“It’s A Sin To Kill A Mockingbird”: Biloxi School District Removes Harper Lee Classic After Parent Complaints Over Offensive Language

To_Kill_a_MockingbirdIn To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout says early on in the story that she only heard her father Atticus say that one thing was a “sin.”  Atticus said  “remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” The Biloxi School District appears to repentant sinner this month after it axed the Harper Lee classic because some parents complained about the book’s language.  Despite being one of the most powerful works in history against racism, parents could not overcome the authentic Southern and racist lexicon of the period.  News reports indicate that the problem was the use of the “n-word” in a Southern period where that word widely used.

The classic work had long been taught in Biloxi but was  pulled it from the curriculum due to parental complaints.  Kenny Holloway, vice president of the Biloxi School Board explained that “There were complaints about it. There is some language in the book that makes people uncomfortable, and we can teach the same lesson with other books.  Really? What same lesson?  The Harper Lee work is the lesson. It is a classic.  Students read it to experience a towering classic of American literature.  Like most great works, it is supposed to make people feel uncomfortable. It talks about institutionalized and culture racisms as well as poverty, rape, and hatred in our society. If you feel comfortable with such reading, you are not really reading it.

Arthur_McMillanNevertheless, Superintendent Arthur McMillan issued the same bureaucratic response that To Kill A Mockingbird is just another book and they have lots of books that make no one uncomfortable: “There are many resources and materials that are available to teach state academic standards to our students.” That is like saying that you can replace the Mona Lisa with Dogs Playing Poker because they are both paintings.

Lee’s Southern gothic novel won the Pulitzer Prize in fiction and was adapted into an Oscar-winning film in 1962.

I have seen the same type of removal of classics in the classes of my own children in Fairfax County, Virginia.  The kids once read the classic “Tale of Two Cities” but to achieve greater cultural diversity, the masterpiece was dropped in favor of an African novel that is no literary substitute.

The loss of an inspiring and classic work like To Kill a Mockingbird is a true tragedy for the students of Biloxi. Because of the utter lack of literary and historical appreciation of these parents (and the cringing compliance of District officials), students will not be exposed to a work that has shaped the minds for decades.  As Atticus stated in the novel, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

62 thoughts on ““It’s A Sin To Kill A Mockingbird”: Biloxi School District Removes Harper Lee Classic After Parent Complaints Over Offensive Language”

  1. Well of course. This book was published about 50-60 years ago and some PC parent has taken offence to the words used so now there’s aN ENTIRE generation won’t get a chance to read a CLASSIC!!! Cry me a river! Sure don’t want their little snowflake eyes to read an “offensive” word…..

  2. “No, everybody’s gotta learn, nobody’s born knowin’. That Walter’s as smart as he can be, he just gets held back sometimes because he has to stay out and help his daddy. Nothing’s wrong with him. Naw, Jem, I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.”

    Jem turned around and punched his pillow. When he settled back his face was cloudy. He was going into one of his declines, and I grew wary. His brows came together, his mouth became a thin line. He was silent for a while.

    “That’s what I thought, too,” he said at last, “when I was your age. If there’s just one kind of folks, why can’t they get along with each other? If they’re all alike, why do they go out of their way to despise each other? Scout, I think I’m beginning to understand something. I think I’m beginning to understand why Boo Radley’s stayed shut up in the house all the time … it’s because he wants to stay inside.”

    1. Love that post SierraRose! Imagine the positive that would come from a classroom discussion on just that excerpt.

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