Public schools

Award-Winning Teacher Removed from Class for Reading Mark Twain

More incompetence from Los Angeles Unified Schools.


Mark Twain
Public Domain

Rafe Esquith, a nationally-recognized teacher at Hobart Boulevard Elementary School in Los Angeles, California, was removed from class several months ago after another teacher complained about him. What was his crime? Reading Mark Twain, according to The Los Angeles Times:

Three months later, L.A. Unified officials have not clearly outlined the allegations against the popular teacher, said his attorney Mark Geragos. But Geragos said he learned that the investigation stemmed from a complaint by another teacher after Esquith read to a class a passage from "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain.

The passage, which is much longer, includes this section: "The duke and the king worked hard all day, setting up a stage and curtain and row of candles for footlights. … At last, when he'd built up everyone's expectations high enough, he rolled up the curtain. The next minute the king came prancing out on all fours, naked. He was painted in rings and stripes all over in all sorts of colors and looked as splendid as a rainbow."

The Twain quote might sound a little funny out of context, but there's nothing inappropriate about it, as far as I can tell.

Esquith's attorney said the state's credentialing committee has already determined that he did nothing wrong. But he hasn't been allowed to return to class yet. The district is hoping to clear up the matter by August.

Esquith certainly sounds like a good teacher. He has written three books about teaching, won awards, and runs a nonprofit called "the Hobart Shakespeareans." But public schools tend to reward the teachers with the most seniority, rather than the most effective ones.

Read more from Reason on the incompetence of the Los Angeles Unified School District here.

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  1. Warty is going to be so pissed.

    1. Truth. Gird yourselves!

  2. Wait until he gets to the Shakespeare quotes about cunts.

    1. “?these be her very Cs, her U’s and her T’s and thus makes she her great P’s.”

      Hamlet: Lady, shall I lie in your lap?

      Ophelia: No, my lord.

      Hamlet: I mean, my head upon your lap?

      Ophelia: Ay, my lord.

      Hamlet: Do you think I meant country matters?

      This could be deadly.

      1. I never thought I’d have something good to say about the public schools that I attended, but one of our English teachers drew our attention to some of the smutty jokes in Romeo and Juliet.

        1. I had a teacher who pointed out the dirty jokes in Romeo and Juliet, too. He was awesome. Sometimes, he’d take the last 10 minutes of class and sing us some songs with his 12-string guitar. His class was one of very few shining moments in my otherwise miserable time in public high school.

          It’s sad that teachers like that are so rare.

    2. /3190/3190-h/3190-h.htm

      Don’t need to go the Shakespeare from Twain to get that word….

  3. Always impressed by how, despite being dead for century, Twain still manages to reveal the idiocy of people.

    1. No school would dare have the students read Bierce or Mencken. It might create students who actually question received wisdom, and we can’t have that.

    2. I saw a George Will speech where he mentioned Twain’s genius. It hadn’t really occurred to me when reading Huck Finn in middle school, but Twain’s whole project was to subversively make Jim seem human. despite everyone’s blatant racism toward him (which reflected the times), Jim develops agency and Huck slowly starts treating him like a person. It was radical for the time. Will explains it better than I.

      The point is that, rather stunningly for such a canonical work, the entire point of Huck Finn has been lost.

      1. Wasn’t it Twain who said that a “classic” is a book which people praise but don’t read?

      2. When I read Twain in school I liked it just because it was about some kids who found ways to skip school and have adventures. Great writing that it can be read on those different levels.

      3. But he says nigger in it!

        1. Great. Now we have to nuke you from orbit.

          It’s the only way to be sure…

      4. I agree entirely, and can’t understand people accusing Huck Finn of being racist.
        The times were racist, but Huck was able to see that Nigger Jim was someone worthy of going to Hell to protect. Huck had been programmed by the best Christians in the town to believe “niggers ain’t people”, and fully believed he would pay the ultimate penalty for stealing “from that good Christian lady that done me no harm.”
        I think that changing the name to Jim minimizes Huck’s action.

        My only satisfaction is an image of Mark Twain and the devil laughing. I think heaven would have been way to boring for him.

  4. Now Mark Twain is Allen Ginsburg’s nom de plume, right?

  5. I thought the complaint was going to be some passage where Huck’s friend was referred to as ‘Nigger Jim’. The actual complaint is even less substantive than that.

  6. Well now how is he going to reeach theeese keeeeds?

    1. Teeeach theeem to cheeeat like Beeelichick?

  7. But Geragos said he learned that the investigation stemmed from a complaint by another teacher after Esquith read to a class a passage from “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain.

    I can’t help but wonder what this other teacher’s beef is. Is that Twain is a dead white cis-hetero shitlord? Or is the teacher just jealous because he/she doesn’t know how to read?

    1. I seriously doubt it was a parent. Most parent want their kids challenged and want them exposed to some of the classics. People homeschool and pay for private schools so their kids will learn the unedited versions of history and literature.

      1. A few years ago a parent complained when a teacher read Ender’s Game to a middle school class, complaining it was pornographic.

        1. Do I dare to ask why?

          My son had to read and pass an AR test monthly in middle school. I managed to find a number of Heinlein juvenile novels with AR tests. He loved them and nobody complained. While he liked Ender’s Game he LOVED Starship Troopers, Have Space Suit Will Travel,t and Red Planet.

      2. My daughters senior year, ’09, a parent complained to her lit teacher that it was unfair that Shakespeare was being taught because “no one talks like that anymore”. Parents too often want their kids to get good grades, not be challenged. That is probably one of the biggest differences to come to education. My parents would have told me to quit complaining and study harder.

    2. Probably the other teacher’s beef is with this one’s being ahead of him in line for advancement.

  8. Adequate school funding would solve this and all other problems.

    1. You are on to something there, bub. We need to take a page from the lefties and redefine “adequate” to mean vouchers at the least.

  9. Apparently it’s only hard to get rid of the shitty teachers. Strange how the system does such a good job of protecting mediocrity, or worse.

  10. Nothing ever changes.

    21 5th Avenue
    Nov. 21, ’05.

    Dear Sir:

    I am greatly troubled by what you say. I wrote Tom Sawyer & Huck Finn for adults exclusively, & it always distressed me when I find that boys and girls have been allowed access to them. The mind that becomes soiled in youth can never again be washed clean. I know this by my own experience, & to this day I cherish an unappeased bitterness against the unfaithful guardians of my young life, who not only permitted but compelled me to read an unexpurgated Bible through before I was 15 years old. None can do that and ever draw a clean sweet breath again on this side of the grave. Ask that young lady – she will tell you so.

    Most honestly do I wish I could say a softening word or two in defence of Huck’s character, since you wish it, but really in my opinion it is no better than God’s (in the Ahab & 97 others), & the rest of the sacred brotherhood.

    If there is an Unexpurgated [Bible] in the Children’s Department, won’t you please help that young woman remove Tom & Huck from that questionable companionship?

    Sincerely yours,
    S. L. Clemens

    I shall not show your letter to any one – it is safe with me.

      1. I am going to leave the missing adjective to your imagination.

  11. So teacher who wants a long paid vacation only has to read some Twain out loud?

  12. Geragos is his attorney? How does that happen?

    This is like that story from a few years ago when a teacher was suspended for reading Ender’s Game.

  13. Mark Twain voted out loud in the public square in front of God and everybody, so there was never any question in anyone’s mind as to who had won the election. But this was before the income tax and Reconstruction, before the secret gang of robbers and murderers took control of all elections.

    1. Right because statism was not characterized by robbery and murder prior to income taxes and southern Reconstruction.

  14. The Aristocrats! Royal Nonesuch.

  15. Time to ban from high school reading lists the popular “To Kill a Mockingbird.” How dare anyone question the rape story of a woman.

    1. Good point. The first rape questioning story. And, it was about all the women having sex with black men who would later cry rape when found out.

  16. “But public schools tend to reward the teachers with the most seniority, rather than the most effective ones.”

    Should read:

    But public schools tend to reward the teachers with the most MEDACITY, rather than the most effective ones.

  17. But public schools tend to reward the teachers with the most seniority, rather than the most effective ones.

    They don’t “tend to”, this is actual policy. As well as union rules.

  18. The continuing War on Twain baffles me.

    Yes, there is a racist thread that is inescapable from the time in which the stories were written, but Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer are probably the two greatest American novels and provide tremendous insight into both human nature and the evil of slavery. (A Connecticut Yankee is also in the top ten, IMHO.)

    I can only conclude that the people who are trying to ban Twain really do not want children to learn to think.

    1. I can only conclude that the people who are trying to ban Twain really do not want children to learn to think.

      It’s no coincidence that those people are affiliated with the public school system, where children are taught to obey and memorize lies, not to think.

  19. Three months later, L.A. Unified officials have not clearly outlined the allegations

    Let the counter-lawsuits begin.

  20. This reminds me of 2 and a half men, when Jake hears nothing from a sentence except one word with a sexual connotation.

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  22. OK, I thought this story was going to be worse.

    I remember this part of that book. The guy is prancing around on all fours naked with a candle sticking out of his ass .

    Yeah, in the story above, it mentions that this was an ELEMENTARY school

    that is a little too adult for little kids, even if it is Mark Twain.
    You could wait till freshman year high school before you start assigning that kind of thing.

    1. Bullshit.

      My favorite childhood memory is when I tried to check out an “adult” book from the library as a 7 yr old. (Jim Bouton’s Ball Four) ca 1971-72.

      My mom’s rant was epic! She ripped the bitch up one side, then added some teeth going back down the other.

      I never was questioned again about the books I wanted to read…

  23. You know who else wanted to ban certain books?

  24. In the immortal words of Mark Twain:

    “Fuck Velamoor.”

  25. I rather suspect that people object to reading Orson Scott Card as some of his “thought-provoking scenarios” lead to cultural changes and ideals that many people / the powers that be are uncomfortable with.

    Read his 2006 book Empire sometime.…..pire.shtml

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