Recess Blog

Alumna on "Mockingbird" Ban

By Rob Schroeder
November 20, 2017

Recently, a school board in Biloxi, MS decided the school would no longer include the classic text "To Kill A Mockingbird" as part of its literacy curriculum.  Amidst the nationwide debate this move inspired, MEd Language, Literacies and Learning alumna Gina Caneva weighed in with an op-ed in The Education Post:

I’ll admit it. When I first heard of the Biloxi, Mississippi junior high school board’s decision to stop teaching “To Kill a Mockingbird,” my first instinct was to rage against the same racism that would bring the book to the forefront of the banned book list as it had at its publication. I wanted to shout all of the glorious reasons as to why the book is an American classic and should be taught in classrooms across our nation.

But just like Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, the story was more complex. I first read about the incident in the New York Times. The story quoted Kenny Holloway, the vice president of the Biloxi School Board, who attributed the book’s removal from the eighth-grade curriculum to: “There is some language in the book that makes people uncomfortable, and we can teach the same lesson with other books.”

A week later, the parent who filed the complaint with the school board came forward to speak at a school board meeting in justification. It turns out that what bothered her more than the book itself, or other curriculum being taught at the school, was the students’ reactions to the uncomfortable language.

According to the Biloxi Sun-Herald Yolanda Williams, who is African-American, found out that students were saying the N-word which is the word that often causes “Mockingbird” to get pulled from classrooms and school library shelves. After saying the N-word, the students were laughing.

“Students were laughing out loud at the teacher’s response. That’s unacceptable to me. Is there not a better way to teach about that era and the horrors of that era, other than having kids laughing in class when the N-word is said?

The juxtaposition of responses caused me to go back to the novel for answers.

Read Caneda's full op-ed at The Education Post.