Classic novel on racism pulled from 8th-grade curriculum. The reason is more than a little ironic.

Classic novel on racism pulled from 8th-grade curriculum. The reason is more than a little ironic.
Late actor Gregory Peck portrays Atticus Finch in the 1962 film adaptation of "To Kill a Mockingbird." The classic novel, which deals with racism, was pulled from a Mississippi 8th-grade English curriculum because the language "makes people uncomfortable," a Biloxi school board official said. (Image source: YouTube screenshot)

Mississippi’s Biloxi School District received complaints about the language in “To Kill A Mockingbird” — a classic novel dealing with racism in the American south — and then pulled the book from its 8th-grade English Language Arts curriculum last week, the Sun Herald reported.

What were the complaints about “To Kill a Mockingbird”?

  • “There is some language in the book that makes people uncomfortable, and we can teach the same lesson with other books,” Kenny Holloway, vice president of the Biloxi School Board, told the paper. “It’s still in our library. But they’re going to use another book in the 8th-grade course.”
  • The Sun Herald reported that it got an email from a concerned reader who said the ruling happened “mid-lesson plan, the students will not be allowed to finish the reading of ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ …. due to the use of the ‘N’ word.”

What else did the concerned reader say?

  • “I think it is one of the most disturbing examples of censorship I have ever heard, in that the themes in the story humanize all people regardless of their social status, education level, intellect, and of course, race,” the reader said to the paper. “It would be difficult to find a time when it was more relevant than in days like these.”

What is “To Kill a Mockingbird” about?

  • The 1960 novel by Harper Lee — which won the Pulitzer Prize in fiction the following year and was turned into an Oscar-winning movie in 1962 — is about a southern lawyer who defends a black man against a trumped-up rape charge and teaches his children about racial prejudice.

Who made the decision to pull the novel?

  • The school board told the Sun Herald it was an administrative and department decision, and the board didn’t vote on it.
  • Superintendent Arthur McMillan told the paper in a statement that “there are many resources and materials that are available to teach state academic standards to our students. These resources may change periodically. We always strive to do what is best for our students and staff to continue to perform at the highest level.”

What does Common Core have to say about “To Kill a Mockingbird”?

  • It’s listed on the curriculum as a core text for 8th grade ELA, the Common Core state standards for English Language Arts, the Sun Herald said.

What does the American Library Association have to say about the novel?

  • The organization lists “To Kill A Mockingbird” as among the most banned or challenged books.

Former Vanderbilt professor Carol Swain — an outspoken conservative as well as a critic of the left’s hold on public education — weighed in on the issue on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends”:

This writer’s perspective

It’s ironic that the Biloxi School District pulled “To Kill a Mockingbird” over concerns that it “makes people uncomfortable.” The subject is supposed to make one feel uncomfortable — and the acts of reading and discussing the novel can, in fact, help do away with racism.

Instead, students will be protected from eyeballing language they’ve no doubt heard or read already and subsequently miss the opportunity to become conversant not only with a classic of American literature but more importantly about the subjects of race and racism for the betterment of society.

To what extent will the perpetually offended hold sway in this area? What other language will be sanitized so that deeper meanings are rendered invisible? This circumstance is not dissimilar from college students and professors pushing to do away with free speech and expression that doesn’t align with their far-left viewpoints.

Such cowering political correctness and censorship must end — and Atticus Finch would no doubt argue that point.

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