This item from The Toronto Star is just sad:

The classic literary novel To Kill a Mockingbird is being pulled from the Grade 10 English course at a Brampton high school after a parent complained about the use of a racial epithet in the book.

Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, which challenges racial injustice in America’s Deep South, will be removed from curriculum at St. Edmund Campion Secondary School following a lone complaint from a parent whose child will be in Grade 10 this September.

Though I’d seen a couple of stage versions over the years and, of course, the movie, I didn’t get around to reading Harper Lee’s acclaimed novel until this year. It was worth the wait: To Kill a Mockingbird is a subtly stunning work of fiction. If you haven’t read the book, add it to your must read list. And if there’s a teenager in your life, perhaps buy a copy for him or her, if only to protest that idiot St. Edmund Campion Secondary School parent who would ban a contemporary masterwork through their own lack of intellect and understanding.

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23 thoughts on “Ontario High School Bans To Kill a Mockingbird

  1. I think any buffoon who objects to TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD on the grounds of racism of all things should be required by law to stay home from work and read it posthaste. Heartbreaking, and a serious case of point-missing.

  2. what is frustrating is not so much that one lone parent(s) objected to the book, but that the school board obliged. first, even if this particular complaint wasn't entirely unfounded, what sort of committee would consider pulling a literary classic based on ONE comment! i can understand if 60 percent of the families agreed with this (even if i didn't agree with their opinion), but seriously whatever happened to democracy???

  3. In 1037 and 1938 the Nazis went on a book burning campaign to limit knowledge of the Classics.
    Once again a misguided bunch of Taliban -in- Canada has repeated the same crime. Small minded bigots who have NO RIGHT to have any say in education. I say kids go get the book and read it anyway it is a book that condemns racism and intolerance and is a classic.
    Shame on Brampton, I didnt think Canada had such small minded people

  4. My son is a incoming freshman this year and it is required reading. I think it is exceedingly criticle for teens and even parenrs who probably have not taken the time to read the book take the time to do so. And by all means don't make judgement on anything before doing or reading so yourself.

  5. I think this is absolutely absurd in the most utter redispositioning of justification! On the grounds of such ridiculous inconstrustions educated neanderthalic point of view. Hence we judge this diabolical madness in this day and age is beyond my characterization or social hyperbole.

  6. Hey morons, how's this for a good reason to ban it, or at least to get the kids to read something else:

    True: Harper Lee's novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, is a fine, nostalgic read. But is it the only text that can be used to teach young Canadians about anti-black racism and to discourage them and their elders from its practice? Too, is it even the best book for achieving these goals, especially when the author's realistic use of a violent, racist epithet may, unintentionally (but also probably), alienate African Canadian pupils?

    My answer is no. Teaching Mockingbird is unlikely to nurture the self-esteem of black youth, for its focus is white people who "do the right thing," while the black characters remain disempowered victims. For a replacement novel, try Lawrence Hill's The Book of Negroes.

    George Elliott Clarke, Department of English, University of Toronto

    Here's the link to the comment by Mister Clarke:

    One more thing: Unless you've walked a mile in the shoes of black people and their children, please don't presume to know how 'provincial' they are-they have a right to object to the N-word being used around their kids, and that's all there is to it. Maybe if more school boards were this understanding, there wouldn't be a need for black-focused schools at all.

  7. Okay, much as I'm not fond of feeding trolls (and yes, Lionel, your use of the word "moron" qualifies you as such, undercutting as it does your admittedly valid point), but I take exception to the straw man you've constructed of the arguments in favor of TKAM above. I don't believe anybody suggested that reading this book should be the sum total of racial education in the curriculum, and in fact if it were, I'd be appalled. But the racism portrayed in Lee's classic is of a type children may not be exposed to in their everyday life — overt as opposed to subtle, normative as opposed to aberrant. The story serves to illustrate how far our culture has come since those times, and may jumpstart a discussion about how far we've still to go. Further, the book is considerably more than some reductivist racial screed. Atticus' relationship with Scout, and the lessons he imparts, are valuable examples for any child to read.

    But apart from all that, twisting an academic's words (a professor of English, no less!) to argue in favor of banning a book outright is simply beyond the pale. We cannot as a culture have a discussion of race, or of class, if we are afraid of the language that discussion might involve. TKAM should not be the discussion in toto, but it is, in my opinion, part of the mosaic of our shared cultural experience, and it no doubt served as a catalyst for positive change.

    Epithets exist whether we want them to or not. Failing to discuss (and more importantly dismiss) them only lends them more power than they deserve.

  8. Lionel (quoting) writes: "But is it the only text that can be used to teach young Canadians about anti-black racism and to discourage them and their elders from its practice?"

    Why is it they only get one? And I never got that Lee's book was chosen for that reason. It's not a good one. The racial issues in Lee's book are subtext — and arguably core — but there are a lot of other things going on. A lot of things that make it a great selection for young readers. One is that — racial issues aside — it's just a wonderful book. It works on every single level. And it's a slender book. Even reluctant readers might find themselves engaged and enchanted.

    Choosing books for young people to read based on the lessons we can cram in is like giving them medicine. Or brussels sprouts. It's good for them? Oh stop! Reading is magic. That's the lesson we need to teach.

  9. I find it completely ludicrous that the school would ban an important literary piece after a solitary complaint. Is this person really so ignorant as to make a complaint against the book without understanding the context in which the racial epithet was used? This novel makes a perfect introdution to sympathetic racial relations and allows a young student to hear such racial epithets and their dangerous impact in a safe environment.
    While I understand that every school should have the right to choose what their students' read, I disagree with the reason that this novel was banned. I hope that the Brampton high school will come to their senses and either re-instate the novel or find a similar substitute.

  10. The professor is completely out of touch with the average grade 10 student. His suggestion of replacing "To Kill a Mockingbird" with "The Book of Negroes" would be fine for an older group. But "The Book of Negroes" is not appropriate for a Grade 10 class. "Mockingbird" is taught for other reasons than just because it has an anti-racist message. This professor is far removed from the teaching environment of a Grade 10 classroom.

  11. I was shocked to hear that this wonderful book was being banned. One parent has the control to decide the curriculm for a school, based on a word. We have all heard the word nigger, and this is not the basis for the book. Harper Lee wrote of Maycomb in the time she knew. It is a text that I read in 1976, in Grade 10 and I have never forgotten it. I have had two husbands who read this book because I insisted and two sons who have seen the movie because I felt it necessary. This is a town that is home to Scout and Jem, a town of gossip, shame, caste, kindness, loyalty, integrity,courage I could go on and on. We in Canada are where we are now because of lives fought for freedom of speech and freedom of ideas. I would sign any petition that was against banning of books. It smacks of fear through control and the suppression of debate. Think {if you have read the book} of all the characters in Ms. Lee's book, Calpurnia, she of the strong hands and warm heart, Arthur{Boo}Radley, Mr. Tate, Miss Maudie, and the Ewells, and Tom Robinson {everyman} who is accused of a crime he did not commit. Think of how Atticus defends him and how he exposes the Ewells for the white trash they were. How the town felt about Atticus, and about how you the reader carried this book in your mind. Ms. Lee did not write a novel about niggers, and only people with niggardly knowledge of the book and a lack of passion for people could not want their young people to read this Pulitzer prize winning book. Watch a video, a movie, listen to a rap song and you will hear the word nigger and a lot worse. Lyrics about woman as bitches and whores, that is something to be upset about. Not creating racism where it does not exist. It does not exist in To Kill a Mockingbird.

  12. While it is easy to was poetic about childhood experiences with TKM, and spout the convenient, if not hysterical cry of censorship! book banning! denial of individual rights! I ask those in favour of the text to pause and consider a few things.

    If you are not a black student, you can have no idea what it is like to sit in a classroom, a place that is supposed to be safe and inclusive, as your teacher, the person of authority, reads aloud (or makes you read) a book in which not only is a racial slur used, but more importantly, a book where the people who represent you (and no, I do not mean Scout) are poor, disempowered and victimised. There is no redemption in TKM for black people. Tom Robinson is wrongfully convicted, then shot (like a dog) trying to escape. In the same way we decry the insulting 'noble savage' archaism in 19th century Western literature, we should be decrying any attempt to embrace Tom Robinson as the "noble black man".

    The empathy generated for Tom Robinson is also suspect, because his purported victim is not some dishonest, upstanding figure in Maycombe society, but a social outcast – an uneducated woman of ill-repute from a family of even worse repute. Of course, then, she is a liar! Of course, only someone as low as her would lower herself to try and seduce a black man. I could go on about Calpurnia, the 'dusty negro children' and Atticus's total acquiescence (with no outburst of rage and indignation) when the verdict is read. Had the heroes we respect today – the Ghandis and Mercredis and Mandelas – quietly turned away and returned to their homes to give a 'well, child, that's the way society is and yes, it is evil' speech to their children, where would we be today?

    I applaud St. Edmund Campion for having the courage to risk public outcry and derision by actually caring about the feelings of the *all* of the students in their classes. As a former black girl who suffered through what I call the 'Mortification of Mockingbird' when I was in grade 10, I am grateful, and wish my teachers had possessed the same foresight.

  13. As a Grade 10 student who has read this book, I would like to say that i feel it is completely appropriate. Unfortunently it was not in the cirriculum for me, so i read it for an assignemt where we choose our a book ourselves.
    Before starting i had been prepared to read a disgustly racist piece of trash because i had heard so many people say that about it. But when i read it, i couldn't understand why these people would say this.
    Yes, the book does say nigger, and yes, it deals with racism, but the book is in no way racist. I found that if anything it taught racial acceptance.
    It taught me more about the history of southern america and how black people were disgrimated against.
    It in no way said that white people always did the right thing and that blacks were bad. In fact, it said the exact opposite.
    I realized that i am very sad that it is NOT put in my high school's cirriculum and stongly hope that it is put in!

  14. wow I read this in grade 10 and I used to go to Campion. I never thought this issue was such a big issue.. I thought that novel was a classic! some parents really need to get educated.

  15. hello my fellow avid readers 😀 Personally in my unbiased opinion and based on the socialistic and idealistic values of todays developing society i have come to the conclusion that To Kill a Mockingbird is better than the Chronicles of Narnia

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