Seattle school drops ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ over racism

A Seattle-area school board voted this week to remove “To Kill a Mockingbird” from student reading lists, just days after news surfaced that Tennessee banned the Pulitzer Prize earlier this month. The award-winning graphic novel’s coverage of the Holocaust, “The Rat,” comes from its course.

The actions are part of a nationwide effort to remove books from libraries and student reading lists in response to complaints and criticism from parent groups and other organizations.

That includes the Utah Canyons School District’s recent decision to remove the titles of at least nine books from the libraries of four of the area’s high schools — all in response to an email from a parent who told her she passed social media Learned the title of the book expresses concern about the video.

When the robin doesn’t sing

The Mukilteo School Board voted unanimously Monday night to remove Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” from required reading for ninth graders, while still giving teachers the option to teach the classic to their students, The Seattle Times reported. novel.

After months of discussions among teachers, parents and students, and in response to concerns about racism in the classic novel, which was first published in 1960, the committee took action.

In the Times report, John Gahagan, who has been on the board since 2011, stressed that members did not ban the book, just removed it from the must-read list. He said the 20-member teaching committee made up of teachers, parents and community members voted by nearly two-thirds to no longer require the book to be read.

Gahagen told The New York Times that he reread the novel last week, about a white lawyer’s efforts to defend a black man falsely accused of rape, for the first time in 50 years.

“It’s a very difficult book that presents a lot of tough topics, and we felt that some teachers might be reluctant to guide students through the book,” Gahagen said. “It’s not just about racism, it reflects a time when racism was tolerated.

“Of course, Atticus Finch is in everyone’s memory as the great hero of the book, but the truth is he was a bit tolerant of the racism around him. He described one of the members of the lynch mob as a nice guy.”

jaw-dropping decision

According to a board meeting, on Jan. 10, the McMinn County (Tennessee) School Board decided to remove Art Spiegelman’s “Rat” from its curriculum, citing “inappropriate language” and an illustration of a naked woman to ban the book reason for the book. minute. In graphic novels, naked women are drawn as mice, Jews as mice, and Nazis as cats.

Spiegelman won the Pulitzer Prize in 1992 for the story of his Jewish parents living in 1940s Poland and for his interview with his father about his experience as a Holocaust survivor.

In an interview, Spiegelman told CNBC he was “confused” by the school board’s decision and called the action “Orwellian.”

“It made me open my jaw. Like, ‘What?'” he said.

Julie Gooding, an instructional supervisor who was a former history teacher, told The Associated Press that she thought the graphic novel was a good way to portray a horrific event.

“This generation is hard, these kids don’t even know about 9/11, they haven’t even been born yet,” Gooding said. “Are those words offensive? Yes, no one thinks they’re not. But removing the first part doesn’t change what he’s trying to portray.”

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, who was out of action in McMinn County, tweeted when the news came out. Jew Weingarten noted that Thursday is International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“Yes, it’s uncomfortable to talk about genocide, but it’s our history, and educating about it helps us stop repeating this horror,” Weingarten said.

The American Holocaust Museum tweeted: “Moss played a vital role in promoting the Holocaust by sharing detailed and personal experiences of victims and survivors.

“Using books like Maus to teach about the Holocaust can inspire students to think critically about the past and their roles and responsibilities today.”

stop, watch, listen

Calvin Crosby, co-owner of The King’s English Bookshop, an independent bookseller in Salt Lake City, said he was concerned that the current ban would be tantamount to “erasing our history.”

“It’s a satire that we’re removing these important works of fiction,” Crosby said. “Spiegelman’s book is very influential and the way it tells a story is amazing.

“To Kill a Mockingbird was a must-read in some states and now it’s banned? I find it all confusing.”

Crosby said he hasn’t heard complaints from clients about the content in “To Kill a Mockingbird” or “The Rat,” but he’s often been criticized by parents when it comes to matching specific literary works to the emotional maturity of young readers. Ask for guidance. He noted that he believes the decision is best left to parents, not a governing body like a school board or state legislature.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox also shared his concerns about banning books in the wake of the Canyon decision and a similar effort in Washington County late last year.

“As any history student knows, a banned book never ends well,” Cox told a PBS Utah news conference in November. “Now it’s another thing to say ‘this isn’t age appropriate’ and it’s another thing to say ‘hey, let’s get your kids to read this book’, right? … But, as long as it’s possible to have something to do with things Provide a book to children who disagree or are interested in it, and let us be cautious outside.

“I’m not saying every book should be in every classroom,” the governor said. “There may be some books that shouldn’t be in our schools. But let’s think about it. Let’s take a step back, take a deep breath, and make sure we don’t do something we regret.”

Censorship is on the rise

A December statement from the National Coalition Against Censorship, signed by more than 600 authors, booksellers and organizations, noted that banned books were banned in the national debate on First Amendment issues and how best to educate students about race. Politicized and weaponized concerns, social justice and history.

“In communities across the country, organized political attacks on school books threaten the education of American children,” the statement read. “These continued attempts to clear school books represent partisan political battles at school board meetings and state legislatures.

“The organizations and individuals who sign up below express deep concern about the sudden rise in censorship and its impact on education, student rights and free speech.”

The American Library Association reports that banned book efforts continue to rise nationwide, citing a 60% increase in book challenges in the U.S. in September alone last year compared to the same month in 2020.

Rebekah Cummings is co-chair of the Utah Library Association’s Advocacy Committee and a digital affairs librarian at the University of Utah Marriott Library. Cummings also has experience working in the public library system, noting that each library has protocols in place to hear and review challenges and address customer and parent concerns about what books are on their shelves.

“Challenges are nothing new,” Cummings said. “Parents bring a book and say ‘I don’t think it’s appropriate’ or ‘It’s not in the right section.’ Librarians take these challenges seriously, and all libraries have processes in place to answer questions about content. Sometimes a book may be moved, for example, from a children’s area to a young person

“However, it is important that we follow these procedures and not remove books from shelves until they have passed the process and have been assessed fairly.”

Cummings said, in her experience, literature-focused censorship efforts in general are not necessarily partisan, but sees much of the recent effort to challenge books as a reflection of current political polarization. This includes social media-driven campaigns to find and restrict access to certain books, she noted.

Cummings encourages parents to let their librarians be both sources of information and problem solvers when it comes to content issues aimed at younger readers. But she also pointed out that when assessing what a book is or isn’t suitable for any particular reader, the decision should come from individuals and families, rather than ending up as a statute barring everyone from access to the work.

“It’s about making sure kids have the freedom to read and have access to a variety of books, perspectives and historical perspectives,” Cummings said. “Our collection needs to be diverse and show a variety of perspectives.”

contribute: Associated Press

This cover image released by Pantheon shows Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel The Rat. A Tennessee school district has voted to ban a Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel about the Holocaust over “inappropriate language” and an illustration of a naked woman.

Pantheon via The Associated Press

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