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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 (41-50):
Jambo4
by Silver Member on Feb. 8, 2018 at 10:50 AM
I don't know either. My concern is if we try to cover every wart or blemish we have as a nation because it makes someone uncomfortable, we will fall.

Quoting jpickens: 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?

jpickens
by Platinum Member on Feb. 8, 2018 at 10:50 AM
It should make everyone uncomfortable but that’s not realistic because it doesn’t. Again, disciplinary action doesn’t erase the actions or the tention it causes.

I don’t think Black students should suck that up because adults can’t see past a handful of books in terms of options.


Quoting romalove: 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.
mommy_jules
by Julie on Feb. 8, 2018 at 10:51 AM
1 mom liked this
I have conflicting thoughts on this subject. I understand and agree with what you and others are saying, but I also understand and agree with what jpickens is saying. ( I have this problem quite often)

You should read it. The book's intended audience is slightly younger than that of To Kill A Mockingbird, I believe, but the story is told from the perspective of a black family during the Civil Rights Movement. I think reading about that point view is important.

Quoting romalove: 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?

Clairwil
by Ruby Member on Feb. 8, 2018 at 10:52 AM

Good!

If the book isn't filling a hole not covered by other stuff that the white pupils get exposed to, then that does indeed reduce the case for including it.

Quoting jpickens: 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.


viv212
by Platinum Member on Feb. 8, 2018 at 10:55 AM
https://youtu.be/OadZpUJv8Eg

This spoken word has always stuck with me. In the first minute and a half they mention Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird.
Jambo4
by Silver Member on Feb. 8, 2018 at 10:55 AM
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. 

mommy_jules
by Julie on Feb. 8, 2018 at 10:55 AM
I understand what you mean, and I don't totally disagree.

Quoting PPCLC:

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?

jpickens
by Platinum Member on Feb. 8, 2018 at 10:56 AM
1 mom liked this
I understand it’s a balance between the two and I think schools should be able find that balance without the nation jumping down their ass about it KWIM?


Quoting Jambo4: I don't know either. My concern is if we try to cover every wart or blemish we have as a nation because it makes someone uncomfortable, we will fall.

Quoting jpickens: 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?

Jambo4
by Silver Member on Feb. 8, 2018 at 10:57 AM
I do :)

Quoting jpickens: I understand it’s a balance between the two and I think schools should be able find that balance without the nation jumping down their ass about it KWIM?


Quoting Jambo4: I don't know either. My concern is if we try to cover every wart or blemish we have as a nation because it makes someone uncomfortable, we will fall.

Quoting jpickens: 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?

stormcris
by Christy on Feb. 8, 2018 at 11:00 AM

I agree. When we remove something because it is uncomfortable, the person it is uncomfortable for is probably the one who has reason to feel ashamed of that history, not the person whose line directly incurred that 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?


Everyone is a genius. But, if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will think it is stupid.
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