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School district bans on ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ disservice young students

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As racial tensions across the U.S. worsen each day, it seems that certain school districts across the nation are working to erase history. Two weeks ago, a school district in Biloxi, Mississippi banned Harper Lee’s pulitzer prize winning novel, “To Kill A Mockingbird”  from its eighth-grade English Language Arts classes.

Biloxi School District Vice President Kenny Holloway told the Sun Herald that, “there is some language in the book that makes people uncomfortable.”

It is not clear whether the decision will be effective in the classrooms immediately. However, according to Holloway, the book will still be available in the junior high school’s library.

“To Kill A Mockingbird” has become an American classic through the eyes of teachers and librarians alike. While it has always faced scrutiny, it has become a rite of passage for all middle and high schoolers to read and annotate the deeper meaning behind the novel.

Lee’s novel follows an Alabama town where a black man is accused of raping a white woman. “To Kill A Mockingbird” serves as a commentary on southern racism, but some have speculated the book’s use of the N-word and other sexual situations is too much for middle and high school students.

In my entire educational career, I was never notified that “comfort” should play into reading choice. If “To Kill a Mockingbird” makes people uncomfortable, then it is doing its job. It should make you uncomfortable… that’s the whole point. The book effectively showcases white, racist America during the Jim Crow era and to suppress this classic from the eyes of students is doing them a disservice.

Ignoring “To Kill a Mockingbird” does not protect students from offensive content that they are “not ready” for. It only attempts to erase the history Lee wrote about, making it more difficult for younger generations to confront our nation’s dark, racist underbelly. Censoring this book only sets up generations of students for a harsh awakening later in life. Alternatively, it could create more racists and uninformed bigots than what we already have today.

In an effort to “preserve history,” the state of Mississippi passed a law in 2013 that prohibits the removal of any structures that honor historical military figures or events… Including the Civil War and Confederate soldiers. So, to be clear, In Mississippi it is considered an unlawful act of censorship to remove public displays of slavery advocates from their pedestals, but censoring an educational account of manifesting racism in the south is fair game.

“Banned Book Week 2017,” released their list of books that have shaped American values yet are on the verge or currently banned across the nation. This list is compiled of 30 books that are currently censored in certain parts of the U.S. Titles like: “Fahrenheit 451,”  “The Great Gatsby,” “The Scarlet Letter,” and many more are currently being censored in certain school districts across America. Autobiographies from civil rights activists such as Malcolm-X, Cesar Chavez and Dee Brown are also among the list.

If school districts are picking and choosing which parts of history they want to teach, they are setting generations of students up for failure.

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School district bans on ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ disservice young students