-E sharpen both their blades and their minds and are able to discover just how open their future can be.
A concerned parent backed up her concern via the series’ description and labels on Book Looks, a website run by
“concerned parents who have been frustrated by the lack of resource material for content-based information regarding books accessible to children and young adults,’ and provides reviews of books parents may be concerned about”Book Looks
Their description of the series was
“explicit violence, mild profanity, and sexual activities.”Book Looks
Director of Library Services Statement
When faced with criticism by the parent, Kay Koepsel-Benning the Director of Library Services for the district, made sure to point out that context is key. She also said not to trust Book Looks as the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction cautioned against it as it is not run by professional librarians who take their job seriously when cultivating materials for the schools. Instead, Koepsel-Benning opted to suggest the School Library Journal which is a professional resource that the district used when purchasing the series.
The parent, who remained anonymous for fear of retaliation, was concerned that the series would promote gun violence and/or violence against teachers as well as stating that the series:
“promotes content which undermines the fabric of our community.”Book Loan
Another parent was concerned about the sexual content supposedly within the series and said:
“This seems very unhealthy to promote, especially to students who may not be able to process these characters appropriately. The Slender Man stabbing that happened in a neighboring school district was inspired by a fictional character, so unfortunately, this being a fictional series could still inspire real-world harm.”Book Loan
Here’s my Hot Take…
Now, that’s all the information that is available at the moment about the subject… I want to take a moment to give my own personal views on the topic.
While I can understand being concerned about whether or not children can handle the content that is within this series, I do want to point out that we often underestimate what teenagers can and cannot handle. It is important that we give teenagers the space to figure these things out on their own and leave space for them to come to an adult if they have questions or want to talk about the material.
Regarding the claims that this isn’t appropriate for children, I also just want to provide a bit of context. Assassination Classroom is a Shōnen manga that was published in the popular Japanese magazine, Weekly Shōnen Jump. This type of manga, or Japanese comics, is targeted at teenage boys as they are the primary demographic for this type of story. So naturally, it would have more action and violence since that’s something that appeals to boys more. Not to generalize, of course, as there are reports that the readership behind this magazine is largely 50-50 or getting close.
I can respect that the parents in question are not looking to censor the series or have it removed, but if you’re concerned about the gun violence or sexual content in a comic series from another country… maybe we should have a look at our own media first. Or, and this might sound crazy, trust that today’s kids are smarter than we give them credit for.
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