Mississippi school district to resume teaching To Kill a Mockingbird…

…but students will need PERMISSION slips to read it

NOTE: The following is a follow up – and reversal – of a previously published piece, Mississippi school district removes To Kill a Mockingbird.

A Mississippi school district will resume teaching ‘To Kill A Mockingbird‘ after the book was pulled from a junior high reading list.

The Sun Herald reports that Biloxi School District administrators removed the novel from the eighth-grade curriculum earlier this month after the district received complaints that some of the book’s language ‘makes people uncomfortable.’

School officials said they’ll begin teaching it again in class starting Monday. Students, however, have to ask to participate and return a permission slip signed by a parent.

The school district had become the focus of a national public outcry when it pulled the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Harper Lee, which deals with racial inequality in a small Alabama town.

On Biloxi Junior High School letterhead, Principal Scott Powell wrote on October 23 to eighth-grade parents: ‘As has been stated before, ‘To Kill A Mockingbird‘ is not a required read for 8th Grade ELA (English Language Arts) students. However, 8th Grade ELA teachers will offer the opportunity for interested students to participate in an in-depth book study of the novel during regularly scheduled classes as well as the optional after school sessions …’

After protestations from around the country, the school district this week said it start teaching the book again.

The intensive book study will not take place every day, the letter states, ‘but we plan to finish the novel before Christmas break.’

The principal also tells parents that the students will write an argumentative essay and discuss comparisons of characters and events between the book and the 1960s film.

Students who don’t want to read ‘To Kill A Mockingbird‘ will be given another assignment that keeps them on track for class and state assessments. They will have a different topic for their argumentative essay.

Biloxi received letters as diverse as one from an 11th-grade Advanced Placement language class in Tenafly, New Jersey, that urged Biloxi to continue teaching the book and one from the Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, Connecticut.

The 11th-graders appealed to each Biloxi School Board member not to remove the novel.

‘These derogatory and offensive words are powerful; they make people uncomfortable because they are painful to hear. However, it is critical that discrimination, offensive language and racism are discussed in the classroom,’ the students wrote. ‘We need a book like “To Kill A Mockingbird” to illustrate the extreme prejudice that existed in our country’s past and to help start a conversation about the issues that sadly still exist today.’

The Mark Twain House sent an offer of help teaching racially controversial material. That organization has expertise, resources and experience helping educators and other entities teach difficult subject matter.

‘Great literature makes us uncomfortable. It changes how we think, forcing us to analyze our established points of view,’ the letter stated. ‘Guiding students through that process is, as you know, a key element of middle-school literary studies. … These books should build empathy, and not be used to single out classmates.’

Written for the Associated Press and published by the DAily Mail ~ October 26, 2017.

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2 thoughts on “Mississippi school district to resume teaching To Kill a Mockingbird…

  1. Rick Bonner

    The book and the film don’t only address so called racial inequality, they deal with socio-economic and intellectual inequality, too.
    Just how could the poverty stricken share-cropper (mis)treat his own daughter in that fashion?
    Exactly why does a man like Arthur “Boo” Radley find no comfortable opportunity to interact with his society?
    These are a few of the other prickly questions pondered in the story. Wonderfully, the psychological tools an authentic man or woman uses to work these dilemmas out, are precisely the same.
    Scout said, at the end of the book “…when they finally saw him, why he hadn’t done none of those things… Atticus, he was real nice…” “Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.”

  2. Rick Bonner

    This most frequently ignored custom of inviting parents to become directly involved in their children’s studies – asking them to grant permission to study a particular book by writing a “permission slip”, might hopefully restore the family’s role in education.
    Once they’re participants again, they’d certainly refuse much of what passes in their communities as the education of their children.
    As a father who frequently visited the schools my children attended, I could never understand how other parents neglected even the seemingly most trivial opportunites to talk with their children’s teachers. Parent teacher conferences were astonishlingly under-attended when my children were younger. I’d guess those evenings aren’t on the school’s calendar as often anymore.


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