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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 (31-40):
PPCLC
by Lisa on Feb. 8, 2018 at 10:29 AM

That IS a good book and a good replacement though I am disappointed that a classic like To Kill a Mockingbird would no longer be recommended. I guess I understand the reasons but I think something should be said for the students themselves, and their ability to recognize that the time this book was written and the time-frame it was written about, approaches to literature and even subjects were different than they are today.

IOW, trust the students to make up their own minds.

My youngest Dd read The Watson's Go To Birmingham in 6th or 7th grade with her online school. I know there used to be a movie of the same on Netflix, as well.

Quoting mommy_jules: 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?


romalove
by Roma on Feb. 8, 2018 at 10:30 AM
I'm not familiar with that book, I may now have to go look it up.

Every school makes their own required reading list. There's no question that it's okay for the schools to choose to drop these books and make them available only for kids who want to read them. I think what is bothering me is the reasoning here. I don't think it helps society to determine that kids can't handle the material in the books.


Quoting mommy_jules: 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?

Jambo4
by Silver Member on Feb. 8, 2018 at 10:38 AM
That's what came to mind when I was reading it. Erasing the ugly parts of our history is never a good idea. It doesn't make it disappear. All it does is make future generations forget it. I'm opposed to removing civil war monuments too. It reminds of oppressive regimes that try to rewrite history and force "appropriate" thinking.

Quoting zandhmom2:

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?

jpickens
by Platinum Member on Feb. 8, 2018 at 10:39 AM
1 mom liked this
“I am more disturbed at the notion that we're shielding kids from language because we think it will make them uncomfortable.”

^^^^ The article clearly says that the language may make Black students uncomfortable. So no need to get defensive, I am asking a question.

Even if the teacher corrects the behavior, the damage is done and the uncomfortable/hostile environment is created.

So should kids suck it up or is it reasonable for schools to use other resources that teaches the same thing but discourages that environment?




Quoting romalove: 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 10:41 AM
The books weren’t banned so it’s not erasing history.

Quoting zandhmom2:

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?

Sisteract
by Whoopie on Feb. 8, 2018 at 10:42 AM

I loved TKAM- I read it as did my kids.

In our house, we would choose that book-

Glad it's still an option (within the curriculum) for those students who want to read it.

romalove
by Roma on Feb. 8, 2018 at 10:43 AM
1 mom liked this
Realistically the language should make everyone uncomfortable, not just black students. I don't think hiding what was said and what was done and how our history has been formed is helpful. I also think that anyone using racial slurs and laughing at and making fun of other kids for any reason should be appropriately disciplined.

Quoting jpickens: “I am more disturbed at the notion that we're shielding kids from language because we think it will make them uncomfortable.”

^^^^ The article clearly says that the language may make Black students uncomfortable. So no need to get defensive, I am asking a question.

Even if the teacher corrects the behavior, the damage is done and the uncomfortable/hostile environment is created.

So should kids suck it up or is it reasonable for schools to use other resources that teaches the same thing but discourages that environment?




Quoting romalove: 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.
viv212
by Platinum Member on Feb. 8, 2018 at 10:43 AM

Mobile Photo

jpickens
by Platinum Member on Feb. 8, 2018 at 10:45 AM
Idk about Missouri, but Biloxi did not ban the book or was trying to erase history.



Quoting Jambo4: That's what came to mind when I was reading it. Erasing the ugly parts of our history is never a good idea. It doesn't make it disappear. All it does is make future generations forget it. I'm opposed to removing civil war monuments too. It reminds of oppressive regimes that try to rewrite history and force "appropriate" thinking.

Quoting zandhmom2:

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?

hotspice58
by Silver Member on Feb. 8, 2018 at 10:45 AM

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. 

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