Friday, August 28, 2009

To Pull, Ban or Kill A Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is being pulled from the Grade 10 English curriculum at Brampton's St. Edmund Campion Secondary School following the complaint of a parent over the use of the n-word. The classic book depicts a southern US lawyer's struggle against racial injustice.

Bruce Campbell of the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board made this statement concerning the issue: "The school administration was aware of the parent’s concern and made the decision to use another board-approved resource that teaches the same concept for the coming year." Campbell added, "The principal elected to select an alternative text for the fall, it would have been in response to the concern but at the same time it's not a banning. We're definitely not in the business of censure or book banning."

Just the same, the literary community has been critical.

The Toronto Star has published author Lawrence Hill's opinion. He points out that the real problem with To Kill a Mockingbird is "it's just one story, from another country, long ago." While he sees great value in the book, he points out that this book which explores the issues of racism, segregation and the experiences of black people, does not even focus on black people. It explores racism from small town Alabama over half a century ago. Hill suggests that Canadian students do not know the "Canadian stories of slavery and abolition, and of segregation and civil rights." He suggests that To Kill a Mockingbird should be kept on the shelves but be joined by Canadian books that explore the issues.

I wonder why school officials have to wait for a challenge to a book to review the literature students are studying. Why can't there be a more deliberate effort to have the black Canadian voice heard without making the removing/banning of a book the central issue?

1 comment:

Jenessa said...

It’s true that To Kill a Mockingbird is “just one story, from another country, long ago" but the message it puts across is timeless, I think. There are a number of questions that arise after reading the book. Are morals a matter of community standards or individual conscience? Where do the rights of the community end and the rights of the individual begin? More than just race relations, To Kill a Mockingbird tries to understand the different standards of right and wrong that can exist between individuals. It also examines the power of a single individual to change a community. I think it’s this message that needs to be passed on to our children especially.