When four parents in the Burbank Unified School District in California complained about five novels, middle and high school English teachers were told that they were not allowed to teach them (“Off the reading list,” Los Angeles Times, Nov. 12). Included in the banned list were “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Of Mice and Men,” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”
The parents objected not only to the language but to the way Blacks were portrayed. A protest by The National Coalition Against Censorship came to naught. Although textbook censorship has a long history in this country, it is particularly dangerous today if we ever expect to teach critical thinking, which can only be developed when students are exposed to ideas that sometimes make them feel uncomfortable. No one wants to deliberately make students feel uncomfortable, but sometimes that is the price to be paid.
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2 Replies to “Book censorship shortchanges students”
Looks like kneejerk political CYA by the school administration. From another on-line article re this issue, it looks like the complaining parents were not making the usual objections to use of the “N” word, but rather were arguing that books addressing America’s racist history by definition encourage some students to make racist comments today. This, of course, is head-in-the-sand thinking — like American Jewish parents objecting to Diary of Anne Frank on the ground that reading Diary of Anne Frank prompted a few students to make anti-Semitic comments to Jewish students. It’s obvious (to me, at least), that Jewish students are better off in the long run if K-12 education includes teaching about the Holocaust rather than ignoring it for fear that teaching about the Holocaust will trigger some anti-Semitic remarks.
Labor Lawyer: It is impossible to teach critical thinking as long as book censorship exists. That particularly applies to racial issues. Unfortunately, school administrators too easily cave in when parents complain. The whole thing makes a mockery of education.