To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic out of my school age history. It’s a book I don’t think I would have picked to read otherwise so I would have missed out one something beautiful and poignant. But, it was assigned to us in our English class to read and discuss and I’m glad of it. It was one of the few books we were “forced” to read that I wanted to return to. And did: my Banned Book Club read it nearly 7 years ago (WOW! That long already!).
Initially a school board in Mississippi was going to ban the reading of this one completely but has since had something of a change of heart.
On Biloxi Junior High School letterhead, Principal Scott Powell wrote on Oct. 23 to eighth-grade parents: “As has been stated before, “To Kill A Mockingbird” is not a required read for 8th Grade ELA (English Language Arts) students. However, 8th Grade ELA teachers will offer the opportunity for interested students to participate in an in-depth book study of the novel during regularly scheduled classes as well as the optional after school sessions …”
Initially they’d thought to eliminate the book to avoid people having to think about the past in any critical kind of way, but have now relented. Students will require permission from parents to study the classic, but at least they’ll have the opportunity to discuss it in a way that will hopefully be eye-opening and educational in all the positive ways.
The 11th-graders appealed to each Biloxi School Board member not to remove the novel.
“These derogatory and offensive words are powerful; they make people uncomfortable because they are painful to hear. However, it is critical that discrimination, offensive language and racism are discussed in the classroom,” the students wrote. “We need a book like ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ to illustrate the extreme prejudice that existed in our country’s past and to help start a conversation about the issues that sadly still exist today.”
Exactly. Read the book. Explore the history. Compare the experiences of the characters in that novel with people today and what struggles are still ongoing. Explain the language and the culture of the time and the necessity – then and especially now – for understanding, empathy and compassion.