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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 (11-20):
themrs007
by Member on Feb. 8, 2018 at 7:02 AM
2 moms liked this
I remember being shocked and horrified to see these racial slurs in these books, but these words also show the times that were written in, how far we have come and how far we have to go. I see them as part of literature just as nudity is sometimes part of great pieces of art. I'm very rarely a fan of banned books. What's next, banning Dr. Seuss because he says "stupid" and "dumb"? These words are obviously not offensive to the point the nword is, but where is the line?
romalove
by Roma on Feb. 8, 2018 at 7:10 AM
11 moms liked this
I think it's important for kids to read things that make them think and even make them uncomfortable and that show aspects of our history that aren't just good but bad and ugly too. I understand they aren't banning these books, which I'm glad to hear, but am more disturbed at the notion that we're shielding kids from language because we think it will make them uncomfortable. Teach them what was, and how it impacted what is now.
Sweet_Faith
by Gold Member on Feb. 8, 2018 at 7:25 AM
I remember reading these books in school which are classics. I also remember reading Catcher in the Rye in schiol. Are they gonna remove that too? SMH
Bookwormy
by Ruby Member on Feb. 8, 2018 at 7:34 AM
6 moms liked this
To Kill a Mockingbird addresses racism head on. That should be the point. We are taking fine literature away because of offensive language that addresses racism appropriately but youth are listening to music with offensive language without any discussion or moral compass. I'm no Tipper & I'll keep the music, but the literature is perfect to spark discussion of history that still impacts us today.

I agree with you, fyi, if that isn't obvious!


Quoting romalove: I think it's important for kids to read things that make them think and even make them uncomfortable and that show aspects of our history that aren't just good but bad and ugly too. I understand they aren't banning these books, which I'm glad to hear, but am more disturbed at the notion that we're shielding kids from language because we think it will make them uncomfortable. Teach them what was, and how it impacted what is now.
Debmomto2teens
by Ruby Member on Feb. 8, 2018 at 8:04 AM
1 mom liked this
I agree. It can be impactful. I remember my oldest reading it and being shocked at some of the language. It led to a great discussion.

I can also see it depending on the location and reaction of those reading it.



Quoting romalove: I think it's important for kids to read things that make them think and even make them uncomfortable and that show aspects of our history that aren't just good but bad and ugly too. I understand they aren't banning these books, which I'm glad to hear, but am more disturbed at the notion that we're shielding kids from language because we think it will make them uncomfortable. Teach them what was, and how it impacted what is now.
Acornkeeper
by Member on Feb. 8, 2018 at 8:07 AM
2 moms liked this

This makes me sad. Literature , good literature is to make the reader uncomfortable . It is okay to feel . This will allow the reader to think and ponder and reflect. And reading should spark discussion . Compare and contrast that point in time with current events. 

Mom2Just1
by Platinum Member on Feb. 8, 2018 at 8:17 AM
2 moms liked this
This is sad. Good literature makes one think and then discussions start happening from there. My 6th grade son is currently learning about the holocaust. We had a great discussion on that last night.
zandhmom2
by Bronze Member on Feb. 8, 2018 at 8:40 AM
3 moms liked this

B - all the way. I kept saying 50 years from now, it will be so hard for children to grow up understanding the struggle for Black people if we keep erasing our history. History throughout time has been ugly but must be remembered to prevent it in the future.

Quoting Clairwil:


Quoting -Celestial-: A Minnesota school district is removing To Kill a Mockingbird and Huckleberry Finn from its required reading list because they contain racial slurs.[...] Critics have often cited the books’ use of racial epithets as a reason, arguing they could upset black students.

Bottom line: 

If you were a black student in an American school, which is likely to hurt you more?

(A) You reading a book set in a previous time period, that uses slang authentic to that time period, for character thought and speech?

or

(B) Your white peers not understanding what that time period was like, because they missed out on reading about it?


zandhmom2
by Bronze Member on Feb. 8, 2018 at 8:46 AM
1 mom liked this

Oh, and To Kill A Mockingbird and The Scarlet Letter both had huge impacts on me when reading them.  I love them both.

fiddlerbird555
by Member on Feb. 8, 2018 at 8:54 AM
1 mom liked this
My feelings on this are mixed. I just can't think of TKAM the same way since I read the book Harper Lee originally tried to publish (hated it). But I think most people miss the true greatness of Huckleberry Finn. He absolutely believed everything people told him about how slavery was the right and proper order of things, and it was downright evil to help a slave escape, but he did it anyway. This should be used as a springboard for discussions of morality and choice.
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