Given “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” was published in 1884, and “To Kill a Mockingbird” was published in 1960, you’d think most schools would have figured out by now if they felt comfortable with the books in their curricula.
But debates over banning the books in lessons to children still occur, most recently in the Accomack County Public School system in Virginia, where a parent of a student complained about the use of the two books due to their uses of racial slurs. It prompted a suspension of the books pending further review, as dictated by the district’s policy manual, according to Delmarva Now.
“We have a committee looking at all of this,” Superintendent Chris Holland told Delmarva Now. “There’s been no recommendation right now.”
The controversial racial slur appears 219 times in Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and 48 times in Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
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The school’s policy states the committee, which consists of the principal, the library media specialist, the classroom teacher, a parent and/or student and the complainant, meets to review the learning material following the complaint. Until the committee makes a determination, the learning resource is temporarily banned.
Neither book is a stranger to this type of controversy in schools. “Huck Finn” claims number 14 on the top 100 most banned or challenged books, according to the American Library Association, and “To Kill a Mockingbird” takes spot number 21.
Twain’s book was banned the first time just one month after its publication, with a Massachusetts librarian calling it, “not suitable for trash.” A school board in Louisiana lifted a 12-year ban on “To Kill a Mockingbird” in 2013.
Even advocates for teaching the books don’t deny that “Huck Finn” especially employs an unapologetic portrayal of racism and stereotypes, but those against banning say it’s better to be honest about history.
“Being uncomfortable with history is not means to change it,” Chris Sergel, vice president of Dramatic Publishing, has told PBS. “People need to figure out how to confront issues.”