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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 (21-30):
NovemberMom15
by on Feb. 8, 2018 at 9:06 AM
I clearly remember the "N word" being read out loud in a story we were reading and half the room started giggling and looked at the only Black kid in the class...

...So I can see why they are just trying to avoid stirring things up like this. Some kids just can't handle it. However, I am torn on my stance because I do think it's important that kids are taught about these times and everything that they included. They don't need to be sheltered and only taught the surface, most uncontroversial stuff.


jpickens
by Platinum Member on Feb. 8, 2018 at 9:53 AM
1 mom liked this
That is great for you and it’s not reflection of the actual book. I’m answering your question as a former Black student who attended one of the school districts mentioned on the article.

We have a wealth of Black history in MS full of real people, real stories and events in areas we were familiar with. So we have a lot of other impactful and relatable resources without the need for students to be in an uncomfortable learning environment or people from other areas fighting with a school’s decision reguarding 1-2 books like we are gonna die oblivious if we don’t read them in school.

It’s a lot more to it then just people’s opinion about the book.


Quoting Clairwil:

Quoting jpickens: Black and White people know about our not so glamorous racial history, so books like this wasn’t always as impactful or eye opening as some may think. 

I've not seen many sources which make as strongly as Huckleberry Finn the point that in those times Huck would have been seen as wrong, as sinful, for not turning Jim in.    Understanding not just what happened, but why - the mindset.

jpickens
by Platinum Member on Feb. 8, 2018 at 9:56 AM
Biloxi didn’t ban the book.

Quoting themrs007: 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?
PPCLC
by Lisa on Feb. 8, 2018 at 9:57 AM
1 mom liked this

So what will then be their replacements on the reading lists?

cookmom69
by Member on Feb. 8, 2018 at 9:58 AM
2 moms liked this

Hey, I was going to make a post about this, lol. This is in my neck of the woods.

nononenever
by on Feb. 8, 2018 at 10:04 AM
2 moms liked this

There are thousands upon thousands of amazing books.   Having two not be on a required reading list, but still available anyways, isn't going to damage anyone's education. 

In fact, I think that some books (including these two) are too often on required lists to the detriment of expanding young people's minds.  Reading lists should be updated, changed and rotated often so kids get the most number of books possible in school.    Yes, the "classics" are important but they're not the be all and end all.

jpickens
by Platinum Member on Feb. 8, 2018 at 10:14 AM
So Black students should just suck it up while thier classmates joke and laugh about racial slurs?

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.
romalove
by Roma on Feb. 8, 2018 at 10:16 AM
Who the hell said that???

I would think if that's going on that's even more reason to be showing this kind of literature. You think teachers are incapable of handling a classroom? There's nothing funny about those books that should or would make kids behave that way. How much literature do you think we should have removed or sanitized just in case someone might use it to make fun of another kid?


Quoting jpickens: So Black students should just suck it up while thier classmates joke and laugh about racial slurs?

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.
jpickens
by Platinum Member on Feb. 8, 2018 at 10:23 AM
I agree with this 100%. It’s kinda like how people always talk about the go to Black historical figures (MLK, Rosa Parks, etc) to satisfy the gesture and forget the rest.

It’s like people ignore the motion notion that there are other and better resources other than those few books and can’t see past that.


Quoting nononenever:

There are thousands upon thousands of amazing books.   Having two not be on a required reading list, but still available anyways, isn't going to damage anyone's education. 

In fact, I think that some books (including these two) are too often on required lists to the detriment of expanding young people's minds.  Reading lists should be updated, changed and rotated often so kids get the most number of books possible in school.    Yes, the "classics" are important but they're not the be all and end all.

mommy_jules
by Julie on Feb. 8, 2018 at 10:26 AM
That's a good question. When I was in high school, the junior high reading teacher's go to was The Watson's Go To Birmingham. Not sure if anyone here is familiar with it, but I think it might be an appropriate replacement for To Kill A Mockingbird.

Quoting PPCLC:

So what will then be their replacements on the reading lists?

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