Just when it seems that the issue of censoring books in public school classrooms has been settled, a school district proves that assumption wrong (“Why did Biloxi pull “To Kill A Mockingbird” from the 8th grade lesson plan?" Sun Herald, Oct. 17). When complaints reached the Biloxi School District about the existence of objectionable language in “To Kill A Mockingbird,” it immediately removed the acclaimed novel from the curriculum.
When I was teaching American literature in the Los Angeles Unified School District, a parent complained about the use of “Huckleberry Finn” for its use of the N-word in describing one of the main characters. The district issued an apology that was distributed to all teachers. Rather than defending the book based exclusively on its literary merits, the district instead became embarrassingly defensive. It was then that I lost all respect for its members.
What has always amazed me is the failure of school officials to recognize that students today are far more sophisticated than they imagine. They cave in when controversial matters arise, in the delusion that students will somehow be irreparably harmed by exposure to reality. Then they wonder why so many students are disengaged from instruction.
The usual reason for their cowardice regards anything about sex, but it can extend to other areas as well. I realize that material has to be grade-level appropriate, but when students are in high school they are no longer naive elementary children. Yet we persist in treating them as if they were. It’s time to get real about students today if we expect them to respect teachers.
The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.