Virginian School Removes Huck Finn and To Kill A Mockingbird After Complaints Over Racial Slurs From A Parent

th-1th-2We have previously discussed the banning of masterpieces due to contemporary objections to language or content. It is an assault on classic works that threaten the foundation for education in our country. A recent decision from a Virginia school to temporarily remove “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain and “To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee is a tragic case in point. The school reportedly pulled the books after a parent said her high school-age son was negatively affected by the inclusion of racial slurs in the books, which deal with racism in those periods.

The parent insisted that her concerns as a biracial parent are “not even just a black and white thing.” Rather, she is quoted as saying at a Nov. 15 school board meeting:

“I keep hearing, ‘This is a classic, This is a classic,’ … I understand this is a literature classic. But at some point, I feel that children will not — or do not — truly get the classic part — the literature part, which I’m not disputing. This is great literature. But there (are so many) racial slurs in there and offensive wording that you can’t get past that.”

The point is that it is all “the literature part.” Part of education is precisely to “get past” racial slurs to understand the period and the work. The use of terms like “ni**er” are clearly offensive but they were used widely in the period. Even modern movies and books include the word are part of an authentic dialogue in exploring such issues.

The mother however asked “So what are we teaching our children? We’re validating that these words are acceptable, and they are not acceptable by (any) means. There is other literature they can use.” No, we are not “validating” the words but learning for works that reflect accurately the lexicon and prejudices of the period. We can certainly sanitize reading to eliminate such classics, but the loss would fall on a generation that is being denied such foundational works to shield them from the prejudices of these periods.

What do you think?

59 thoughts on “Virginian School Removes Huck Finn and To Kill A Mockingbird After Complaints Over Racial Slurs From A Parent”

  1. As for Jim and Huck only Jim will be offended. As to Kill a Mocking Bird all who care about civil rights and the rights of minorities will be left out without some guidance and without this masterpiece. Perhaps the school board should get on the raft and go down the Mississippi. When they get to the Ohio they need to make the radical turn and go North up the Ohio. Until then the most like thing will be “four dead in O Hi O” and “this summer I hear them coming, they’re probably on their way..”
    Fragile people like this mom in this article and the school authorities need to be admitted into the mental facility as inpatients. They need strong anti psychotic drugs injected into their arms early and often.

  2. Next
    Remove Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice.[ant-Semitic]
    Remove the Bible: Too much killing and too sexy: King David committed adultery.

  3. Of course, had it been an evangelical parent complaining about Phillip Pullman or GB Shaw, she’d have been told to get stuffed by the principal. The issue of our schools of education (and the lawyers they conspire with) are unfit for the positions they occupy.

  4. A parent, meaning one parent complained and the system caved? They need to get a life and an education. Pathetic response. In decently and properly run schools such volumes are used to explain context of the times and contrast it to context of our times. Not to run and hide with mugs in the sand and wumps in the air. yelling BOHICA! It isn’t ‘again’ it’s a pose they practice continuously.

  5. There is a part in the novel in which Huck’s father, a debased trailer trash drunk with no virtue, is blasting a highly-educated, virtuous black man as having the same rights as him. By using the word over and over, the reader is intended to be offended and instead apply the word, not to the man he’s railing against, but Huck’s father. He’s the real embodiment of what the word supposedly meant. The novel is full of trailer trash whites trying to dehumanize blacks by using the word, but actually are dehumanizing themselves. Twain wanted his white readers to get that message. It’s an important message that has universal application.

  6. Far more disturbing than one mother’s angst (there’s always one), is the school administration that allows her to dictate which books will be available to the entire school! One over-protective mom should not be allowed to weaken everyone else’s education. A better solution would be for her son to receive an alternate assignment instead of these books. Let’s hope other parents insist on the banned books being used for their children. Even so, banning a book is a good way to get people to read it and discuss why it was banned.

  7. Poor kid! She thinks she’s being a good parent. However, she is sending her teenager out to society bundled up in a snowsuit & ear mufffs. And it’s possible she hasn’t read either book.

  8. Just add Fahrenheit 451 to the read list before those “other” controversial classics.

    Perhaps this mother would prefer we edit rather than amend our constitution? If I recall correctly, when the members of Congress read it aloud in 2011, they didn’t read it in it’s original but in its amended form. They didn’t want to expose the ugly truth of America’s history. Pathetic.

    For a nation that has in the first line of the constitution a mandate to “form a more perfect union”, we seem too afraid out of ignorance or a lack of humility to admit we began this country NOT perfect. We will never be perfect. We have to study and understand history to know the vision for America; what gap we have had and still have between that vision and where we are today. The original text of the constitution expresses where we began and the amendments detail the steps we have tried to take to become that more perfect union.

  9. What about the thousands of books and art that glorify military atrocities? People need to understand that humans have been vicious, evil, brutal, greedy, selfish, hateful. Our job is to do our best to constrain those human weaknesses.

    1. “Our job is to do our best to constrain those human weaknesses.”

      NO it is not! When you progressive do-gooders attempt to “constrain” the human weaknesses you also constrain the human strengths. Most importantly, you fail to see those weaknesses in yourselves. The results of that delusional ideology is the MASSIVE, bureaucratic, administrative state we have today. They are an arrogant, festering wound sapping America’s STRENGTHS in their utilitarian quest to do the unattainable; Eliminate human WEAKNESS.

        1. Nice try.

          “A Confusion of Terms
          Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all.
          We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.” Frederic Bastiat

    2. What about the thousands of books and art that glorify military atrocities?

      Can you name one?

  10. You end the story by asking. “What do you think ? “.
    I think this woman is either a lier, a fool or both. The use of terms like “nigger” are clearly offensive but they were used widely in the period. Does She Dare to suggest her son does not, nor has not listened to rap music in which cursing and racial slurs are common. Perhaps she is delusional enough to her innocent child does not hear and use these words when he is around his friends. These books are a part of Western literature, history and culture. A culture and way of life that says you ( nor your kid) have NO right to not be offended. I am offended that the school bow’s to the few, at the expense of the many.

    1. solvermn – “Does She Dare to suggest her son does not, nor has not listened to rap music in which cursing and racial slurs are common.”

      You beat me to it. Something tells me that this kid is more exposed to bad language from his headphones/friends than he is from books. This all assumes the public educated kid can actually read.

      1. Jim,
        My 8 year old attends a small, private Christian school and he will come home and experiment with ideas and language he has picked up from his classmates. We use these experiments as an opportunity to teach him how to think about the ideas and language he is learning and to determine for himself its appropriateness. Yes, we have certain values we are trying to raise him with but we don’t for a moment forget these children are being bombarded from all sides. We send him to a school we hope will be consistent with our values but we know he needs to learn how to think critically about what he’s being exposed to.

        1. Olly,

          Coming out of college, I had a really dirty mouth. That was until my brother said to me once, “If you swear all the time you have used up all of your ammunition to let people know when you are really mad”. That concept really hit me and I stopped using foul language. That advice has served me well over the years especially when raising two kids.

          1. That’s good advice Jim. I’m a retired Navy Chief and cursing was an effective means to enhance my point when eloquence wasn’t practicable. My son has had a desire to know what words mean since we began having two way conversations. I don’t know where that came from but I’ve always encouraged him to ask. While his vocabulary is excellent and he loves to express himself verbally, he seems to be nearly illiterate when it comes to putting pencil to paper. I’m tempted to have him copy daily one of George Washington’s “Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation”. 😉

  11. So all the other students are deprived of reading and discussing these masterpieces in school because one mama’s boy was offended? Do these other students have any rights concerning their education, or do we always allow the hyper-sensitive to dictate what should be taught?

    1. The high school I went to had a reading list. If you, or your parents were offended by a book, there was a supplemental list. What ever the list, you were going to be examined on it.

  12. It’s interesting that kids exposed to mudpies and such are healthier by far than those raised in relatively sterile homes.

    Such the case may be made in education.

    An individual managed to change a whole “playground” at the peril to the health of a generation.

    But we forget or avoid the fact that the parent may well be the product of our own generation, we baby boomers who sought to unseat reasoned thought in our rebellion of “against” without a “for.”

      1. Correction: Palin apparently only asked about removing certain books (not exactly great, either) but didn’t pursue it — though her fellow church-members were quite vocal.

        Still, the point remains that idiots who wish to remove books exist on both sides.

        1. Yeah. Let’s put bound back issues of Hustler in the Wasilla Public Library.

    1. Please don’t assume that “left” is about this. I’ve been labelled liberal and left but I *highly* value these classic works of literature in their entirety and thoroughly disdain this educational white washing. This woman isn’t left she ignorant.

  13. I know for a fact that the play Lysistrata has been taught in US public high schools, and at least one high school produced it on stage. One could argue that Lysistrata is potentially far more offensive to parents of teens than the N-word.

  14. The dangers of a “spotless mind”. Those who do not study and learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

  15. I have to agree. It is simply illogical and nonsensical to ignore history. No one is condoning past prejudice by teaching that it previously existed. We still are battling these insidious problems. I think.it makes more sense to teach about what happened in the past, analyze and think about why it was wrong then, and have good teachers provide a needed forum to discuss why we need to be even more vigilant today to prevent this crippling form of prejudice from continuing to have a foothold in modern society.

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