To Kill a Mockingbird - Censorship Rears its Ugly Head Again

Be prepared for a book censorshiop rant! Once again, To Kill a Mockingbird has been removed from a classroom due to a complaint by a parent. The parent of a child going into Grade 10 has complained about the use of the "n" word in the novel and it has been removed from the class curriculum. The Dufferin-Peel Catholic Schoolboard in Brampton, Ontario accepted the complaint of one parent of a soon-to-be Grade 10 student at St. Edmund Campion Secondary School, and removed the book from the class.I think that 15 and 16 year-old children are at a level where they should understand the theme and plot of this novel. Obviously, the parent in question has not read the entire book and does not understand what this classic novel is trying to say.

To Kill a Mockingbird was written by Harper Lee. It was published in 1960 and won the Pulitzer Prize for literature. In 1962, it was made into a very successful movie with Gregory Peck. The story is one of rape and racial inequality. As someone said, "only the bad people use that word in the novel." And this is true. You cannot just erase words out of the vocabulary because someone actually has used them and continue to use today. It is not giving people a license to use this sort of language by having a novel that features the word. The aim of this great novel is to promote racial harmony, not to endorse racism. I challenge anyone to read the novel from cover to cover and tell me that it is racist in any way.

I have heard the argument that if you are not black you can't understand why people would get upset. However, as quoted in the Toronto Star "But at a school with a significant black population, teachers say the book is a relevant and favoured tool for discussion on racism." That is the point of the novel in the first place.

Now I don't want this to disintegrate into a discussion by some that racism does not exist and some people are over sensitive because that is not what I am saying. Racism does exist and it is books like this that can help to eliminate it.

My main point of this rant is that the complaint of one parent should not be enough to have a classic removed from study. Don't the other parents with children in the class have any say in whether or not their child should have a right to read it and study it?

The fact that this is one of my favorite novels of all time makes it worse and more maddening. I even named my cat Boo Radley.

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Comments 36 comments

Nathan Orf profile image

Nathan Orf 2 years ago from Virginia

Censoring "To Kill a Mockingbird" because one parent objects to the use of the "n" word really is an exercise in futility. All it does is make kids wonder what could be in the book that would make adults want to ban it! And of course, the word needs to be taken into the context of the time it was used in, or was describing. It's a shame how so many kids in both the U.S and Canada will not be reading books like TKaM or "Huckleberry Finn" because their parents ban them from reading it.


Jack 4 years ago

I am writing a paper in my 10th grade English class about the cencorship of TKAM. People that want to censor this book are ridiculously ignorant. It's gotten to a point were it's maddening even. Boy I would give that parent an earful if I even met him/her. This article has been a great help and it's got me all fired up now. Thank you so much. God bless


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon

it's so stupid. the book was written in the vernacular of the times and the setting. it's an important novel and it doesn't promote racism. in fact, it is a pro equality book. In the words of Joe Rogan, you can't nerf the world. Parents need to lighten up and, since the parent obviously hasn't read the book, they need to read and understand the context before getting all offended.


sholland10 profile image

sholland10 4 years ago from Southwest Missouri

Yeah! Imagine that...


Uninvited Writer profile image

Uninvited Writer 4 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario Author

So someone actually judged a book by its cover :)


sholland10 profile image

sholland10 4 years ago from Southwest Missouri

I understand your rant. When they decided to edit Twain's HUCK FINN, I went on a similar rant. I teach HUCK FINN, TKAM, and THE CRUCIBLE. All have been banned at one time or another. I could not believe it when one student came in to tell me she needed another assignment because her parents did not approve of the book cover for THE CRUCIBLE. I tried to explain the allegory of the 1693 witch hunts and the Red Scare, but to no avail. They had judged the book by its cover and would not allow their daughter to read it. At least the parents did not try to have it removed. An American school district could be breaking the "separation of church and state" if they allow one parent to push them into removing/censoring a book because the parent's religion is against their child reading it. The district would be breaking it by being perceived as favoring the religion of the parent. Ignorance is everywhere - which is why these people do not understand that books like TKAM is a book that lashes out at ignorance and its dangers. Great hub... sorry for my rant, but I am passionate about this topic too.


bloggernotjogger profile image

bloggernotjogger 4 years ago from La Cala de Mijas, Spain

The Toronto School Board should be able to handle the complaint of one parent. I really doubt they´ll be forced to remove such a classic from the curriculum. I read it in school 34 years ago and it´s still being taught in class.


collegatariat profile image

collegatariat 5 years ago

How completely ridiculous to remove such a great book from schools, especially considering all the trash that they gladly teach the children there. The book itself is so beautiful, and the movie is great too-- it's on my top must-read list for anyone who asks for recommendations.


chasingcars 6 years ago

I and two other leaders once escorted 30 students through Russia for a month. One of the most delightful encounters there was a man who came up to me at a train station and, in halting English, thanked me for TKAM, as if I had had anything to do with it. He said he has read it to his children several times. I love this novel also. We can censor great novels, but we can't censor smut--what a country.


Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 6 years ago from East Coast, United States

I hate when they start up with that stupid stuff. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the most important American books ever written. Most important books are of a controversial nature and feature dramatic themes. Let's just have the kids read pablum. They won't have to think or feel. There is way too much parental in-put. It seems like parents who have really stupid ideas are listened to but the ones with the good ideas are ignored.


organized living profile image

organized living 7 years ago from Magnolia, AR

well put UW. I think your kinda preachin' to the choir , here on Hubpages. the point you might possibly have glossed over is that it is not permissible to allow ethnic slurs to be uttered or broadcast without let or hinderence. clearly your point here is context. in an organized learning environment under supervised instruction and within the context of a wider discussion.. etc. etc. If we accept however that a line is being drawn between what can and can't be said/written in any context then we have opened a debate and that line will be drawn and redrawn.

Hats off to the parent that goes to the school board in the persuit of what they feel is right or appropiate in the education of their child. It is the apathy of those that stand passivly by and allow their heritage to be excluded. wouldn't have been much of a book if Atticus Finch descided not to rock the boat now would it. :)


lorlie6 profile image

lorlie6 7 years ago from Bishop, Ca

As 'liminal' pointed out, censorship is just wrong. I am appalled at the increasing paranoia in our culture in particular. And a very prevalent Puritan Ethic.

We are a nation of ignoramuses, except of course, we here on HubPages! :O)


liminal 7 years ago

Censorship is just wrong. As you say, kids in high school can understand the reason for using words and the context that those words are used in.

Apparently, there's a father down in Texas who wants Fahrenheit 451 banned from the school curriculum because it "offends God and talks about our firemen" or something like that. Dunno, I just dunno! lol


noelr profile image

noelr 7 years ago from New York

One of the best books ever written. I loved it when I read it as a child and loved it when I re-read it twenty years later. One of the most anti-racial books ever written. To read it is to understand the plight of those who fight for racial equality. Aticus Finch was probably my first hero.


myownworld profile image

myownworld 7 years ago from uk

TKAMB is to date one of my favourite books ever....hence u can see why I've enjoyed reading this hub. thank you for defending it here....!


SimPly RaRe profile image

SimPly RaRe 7 years ago from California USA

Wow, at times, one parent could change the curriculum...hhmmm I am a parent myself, and I understand, Uninvited Writer, why you spent time writing about this. You helped make the novel a classic in the real sense--some people read it and forget the details, but the feeling that enveloped you as you turn the novel's pages are just remarkably unforgettable. Hubpages is fortunate to have you.


kartika damon profile image

kartika damon 7 years ago from Fairfield, Iowa

Please - this is one of the most beautiful American novels ever written - I think the people making the decisions to remove these literary works because of this kind of pressure need to make a stand and refuse!


wesleycox profile image

wesleycox 7 years ago from Back in Texas, at least until August 2012

I have this book and loved reading it in the correct manner of which it was written. Harper Lee did a fabulous job writing this story in a way everyone can relate with. I hope the book continues to be a classic for many years to come.


Madame X 7 years ago

I've heard they tried to ban Mark Twain novels for a similar reason. These people are mental midgets. Good hub. And I've always liked Harper Lee :)


robertsloan2 profile image

robertsloan2 7 years ago from San Francisco, CA

I'm with you. While it's cheering to know the N word is more obscene now than the F word and that does affect society -- when it comes to classics and history, it's important for kids to study the subject as what it was. They need to know what it meant. Some of them may grow up without ever hearing it and not realize that books like this helped change America's view on racism.

I am especially disgusted when books that were historically significant, books that did help end racism, get chopped and the kids don't get them till college. It hurts them and gives a false impression that racism was never worse than it is today -- very false, I've lived through way too many decades when it was a ton worse.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 7 years ago from Canada

This has to be my one of my all-time favorite books. I read it as a child and I must admit it had a profound effect on me. I just love the movie - the cast is phenomenal. I can't believe the knee-jerk response to a protest about a word - especially to a word used in such a way as to teach us that it is a DEROGATORY term. Well I better not get started - I live in country where our minister is forbidden to wear his collar into a school because it is a religious symbol!


Uninvited Writer profile image

Uninvited Writer 7 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario Author

I guess Canada and the US are not all that different when it comes to silly censorship. Not taking kids to a museum because of those amazing Greek statues? That is sacrilege :) Those are the same people that painted underwear on the Sistine Chapel figures...


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 7 years ago

There's something we can agree on, jiberish!


jiberish profile image

jiberish 7 years ago from florida

This is exactly the example of what is going wrong with our country. One person complains and poof, there is a new law. Why should we al suffer because of one? A friend in Ohio wrote me earlier this year, she said that the school cancelled a trip to the great museum they have, because of the naked statues in their ancient wing. Can you give me a break!!!!! How are our children supposed to learn when they are so wrongly over protected from reality???


Elena. profile image

Elena. 7 years ago from Madrid

You gotta be kidding! I mean, I know you're not, but please! This is also one of my favorite novels, but as you said, that's really beside the point, isn't it? Geez, what's wrong with the world...


ralwus 7 years ago

I was but a child when I first read that wonderful book and I remember the movie well too. It spoke volumes to me about how one should not be full of hatred for anyone because of color. I still have that copy in paperback and have reread it many times. Yes, that word is understandably demeaning and derogatory but it needs to be left in these types of references for teaching young ones as it did myself. I even found that word twice in the Apocrypha.


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

I think the parent who complained is very narrow-minded and needs a whipping.


Uninvited Writer profile image

Uninvited Writer 7 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario Author

Great comments from everyone! I'm glad you feel the same way. Maybe those against can have the ban overturned. Like dohn says, the kids who are denied reading it might be curious now with all the news coverage and actually read it on their own time.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 7 years ago from South Africa

Censorship is bad, period. It is a sign of little minds incapable of big thinking.

In South Africa we had for years a Publications Control Board with a lot of old aunties who read books deemed to have questionable content and then gave a recommendation whether or not the book should be allowed in the country. The reading level of the aunties (they were of both sexes, by the way, not just women) can be judged by the fact that they once banned Anna Sewell's "Black Beauty"!

Censorship is a case of delegating your thinking to someone else and that can't be good. The use of particular words needs to be understood in the context in which they are used and the purpose for which they are used. Wishing them away by banning them is not going to deal with the issue at all, just sweep it under the carpet.

Thanks for your rant and please excuse mine!

Love and peace

Tony


Drew Breezzy profile image

Drew Breezzy 7 years ago from somewhere in my mind

That is a shame.That is my favorite book. Private schools are too sheltered. Life is not censored and books shouldn't be either. You couldn't go a minute in my high school without someone using the "n" word. It is just a word, what matters is the context and intent in which it is used. The author is not using it in a degrading fashion but to revel racist injustice.


dohn121 profile image

dohn121 7 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

It's the 21st century and people still want to ban the classics? I must be hearing things. There is no book known to man that can outdo what the internet can provide. I've seen things on the internet that gave me nightmares, mostly through e-mails that were sent to me in bad taste. Kids are growing up way too fast these days (dammit, I'm turning into a fuddy-duddy now).

Look on the bright side, UW. Banning books usually have a revers-side effect. Banning things only increases interest! Heck, look at marijuana. I hope this made you smile :)


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country

If the people in that book had said "African-American" would the censors have been happy?-- even though the racist people in that time, especially, would not have used another word.

The use in the book is to be authentic to the story in a particular time and place. It demeans, not the black characters, but the haters.


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 7 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

Here we go again. This is so ridiculous. As a HS English teacher in Chicago, I cannot tell you how many times I had the best and most intelligent discussions on racism with my students, because of this book. They were 100% African American and they "got" the book and what it was trying to say, and the "N" word was never a problem.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 7 years ago

Sad isn't it? People have objected to "Huckleberry Finn," which many believe is the greatest American novel for the same misguided reason. One must wonder if the person who objected actually read the book or watched the movie and what his or her reading level is.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country

Oh, man! What is the matter with people ? This is one of the most powerful anti-racist stories ever written.


Storytellersrus profile image

Storytellersrus 7 years ago from Stepping past clutter

That is a crack up, considering Denver chose To Kill a Mockingbird as its Denver Reads: http://www.examiner.com/x-11219-Denver-Young-Adult...

You are awesome, UW!

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