I honestly can’t remember what grade I was in when I first read “The Diary of Anne Frank.” Perhaps around the same age as Anne, the young Jewish girl who was given a diary on her 13th birthday, just before she and her family went into hiding from the Nazis in the Netherlands.
During the two years in which she, her sister Margot, and her mother and father, Otto & Edith hid, Anne wrote what is now commonly referred to as “The Diary of Anne Frank.” In her diary, “Anne wrote about events in the Secret Annex (their hiding place), but also about her feelings and thoughts.” On August 4, 1944, Anne and her family were discovered in a raid by the Nazis. They, along with around 1,000 other Jews, were transported via train to Auschwitz concentration camp. Anne and her sister were eventually transferred to Bergen-Belsen:
“There was a lack of food, it was cold, wet and there were contagious diseases. Anne and Margot contracted typhus. In February 1945 they both died owing to its effects, Margot first, Anne shortly afterwards.”
Three Versions of Anne Frank’s Diary
Of the Frank family who were sent to concentration camps, only Otto, Anne’s father, survived. But, so did Anne’s diary. What we now know as “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl,” first published in 1947, was not the original version of Anne’s diary. In fact, it was “version c.” The first two versions, a and b, were much more raw, with all of Anne’s thoughts and feelings included.
When the 1947 version was released, the publisher had asked Otto Frank to shorten the manuscript for the book. He did:
Constrained by publisher demands for length, Otto cut sections of the diary. He excised mundane passages. He also took out passages dealing with sex, including an oft-challenged section in which Anne, with normal youthful curiosity and guiltlessness, explores and catalogs her genitalia.” (emphasis added)
How many people know that there are three versions of Anne Frank’s Diary? I certainly didn’t until I began writing this post. Although my memory is fuzzy from 40+ years ago when I would have read “The Diary of Anne Frank” in late middle school or early high school, I would bet (if I were a betting man) that the version that I read was the one edited by Otto Frank. In fact, the 1947 version is the most well-known of the versions that have been in print for the last 75 years.
Texas Teacher Reads The Graphic Adaptation of Anne Frank’s Diary
Apparently, that’s not the version that a Texas teacher recently used in her 8th-grade class. Using the 2018 adaptation, “Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation,” the teacher in the Hamshire-Fannett Independent School District (located south of Beaumont, TX), read aloud part of the graphic novel. It’s not clear whether the teacher was reading the book sequentially or if the teacher picked out a specific passage to read. According to a local Houston news source:
“the teacher was sent home on Wednesday after a passage from Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation in which Frank wrote about male and female genitalia.”
There seems to also be some confusion as to whether this version of Anne Frank’s diary was approved for reading in the classroom:
While district officials claim the adaptation of Anne Frank’s Diary was not approved, it was included on a reading list sent to parents at the start of the school year, KFDM reports. The investigation will determine if the teacher pivoted from the original approved curriculum or if administrators were aware of the book being part of the class.”
What Version of Anne Frank’s Diary Are We Talking About?
This seems to be a mess, perhaps of the school district’s making and/or perhaps the result of the teacher’s disregard for the reading guidelines of the district. In any event, the teacher was fired as a result of her reading a portion of Anne Frank’s diary. And, herein lies the problem.
When we talk about “The Diary of Anne Frank,” which version are we talking about? Is it the well-known Otto Frank edited version, “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl,” that omits any references to sexuality or genitalia? Or, are we talking about Anne’s original, un-redacted version that includes the aforementioned references? I suppose it depends on the ultimate lesson that a teacher wants to impart to their students. If it’s to educate today’s children about the horrors of the Holocaust, a worthy goal, then the 1947 edition should be more than sufficient. If, however, there is a different agenda, one that involves exposing children to sexual content, then the Graphic Adaptation would fit the bill.
As a parent of an 8th-grader in the Hamshire-Fannett IDS or any other school district across the country, does it matter what version of Anne Frank’s diary is assigned in class? Apparently, it does matter, as this is not the only time that Anne Frank’s diary has caused controversy:
“The unabridged version of Frank’s diary has also recently sparked controversy in other Texas schools, including at Dallas-Fort Worth’s Keller ISD where it was pulled from library shelves last year, along with the Bible. In Florida, the graphic novel adaptation was removed from a high school in Vero Beach earlier this year after a parent complained about its sexual content.”
Parental Rights and the Ultimate Responsibility for Children
Given this present controversy, one wonders why a graphic adaptation, complete with sexual references, is deemed more appropriate for students in 2023 rather than the 1947 version that omits the passages that are causing consternation among parents and school administrators. I’m certainly not saying that the complete, unabridged version of Anne Frank’s diary shouldn’t be published or isn’t appropriate for certain students. I question the judgment and wisdom of some teachers who persist in imposing their own agendas on students, knowing full well that these agendas will be met with stiff resistance from parents.
That’s because today’s parents, following online school during COVID, are much more involved in their children’s education, including knowing what their children are studying or reading in class. Teachers who intentionally or unintentionally disregard the rules or who try to circumvent parental involvement are no longer able to fly under the radar undetected. Whether or not this was the case with the teacher in Texas is yet to be determined. But, let this be a reminder that parents are still ultimately responsible for what their children learn, despite what some schools, teachers, or politicians might argue.