Superintendent cuts interview short when asked about pulling ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’
The Biloxi School District got complaints about the wording in “To Kill A Mockingbird” — an American classic being taught in 8th grade English Language Arts classes — and pulled it from the curriculum.
It was an administrative and department decision, a member of the school board said, and not something that the school board voted on. It happened Wednesday or Thursday.
Kenny Holloway, vice president of the Biloxi School Board said, “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.
“It’s still in our library. But they’re going to use another book in the 8th grade course.”
When asked Thursday morning if the book had been pulled from the course, Superintendent Arthur McMillan issued a statement five hours later that said: “There are many resources and materials that are available to teach state academic standards to our students. These resources may change periodically. We always strive to do what is best for our students and staff to continue to perform at the highest level.”
McMillan did not answer any questions on the issue.
Sun Herald received a email from a concerned reader who said the decision was made “mid-lesson plan, the students will not be allowed to finish the reading of ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ .... due to the use of the ‘N’ word.”
The reader said, “I think it is one of the most disturbing examples of censorship I have ever heard, in that the themes in the story humanize all people regardless of their social status, education level, intellect, and of course, race. It would be difficult to find a time when it was more relevant than in days like these.”
The current themes for 2nd term language arts classes in Biloxi this year are the Golden Rule and taking a stand. With “To Kill A Mockingbird” specifically, the teens were slated to learn that compassion and empathy are not dependent upon race or education, according to the school’s website.
The book is listed on the curriculum as core text for 8th grade ELA, the Common Core state standards for English Language Arts.
One 8th grade teacher on the school website described it as: “Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, “To Kill A Mockingbird” takes readers to the roots of human behavior — to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos. Now with over 18 million copies in print and translated into 10 languages, this regional story by a young Alabama woman claims universal appeal. Harper Lee always considered her book to be a simple love story. Today it is regarded as a masterpiece of American literature.”
A Southern gothic novel, it was published in 1960, won the Pulitzer Prize in fiction the next year and was adapted into an Oscar-winning film in 1962.
The plot deals with rape and racial inequality in a small Southern town. The events and characters are loosely based on author Harper Lee’s observations of an event that happened near her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, in the 1930s, when when she was young.
Monroeville has recently looked at ways to develop new attractions and draw more tourists based on its association with the book.