DULUTH, MINNESOTA – Two literary classics have been ousted as required reading in the Duluth, Minnesota school district after prodding by the local NAACP chapter because the books contain the “n-word”.
According to the Duluth News Tribune, the president of the Duluth NAACP, Stephan Witherspoon, “applauded the school district’s decision to stop requiring students to read” To Kill a Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
“Some people think the novels are educational literature for students, he said, but the novels are ‘just hurtful’ and use ‘hurtful language that has oppressed the people for over 200 years.’ The district’s use of the books as required reading has been an ongoing discussion between elders in the local NAACP and district leaders for years, Witherspoon said.”
As the decision by the school district was handed down, the National Coalition Against Censorship says it is deeply disturbed by the Duluth school district’s decision to remove To Kill a Mockingbird and Huckleberry Finn from classrooms.
“While it is understandable that a novel that repeatedly uses a highly offensive racial slur would generate discomfort among some parents and students, the problems of living in a society where racial tensions persist will not be resolved by banishing literary classics from the classroom,” the organization said in a statement. “On the contrary, the classroom is where the history, use and destructiveness of this language should be examined and discussed. It is there that the books’ complexities can be contextualized and their anti-racist message can be understood. Rather than ignore difficult speech, educators should create spaces for open dialogue that teaches students to confront the vestiges of racism and the oppression people of color. Public schools are constitutionally bound by the First Amendment to prioritize legitimate pedagogical interests above the subjective viewpoints of individual members of the community. Parents can request an alternative book if they object to an assigned text. But no parent or group of parents is qualified to make the choice of what other children should read. Those choices are made by teachers who can assess the intellectual maturity of their students and direct discussions on sensitive subjects towards educationally-enriching ends. It is regrettable that teachers were not consulted before the decision to remove these classic works was made.”