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A School District Has Dropped Mockingbird and Huckleberry Finn From Reading Lists Over Racial Slurs

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A Minnesota school district is removing To Kill a Mockingbird and Huckleberry Finn from its required reading list because they contain racial slurs.

Both books have been staples on school reading lists in the U.S. for decades, but school leaders in Duluth, Minn., said the use of racial slurs in both books has made many students uncomfortable. While the books will still be available in Duluth schools as an option for students to read individually, they won’t be required next school year.

“We felt that we could still teach the same standards and expectations through other novels that didn’t require students to feel humiliated or marginalized by the use of racial slurs,” Michael Cary, director of curriculum and instruction for the district, told the Twin Cities Pioneer Press. He said teachers are working on selecting different books for the reading list that will teach similar lessons without using racial slurs.


“Conversations about race are an important topic, and we want to make sure we address those conversations in a way that works well for all of our students,” he told the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

The decision was praised by the local chapter of the NAACP. “Our kids don’t need to read the ‘N’ word in school,” Stephan Witherspoon, president of the Duluth chapter, told the Star Tribune. “They deal with that every day out in the community and in their life. Racism still exists in a very big way.”

But the choice is likely to spark criticism from others. A school district in Biloxi, Miss., sparked a debate about censorship last year when it removed To Kill a Mockingbird from its reading list over language, drawing criticism from a former U.S. Education Secretary and at least one U.S. Senator.

Both To Kill a Mockingbird and Huckleberry Finn have been included on the American Library Association’s list of frequently banned or challenged books. Critics have often cited the books’ use of racial epithets as a reason, arguing they could upset black students.
by on Feb. 7, 2018 at 11:32 PM
Replies (181-189):
MissAndree
by Ronita on Feb. 9, 2018 at 5:54 PM
1 mom liked this
Thank you. I think that she is the best, but I am admittedly biased.

Quoting Jambo4:

It sounds like you are raising a wonderful daughter, much similar to how we are raising our children.  It's a constant battle to combat the negative influences they are exposed to, but we do because we take our job as parents seriously.  

Unfortunately, I don't think everyone parents like we do.

Quoting MissAndree: My daughter doesn't have a school issued IPad, but she has a phone, a laptop, a tablet and an IPod at home. It's not a matter of inappropriate content causing her to act or speak in a way that is a contradiction to her values because I have cultivated the kind of relationship in which her father and I have always been her biggest influence. There is nothing on social media that can cause her to act in a way that is not in line with her character. I have a great young woman who is socially conscious, compassionate, kind and who thinks for herself. Parents can be their kid's biggest influence, but they have to start from the very beginning by modeling appropriate behaviour and treating their children with respect, and as people, not possessions.

Quoting Jambo4:

Does your kid use an ipad in school?  Our kids have school-issued ipads and even though you try to block and limit what they can view, there is still so much that they get exposed to.

Quoting MissAndree: It's not impossible for my daughter.

Quoting Blackburn3: As having a 14 yr dd in high school I can tell you that is way from the truth. We live in small farming town and very religious and most have good home and the things my dd comes home and tells me the kids do and say and it is appalling. Thanks to the internet and social media it is impossible to keep your kids with a good head on their shoulders.

Quoting GrayDuck41: My grandchildren haven�t told me that any books have been pulled off of a reading list or out of their school libraries.
I will ask again. My grandson is a junior.
Based on what I�ve seen at CM in a few groups , parents do seem to be more arrogant and controlling and overestimate their ability and qualifications to judge schools and teachers.
And they will complain and insist school systems ban books.
But kids learn behavior at home . They hear their parents � opinions and probably hear some inappropriate words and biases. Then those kids repeat them at school.
Kids who are raised with positive , unbiased values will reject any negativity and biases they hear at school.


Quoting anxiousschk:
MissAndree
by Ronita on Feb. 9, 2018 at 5:59 PM
My daughter has amazing friends and peers for the most part. I'm not really concerned about the influence of other teens or society in general, well not until this election cycle when we as a country let our young people down, but this is only strengthening her convictions. Leading by example is how this generation will change the world.

Quoting Blackburn3: I meant to put in nearly impossible and I am also not going to be naive to know I can raise my dd and my 2 boys with all the love, moral and love for the lord and they have their own minds, cave to peer pressure and society. I just hope and pray they make the right choices but leading by example.

Quoting MissAndree: It's not impossible for my daughter.

Quoting Blackburn3: As having a 14 yr dd in high school I can tell you that is way from the truth. We live in small farming town and very religious and most have good home and the things my dd comes home and tells me the kids do and say and it is appalling. Thanks to the internet and social media it is impossible to keep your kids with a good head on their shoulders.

Quoting GrayDuck41: My grandchildren haven’t told me that any books have been pulled off of a reading list or out of their school libraries.
I will ask again. My grandson is a junior.
Based on what I’ve seen at CM in a few groups , parents do seem to be more arrogant and controlling and overestimate their ability and qualifications to judge schools and teachers.
And they will complain and insist school systems ban books.
But kids learn behavior at home . They hear their parents ‘ opinions and probably hear some inappropriate words and biases. Then those kids repeat them at school.
Kids who are raised with positive , unbiased values will reject any negativity and biases they hear at school.


Quoting anxiousschk:

I'm glad your sureness comes from a place of experience with the education system, time in a classroom and all that good stuff.  

Oh, and your child's classroom recently had experience with Mockingbird as well -- right? 

Quoting GrayDuck41: I�¢ï¿½ï¿½m pretty sure that the reason the books are removed was due to PARENTS.
Not the fault of teachers.


Quoting anxiousschk:

The debate is the honest reason these books are getting pulled from the "must read" list.  

Teachers aren't trained in how to manage a debate.  Teachers aren't trained in how to handle the sensitive topics or questions -- and I would bet a significant amount that they are flat out afraid of having to answer some serious questions that would come up with some of these books.  

I talked in an earlier response about my daughter's class skipping over the more...controversial parts of Mockinbird.  Even with that, there was a girl in her class who lost her mind, over the treatment of African Americans in the book.  The teacher couldn't handle it, didn't know how to discuss it and diffuse it.  

The thought of having discussions over stuff that was even more intense? The teacher coudln't do it, didn't think the class could either.  When my daughter was honest about it and really thought about it -- she realized the other students couldn't handle it.  

I don't really know the answer to this, but neither the adults nor the students seem to know how to participate in nor run a controversial discussion anymore.  (I'm sure *some* do, this isn't meant to be an "all" statement.)

Quoting hotspice58:

And by reading these books, students can have a dialogue about race in this country.  Banning books does absolutely nothing.

Quoting Jambo4: You have a point. One thing "bad" about everyone selecting their own book to read is that you don't no longer have class discussions altogether on the same book because everyone has chosen different books.

Quoting hotspice58:

By doing this, the school admins are taking away the students' ability to debate.   Let them read the books and have a discussion about it. 

Blackburn3
by Bronze Member on Feb. 9, 2018 at 6:04 PM
1 mom liked this
I wasn’t completely disagreeing with you I was just stating that you can do everything right raising your children and they can still be influenced by their peers, caved to peer pressure, ect. My children are not raised yet so I’m hoping they turn out and so far well behaved. My dd is a straight A, excellent athlete, but we have had a very hard time with her last year doing things especially on social media and the Internet that she has done to impress her friends and kind of have a double person online. Even though her phone is linked to our cell phones, and we have every password. It wasn’t anything sexual or completely inappropriate it was eye-opening in her language and you could tell it was to be cool. So just getting a taste of that alone opened our eyes to what is really happening we don’t know. Everyone will say take your phone away don’t let her on the computer it’s really hard when every friend, and in their school, and in their classrooms they’re allowed to be on their phones during class to keep them away from all the negative and inproper things. It’s not impossible but very hard much harder than I was a teenager late 90’s. It even scares me more for my two boys whom are only eight and six.

Quoting GrayDuck41: But I bet you raised your kids well and they don’t behave badly. That’s how I raised my kids and they weren’t negatively influenced by others at school. Same for my grandkids. Or their friends. They’re all good kids.The internet hasn’t ruined them either.
So why are you disagreeing with me?


Quoting Blackburn3: As having a 14 yr dd in high school I can tell you that is way from the truth. We live in small farming town and very religious and most have good home and the things my dd comes home and tells me the kids do and say and it is appalling. Thanks to the internet and social media it is impossible to keep your kids with a good head on their shoulders.
Quoting GrayDuck41: My grandchildren haven�¢ï¿½ï¿½t told me that any books have been pulled off of a reading list or out of their school libraries.
I will ask again. My grandson is a junior.
Based on what I�¢ï¿½ï¿½ve seen at CM in a few groups , parents do seem to be more arrogant and controlling and overestimate their ability and qualifications to judge schools and teachers.
And they will complain and insist school systems ban books.
But kids learn behavior at home . They hear their parents �¢ï¿½ï¿½ opinions and probably hear some inappropriate words and biases. Then those kids repeat them at school.
Kids who are raised with positive , unbiased values will reject any negativity and biases they hear at school.

Quoting anxiousschk:

I'm glad your sureness comes from a place of experience with the education system, time in a classroom and all that good stuff.  

Oh, and your child's classroom recently had experience with Mockingbird as well -- right? 

Quoting GrayDuck41: I����¯�¿�½������¢������¯������¿������½������¯������¿������½m pretty sure that the reason the books are removed was due to PARENTS.
Not the fault of teachers.


Quoting anxiousschk:

The debate is the honest reason these books are getting pulled from the "must read" list.  

Teachers aren't trained in how to manage a debate.  Teachers aren't trained in how to handle the sensitive topics or questions -- and I would bet a significant amount that they are flat out afraid of having to answer some serious questions that would come up with some of these books.  

I talked in an earlier response about my daughter's class skipping over the more...controversial parts of Mockinbird.  Even with that, there was a girl in her class who lost her mind, over the treatment of African Americans in the book.  The teacher couldn't handle it, didn't know how to discuss it and diffuse it.  

The thought of having discussions over stuff that was even more intense? The teacher coudln't do it, didn't think the class could either.  When my daughter was honest about it and really thought about it -- she realized the other students couldn't handle it.  

I don't really know the answer to this, but neither the adults nor the students seem to know how to participate in nor run a controversial discussion anymore.  (I'm sure *some* do, this isn't meant to be an "all" statement.)

Quoting hotspice58:

And by reading these books, students can have a dialogue about race in this country.  Banning books does absolutely nothing.

Quoting Jambo4: You have a point. One thing "bad" about everyone selecting their own book to read is that you don't no longer have class discussions altogether on the same book because everyone has chosen different books.

Quoting hotspice58:

By doing this, the school admins are taking away the students' ability to debate.   Let them read the books and have a discussion about it. 

2gerbils
by New Member on Feb. 9, 2018 at 7:50 PM
Good Lord, you can't shield your snowflakes forever! I swear, they are also planning on rewriting history books and will claim (because it's not PC) that such things as slavery, ethic cleansing never happened. The sad FACTS are they did, and by studying our history, we'll earn the lessons well enough not to repeat it.

Literature is not always polite or genteel - sometimes it's raw, gritty and rude. People need to remember where it was written, when it was written, and what subject is being addresed. If it's in context, ok. If it's smutty, violent, etc, just to be that way, it's not literature, it's just crap.
anxiousschk
by anxiouss on Feb. 10, 2018 at 7:00 AM
1 mom liked this

*Or* you could take a minute to read some responses on the pages -- it's not about sheilding the kids from the language in the books.

It's about the lack of ability and training on the part of the teachers to handle the kids (teens, usually) responses to the discussions that happen after reading those passages.  


Quoting 2gerbils: Good Lord, you can't shield your snowflakes forever! I swear, they are also planning on rewriting history books and will claim (because it's not PC) that such things as slavery, ethic cleansing never happened. The sad FACTS are they did, and by studying our history, we'll earn the lessons well enough not to repeat it. Literature is not always polite or genteel - sometimes it's raw, gritty and rude. People need to remember where it was written, when it was written, and what subject is being addresed. If it's in context, ok. If it's smutty, violent, etc, just to be that way, it's not literature, it's just crap.


jpickens
by Platinum Member on Feb. 10, 2018 at 1:24 PM
1 mom liked this
I agree. I am getting sick of that TBH. Can’t be in favor of social justice when it fits the political agenda and then behave so unreasonably.

Our kids don’t need to be insulted or caught up in an intellectual pissing match about classic literature or personal opinion about a book.

Kids having access to classic literature is absolutely important but it’s not a determining factor in the appropriate materials used to educate on racism/race relations.

And sorry for the late reply! I fell asleep early!!




Quoting MissAndree: I'm disappointed in some of the white women in this thread who have mocked and belittled the lived experience of black children over this issue. I fully except it from some of them, but some of the others? Wow. It must feel awful to know how some who claim to be in favor of social justice have minimized the way black kids have been treated, and then denigrated them further by blaming them for being too sensitive, rather than condemn the actions of the people who have treated them poorly.
Quoting jpickens: This is in general (not you directly), but this bashing and blaming Black parents who are complaining about this like we are being petty is wrong.



No Black parent is wrong, being unreasonable or petty for complaining to the school because their child is exposed to racist behavior during the DISCUSSION (NOT THE ACTUAL BOOK).



Classic literature or personal opinions about certain books is not a reason to expect us to allow our children to be treated that way nor should we be bashed for it.

Quoting PamR:

The problem is not school systems trying to keep the children ignorant, it's parents who focus on language outside of the context of a book and then complain about it.  The schools have to try to twist themselves around to accomodate everyone, regardless of the absurdity of the objection.  When one of my children was in high school, a parent objected to the book "Of Mice and Men" being assigned because of language.  One of the greatest American books, but nauighty words, so a teenager, who no doubt USES those words, can't read it.

Strong, even objectionable language,can be a powerful way to convey something.

Quoting PamR:

Yes!  IF you raise them right and correct any racist crap they may pick up from their peers, or movies, or wherever, they will ultimately have the right attitude.

I understand that these books can be replaced with others, but I find it disturbing that we are so afraid that someone will be offended, schools even offer the choice.  These two books specifically, are classics that look at difficult issues (even more so at the times they were written) and don't shy away from using the language that conveys attitudes at those times.  It's important that children learn about this.  The language is a part of how the authors conveyed these things. 

Quoting GrayDuck41: I know.

But most kids will ignore the crap that others say if they have been raised right by parents who aren�t stupid racists.




Quoting zandhmom2:

You know not all racism is taught at home. Do you have any clue how kids talk to each other in school these days? They learn this through friends, movies, music and many outside sources. 

Quoting GrayDuck41: White kids in Biloxi laughed?

The little brats�I bet at home they hear their parents using racist terms and complaining about those �n-words�. Kids learn to be kind or they learn to be racist from their parents.




Quoting jpickens: Idk about Minnesota. Biloxi was because the White students were making offensive comments and laughing at the word in front of Black students. So a parent who did not ask them to ban the book understandably complained about it.





Quoting hotspice58:

It wasn't banned, it was dropped.  My bad.   But why drop them?  Let students have a dialogue so they have more awareness than their parents.

Quoting jpickens: The book wasn�t banned.



Quoting hotspice58:

Why not let these books be read and let the students have a dialouge about them?  Banning them won't make all racial slurs go away.

Quoting MissAndree: There are plenty of other books that can replace these two. They are not banning them, just replacing them. That's fair.

Well said. I imagine Anne Frank's book is not assigned now as it might be too hard for the little snowflakes to handle. It's best to keep kids absolutely ignorant about all history, so no snowflakes get their feelings hurt.

jpickens
by Platinum Member on Feb. 10, 2018 at 1:39 PM
She did make a good point. It’s impossible to eliminate it but I can see teachers having to pick resources that decreases the likelihood of distractions as much as possible. I’ve had to do that too.

“That then became a discussion on what a bastard was that left the teacher scrambling and students saying, "well my parents aren't married, so I'm a swear word?"

^^^ It’s funny how fast kids can go in a completely different direction and ask you the most awkward questions. Poor babies. 😢





Quoting Jambo4:

My comment will be more directed towards your first comment but I can't find it to quote it.  You do have a point that the problem is with the debate and the teacher's ability to handle it and direct it to where it's useful.  

 A few years back my daughter class was reading together "Fried Worms" (or maybe it's "how to eat fried worms"), anyway one of the students in the book calls his friend a bastard.  My daughter's copy had that word, newer ones had a different one.  She said, "wait... my book doesn't say that.  It says a swear"  That then became a discussion on what a bastard was that left the teacher scrambling and students saying, "well my parents aren't married, so I'm a swear word?"  Like you said, teachers have little training on how to handle sticky situations.  Some are adept at it and some fail miserably. 

This day and age there are recording devices in school and teachers are worried that their every utterance will go viral, especially if it's not handled properly.  It's easier for them to want to immediately shut down anything that gets uncomfortable. 

Quoting anxiousschk:

But it's not all about the potential for kids to say harmful things.  

And there are plenty of kids who come from good homes that also act like assholes sometimes.  

And again, your kids may not even notice the absence of these books.  My daughter noticed how messed up the Mockingbird teaching was, only because she had read it.  She knew what was coming and was looking forward to the discussions.  The other kids didn't care and wouldn't have mentioned that they weren't reading the rest of the book.  

Changing a required reading list usually doesn't raise too many eyebrows -- I'm honestly a bit surprised that this did.  There are SO MANY other books out there that can teach the same thing that Mockingbird does and in a much more relevant way.  (The Hate U Give is just one, it's seriously such a great book.) 

But the problem becomes the discussions.  Not the parents yelling about the book.  

Discussions about hot/sensitive topics will always be provoking.  People will have different opinions and see things different ways.  The problem is that the skill of communicating without insulting each other has been lost.  You see it in here (I'm fairly certain I called *you* out on it in a post a few days ago.) 

If we as adults can't do it -- then how do we expect children do it?  We can't simply go around insulting people on the internet and then act surprised that teenagers can't hold discussions about emotionally charged topics -- (nevermind expecting the teachers with no training on how to moderate such a thing) when we can't even do it when we are given ample time to think and prepare a response.  

Quoting GrayDuck41: My grandchildren haven’t told me that any books have been pulled off of a reading list or out of their school libraries.
I will ask again. My grandson is a junior.
Based on what I’ve seen at CM in a few groups , parents do seem to be more arrogant and controlling and overestimate their ability and qualifications to judge schools and teachers.
And they will complain and insist school systems ban books.
But kids learn behavior at home . They hear their parents ‘ opinions and probably hear some inappropriate words and biases. Then those kids repeat them at school.
Kids who are raised with positive , unbiased values will reject any negativity and biases they hear at school.


Quoting anxiousschk:

I'm glad your sureness comes from a place of experience with the education system, time in a classroom and all that good stuff.  

Oh, and your child's classroom recently had experience with Mockingbird as well -- right? 

Quoting GrayDuck41: I�¢ï¿½ï¿½m pretty sure that the reason the books are removed was due to PARENTS.
Not the fault of teachers.


Quoting anxiousschk:

The debate is the honest reason these books are getting pulled from the "must read" list.  

Teachers aren't trained in how to manage a debate.  Teachers aren't trained in how to handle the sensitive topics or questions -- and I would bet a significant amount that they are flat out afraid of having to answer some serious questions that would come up with some of these books.  

I talked in an earlier response about my daughter's class skipping over the more...controversial parts of Mockinbird.  Even with that, there was a girl in her class who lost her mind, over the treatment of African Americans in the book.  The teacher couldn't handle it, didn't know how to discuss it and diffuse it.  

The thought of having discussions over stuff that was even more intense? The teacher coudln't do it, didn't think the class could either.  When my daughter was honest about it and really thought about it -- she realized the other students couldn't handle it.  

I don't really know the answer to this, but neither the adults nor the students seem to know how to participate in nor run a controversial discussion anymore.  (I'm sure *some* do, this isn't meant to be an "all" statement.)

Quoting hotspice58:

And by reading these books, students can have a dialogue about race in this country.  Banning books does absolutely nothing.

Quoting Jambo4: You have a point. One thing "bad" about everyone selecting their own book to read is that you don't no longer have class discussions altogether on the same book because everyone has chosen different books.

Quoting hotspice58:

By doing this, the school admins are taking away the students' ability to debate.   Let them read the books and have a discussion about it. 

MaddieAndSons
by Member on Feb. 10, 2018 at 1:42 PM
I don't support reading from a required list. I do support reading whatever book you choose. Kids have there own tastes. I just want them to be excited about reading.
KatAl1312
by Member on Feb. 10, 2018 at 2:12 PM

Not a ban...just a replacement. Both books are fantastic though, so I hope the kids will still read them. 

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