To Kill a Mockingbird- Childhood Classic or Book to be Buried?
February 19th marked six years since Pulitzer Prize winning Harper Lee passed away.
But there might very soon be a time where no one knows who she is. Although it’s not the first time Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, has faced controversy, Lee’s legacy might really be in danger.
The argument over banning books in schools is not new. There has been controversy for years over what is considered appropriate material for our students to read. Questions about depiction of race and sexual innuendo in books have constantly found themselves on the docket.
But like everything in this current political climate, this recent spree of banning books in schools feels different. More divisive and potentially permanent.
There is no question that book censorship is on the rise. Parents, activists, school board officials and lawmakers around the country are challenging books at a pace not seen in decades. The American Library Association reports that in September of last year alone, the volume of book challenges in the US was up 60% over the same month in 2020.
Although book challenges have always been a topic at School Board meetings, what’s changing and potentially scary, is not only the new frequency of these challenges, but also the tactics. Before it might have been a school district issue. But now, book banning groups are pushing the challenges to law enforcement, government houses and even state races. There have even been efforts to propose legislation allowing criminal charges to be filed against school librarians who disregard the bans.
Social media is fueling the fire. Chapters of book challenging organizations are publishing hysteria invoking graphics and google docs and spreadsheets of “questionable books” for parents to question for their children.
Here are my concerns and thoughts on this issue.
1. It’s one thing if parents really have an issue with the content in these books. But do they really or are some parents getting swept up in the social media hysteria?
2. What about freedom of choice? Why if a parent has an issue with a particular book for their child can it not be enough for just their child to opt out? Why must they get the book banned for every child in the school/district?
3. Is opting your child out doing more potential harm than good?
Parents are stuck between a rock and a hard place. We want to shield our children from all potential harm and evil in the world. But is that realistic?
Let’s be real, even if your child misses getting exposed to these topics in the book, it doesn’t mean they will never be exposed. If anything exposing them during the structured environment provides an opportunity for you to guide the conversation. It’s an opportunity for a parent to check in and answer questions and respond to emotions raised by the issue. Whereas, if the child is opted out of that text and gets exposed at another time, they’re on their own without that built-in support system.
We must remember, today’s children are tomorrow’s adults to shape what the world will look like. What happens when we limit alternative viewpoints? Say we do eradicate topics like the Holocaust, sexual assault or the ugly parts of our country’s racial history – what happens to that sheltered generation who never learns about them? Isn’t that even more dangerous? We need to provide them with the tools to learn about the past so they can do better in the future.