Huck Finn, The Grapes of Wrath and the Omnivore's Dilemma? Yes, Michael Pollan's popular rebuke of agri-business seems to have joined those other great works on the list of censored books. Officials at Washington State University have removed Pollan's work for what some are saying are political reasons.According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the book was dropped from the common reading list for incoming freshman. The university is citing budget constraints as the reason, but those seems dubious at best. After all, Washington State, a well known agriculture school, has already purchased 4,000 copies of the book.
According to the Chronicle:
But some people on the campus say that the university faced political pressure after selecting the book.
"What we were told is that when the committee picked The Omnivore's Dilemma, because of the politics of the agriculture industry, we would not be having a common reading, and that President Floyd decided that this was not a battle he wanted to wage," said one person who had knowledge of the program and asked not to be named because of fear of job loss.
Jeff Sellen, an instructor at the university who sat on a committee in charge of implementing the reading program, says members of that panel were told "we could not call it a 'common reading.'"
"I think that was important because it would be less official and would maybe fly underneath the radar," he says. "It was obvious that it was political."
He says that there was never a substantial budget for events around the book—certainly not enough to bring in Mr. Pollan as a speaker—so he dismisses the idea that there was a financial rationale for the changes in the program.
If anything, perhaps the controversy generated over the university's decision will spark greater interest with the students and they'll seek out the book for themselves. If you haven't read it, it's a highly readable smackdown of just how so much corn got in our food products, the meat industry, and how Big Ag has so much control over what gets on our plates and in our stomachs. President Obama even seems to be a fan. He referenced Pollan's work during his campaign for the presidency.