Another school district has buckled and removed two classic novels from its high school English curriculum.
The Duluth, Minnesota schools no longer will require “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” so as to be “considerate of all of its students,” according to Director of Curriculum and Instruction Michael Cary.
“The district owes it to its students to not subject them to a racial slur that marginalizes them in their required learning,” Cary said according to the Duluth News Tribune. “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.”
Cary noted the decision wasn’t based on any one specific complaint, but rather a series a complaints the district had received over the years.
Superintendent Bill Gronseth said he had heard from students that the books created an “uncomfortable atmosphere” for them.
The local NAACP agreed with the decision:
Some people think the novels are educational literature for students, [chapter president Stephan Witherspoon] said, but the novels are “just hurtful” and use “hurtful language that has oppressed the people for over 200 years.” The district’s use of the books as required reading has been an ongoing discussion between elders in the local NAACP and district leaders for years, [he] said.
“It’s wrong. There are a lot more authors out there with better literature that can do the same thing that does not degrade our people. I’m glad that they’re making the decision and it’s long overdue, like 20 years overdue,” Witherspoon said. “Let’s move forward and work together to make school work for all of our kids, not just some, all of them.”
Duluth teachers, on the other hand, while not necessarily opposed to the decision are concerned that they were not at least consulted, according to union president Bernie Burnham. Cary said the decision was kept among school administration to “protect the dignity of [the] students.”
The American Library Association listed “Huck Finn” and “To Kill a Mockingbird” as the 14th and 21st “most banned or challenged books” respectively from 2000-2009. Most of the complaints about the latter have come from black parents regarding the racial slurs.
IMAGE: Max Sparber/Flickr