Welcome to DU! The truly grassroots left-of-center political community where regular people, not algorithms, drive the discussions and set the standards. Join the community: Create a free account Support DU (and get rid of ads!): Become a Star Member Latest Breaking News Editorials & Other Articles General Discussion The DU Lounge All Forums Issue Forums Culture Forums Alliance Forums Region Forums Support Forums Help & Search


(58,680 posts)
Fri Nov 3, 2023, 11:28 AM Nov 2023

Students hated 'To Kill a Mockingbird.' Their teachers tried to dump it.


Students hated ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’ Their teachers tried to dump it.

Four progressive teachers in Washington’s Mukilteo School District wanted to protect students from a book they saw as outdated and harmful. The blowback was fierce.

By Hannah Natanson
November 3, 2023 at 6:00 a.m. EDT

Kamiak High School English teacher Riley Degamo is one of four teachers who sought to forbid teaching "To Kill a Mockingbird" in their liberal Washington district. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)


MUKILTEO, Wash. — Students first told Shanta Freeman-Miller about how it hurt to read “To Kill a Mockingbird” five years ago.

The stories came out during Wednesday meetings of the Union for Students of African Ancestry, a group that Freeman-Miller, one of the only Black teachers at Kamiak High School, founded at teens’ request. Students shared their discomfort with the way the 1960 novel about racial injustice portrays Black people: One Black teen said the book misrepresented him and other African Americans, according to meeting records reviewed by The Washington Post. Another complained the novel did not move her, because it wasn’t written about her — or for her.

A third spoke about how a White teen said the n-word aloud while reading from “Mockingbird,” disobeying the teacher’s instructions to skip the slur, the student recalled in an interview with The Post. She spoke on the condition of anonymity, for fear of harassment.

“The kid looked at every Black person — there’s three Black people in that class — and smiled,” the student said, according to meeting records and her memory. “And the plot is not even good.”



By Hannah Natanson
Hannah Natanson is a Washington Post reporter covering national K-12 education. Twitter https://twitter.com/hannah_natanson

She challenges one school book a week. She says she’ll never stop.
11 replies = new reply since forum marked as read
Highlight: NoneDon't highlight anything 5 newestHighlight 5 most recent replies


(33,856 posts)
2. My thoughts are to assign watching the movie in class, rather than reading the book
Fri Nov 3, 2023, 12:26 PM
Nov 2023

To Kill a Mockingbird the movie could start some lively discussions in class, and it wouldn't seem like such a chore that reading the book (and writing a book report) might become. American students need to be familiar with the book because it's one of the foundation stones of our American literature. Educators would be remiss if they failed to teach this book to high school-aged kids. But perhaps the classic movie of To Kill A Mockingbird - watched in class and carefully discussed - might be enough to achieve that.


(11,697 posts)
4. I don't get how "progressive" teachers wouldn't want to teach this book
Fri Nov 3, 2023, 12:44 PM
Nov 2023

I hadn't read Mockingbird until a few months ago, once I got started I couldn't put it down. And yes, the racism and use of the word "n_____" made me uncomfortable, but I suppose we need to feel uncomfortable to gain at least a very small understanding of how things are for other people.

And I have to admit to having mixed feelings about other classic authors using "n______" as well, Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway come to mind. Hemingway's use of the term, especially, seems to normalize a word that's no longer acceptable among decent people.


(710 posts)
5. What I got from the article
Fri Nov 3, 2023, 01:09 PM
Nov 2023

is that the book made Black students uncomfortable and one White student used it as her excuse to use a racial slur in class. Did I misunderstand?



(1 post)
9. I didn't get even that much -- I just got mad
Mon Nov 6, 2023, 08:57 PM
Nov 2023

That is perhaps what is *alleged* as a motivation for the banning attempt. The long article is in the Washington Post from Hannah Natanson. It's paywalled so *I* haven't read it. However, as a black person who has been in front of middle or high school students every school day for the last 15 years or more, I call BULLSHIT straight up. The article is captioned "the blowback was fierce" -- rest WELL assured, I AM that blowback, And You Should Be Too.


(710 posts)
10. I wasn't advancing an opinion;
Mon Nov 6, 2023, 09:25 PM
Nov 2023

I was asking if I was correct in my reading; that the students voicing their discomfort were of color. That's all.

It's not your decision as to what I should feel. I'm a person of color who can think for myself.



(32,787 posts)
6. I agree with one of the responses after the article
Fri Nov 3, 2023, 01:16 PM
Nov 2023

The woman who said she was taught only “feel good history “ in school, like Columbus discovered America and George Washington chopped down the cherry tree.

It does kids today a huge disservice - IMO - to gloss over the painful truths in our nation’s history. Why is the fear of making them “uncomfortable “ so pervasive?

One teacher said most of her incoming students never heard of Jim Crow laws. I think that stuff needs to be taught.

That said, perhaps reading a more contemporary book on racism as well as TKAM and compare and contrast racism in America then and now. Nothing wrong with making kids think about things like this and understand where it came from.


(2,249 posts)
7. Historically there's so much literature that could offend women, but we still have to know what women faced
Fri Nov 3, 2023, 02:13 PM
Nov 2023

in the past, so we don't let those social conditions develop again. They were wrong then, but they were accepted. Still remember trying to understand how, in the Iliad, it was a-ok that a young woman is captured and kept like a slave/war trophy. The truth of history is often uncomfortable. But so is learning math (speaking for myself).


(115,693 posts)
11. It's removed from the required reading list but not banned. Local articles...
Tue Nov 7, 2023, 12:41 AM
Nov 2023
MUKILTEO, Wash. — "To Kill a Mockingbird" will be removed from the Mukilteo School District's ninth-grade English/Language Arts required reading list.
The Mukilteo School Board unanimously approved a resolution Monday night to remove the novel from the curriculum. The novel remains on the district-approved list and is not banned.


The Mukilteo School Board voted unanimously Monday night to remove “To Kill a Mockingbird” from the required reading list for ninth graders, while still allowing for teachers to choose to teach the classic novel to students.

The board acted after months of discussion among teachers, parents and students, and in reaction to concerns over racism in the classic novel, first published in 1960.

John Gahagan, a board member since 2011, stressed that members were not banning the book, just removing it from the list of required reading. He said a 20-member instructional committee of teachers, parents and community members had voted by a nearly two-thirds margin to no longer have the book be required reading.

The book, over the 60-plus years since its publication, has remained overwhelmingly popular, while also, at times, controversial........
Latest Discussions»Issue Forums»Education»Students hated 'To Kill a...