School districts across the country are banning educational and important books from classrooms
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee sheds awareness of prejudice and racism in America during the Great Depression. Art Spiegelman’s Maus is a nonfiction graphic novel describing the author’s experiences as a Jew during the Holocaust. Both of these books have been banned from the schools across the nation; TKAM has been banned in a Washington school district and Maus has been banned in a Tennessee one.
Mr. Kim teaches English to ninth graders and tenth graders. For his ninth grade class, he reads and teaches To Kill a Mockingbird.
He explains, “There are issues such as prejudice, racism, sexism and even if they don’t experience it firsthand, it’s important for them to gain perspective. These are issues that are important in our society, issues that [students] might experience.”
To Kill a Mockingbird exposes racism towards African American in southern society. Learning of such events gives students better insight on the situations people were put in.
“As long as students understand that it is part of history, there’s no sense of sugarcoating genocide. It all comes down to understanding this is a part of history, understanding we are in school learning about this. It is also important for the teacher to provide disclosures and disclaimers about the topic we’re studying, it may trigger certain things and students might not feel comfortable with it” Mr. Kim further elaborates.
To Kill a Mockingbird was banned for containing racial slurs and having negative effects on students. There are complaints of the book handling racism in an inefficient way, such as having a ‘white savior’ character and narrative.
Dhaathri Vijay (10) read To Kill a Mockingbird the previous year in class.
She feels that reading the book is important for high schoolers, explaining that “It really opened my eyes to the lives of African Americans back then. It’s important for all children to learn about these horrific events. Without them, we won’t know the personal experiences and anecdotes of the actual survivors.”
Maus might have been banned in a Tennessee district, but some FUSD teachers still have their students read it in class. Mr. Savoie, a tenth grade English teacher, being one of them.
“They cited things like nudity and course language that were in the book. Something people miss is that parents want to protect their children from those things, or try to control it, but kids are exposed indirectly. In an educational setting it feels like it’s the safest place for that to happen, rather than watching videos, movies, or TV,” Mr. Savoie shares.
The novel Maus was banned due to nudity and profanity, as well as descriptions of violence and suicide. This was claimed to be inappropriate for students and not properly fit for a school environment.
Mr. Savoie further elaborates, “Everybody’s got to realize at some point, the world is not the nicest place and it is not full of the nicest people. What is more important than seeking out the good is reforming the bad and confronting that, these are things normal people did and continue to do. In a democratic society we decide – these are the things that are important to us, these are the topics that we need to cover.”
Highschoolers are more exposed to the world than some might think, and being exposed in an educational environment is the safest place for this type of information.
“As far as 10th graders, in my experience, they are ready for it. They are embracing it, they want it and doing it in this kind of environment is much better than flying solo,” Mr. Savoie states.
Vijay agrees, and in context to the FUSD she says, “They are trying to include everybody as much as they possibly can, which is very good.”