Patterico's Pontifications

10/16/2017

Biloxi School District On Killing A Mockingbird

Filed under: General — Dana @ 6:09 pm

[guest post by Dana]

The Biloxi Public School District has targeted the eloquent, Pulitzer Prize winning classic, “To Kill A Mockingbird,” for removal from the district’s eighth grade curriculum because it made some people “uncomfortable”. Oh, the bitter irony. But given that making sure students feel comfortable seems to be the goal at public institutions of education these days, I guess you could say that Biloxi is right on point:

Kenny Holloway, vice president of the Biloxi School Board said, “There were complaints about it. There is some language in the book that makes people uncomfortable, and we can teach the same lesson with other books.

“It’s still in our library. But they’re going to use another book in the 8th grade course.”

When asked Thursday morning if the book had been pulled from the course, Superintendent Arthur McMillan issued a statement five hours later that said: “There are many resources and materials that are available to teach state academic standards to our students. These resources may change periodically. We always strive to do what is best for our students and staff to continue to perform at the highest level.”

McMillan did not answer any questions on the issue.

It is believed that the use of the n-word, which appears almost 50 times in the book, is what prompted the decision. According to the American Library Association, the renowned classic “was the 21st most-challenged book in the United States for the first decade of the 21st century”. Yet, context is everything:

“What exactly is a n—– lover?” Scout asks her father in “Mockingbird,” which is set in 1930s Alabama.

“It’s hard to explain,” replies the father, a lawyer who spends much of the book defending a black man falsely accused of rape.

“Ignorant, trashy people use it when they think somebody’s favoring Negroes over and above themselves,” he tells Scout. “It’s slipped into usage with some people like ourselves, when they want a common, ugly term to label somebody.”

The decision to take this book off the curriculum list appears to have been made devoid of understanding the context in which the n-word is used.

It’s mind-boggling that in 2017, the school district – an entity predominantly made up of professional educators charged with educating their young charges – has opted for censorship rather than bravely leading students through the many troubling, rich truths that the story has to offer about racial inequality and injustice: a story depicting life in the segregated South, with the sympathetic main characters being an honorable black man who finds himself falsely accused of rape, and an equally honorable white man, who in spite of tremendous odds and public sentiment against him, comes to the defense of the accused. And all the while, three children learn that loving one’s neighbor as oneself and treating them with the same respect with which they wish to be treated has absolutely nothing to do with anyone’s skin color.

As a concerned reader wrote to the Sun Herald:

“I think it is one of the most disturbing examples of censorship I have ever heard, in that the themes in the story humanize all people regardless of their social status, education level, intellect, and of course, race. It would be difficult to find a time when it was more relevant than in days like these.”

A quick perusal of the Biloxi Public Schools school board meeting agenda for tomorrow, Oct. 17, doesn’t list the removal of the book as an item of discussion (or vote) on its agenda page.

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)

–Dana

75 Responses to “Biloxi School District On Killing A Mockingbird”

  1. If it makes us uncomfortable, just make it go away.

    Dana (023079)

  2. What’s next? Do black-eyed peas on the school lunch menu make ‘some’ parents uncomfortable in Biloxi?

    ropelight (bbe920)

  3. It is believed that the use of the n-word, which appears almost 50 times in the book, is what prompted the decision.

    Maybe the book should be edited. Use “the n-word” in all the appropriate places and then the book will be suitable for 8th graders. And this blog.

    Anon Y. Mous (6cc438)

  4. If it’s like the one in my locale, the school board members are elected and have about as much experience in education as your average PTA member. Which I think is where several of them started out.

    kishnevi (3bfc26)

  5. This seems to the best place to drop this: Gov. Scott has mistaken Richard Spencer for a hurricane
    http://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/355668-florida-gov-declares-state-of-emergency-ahead-of-richard-spencer-campus?amp

    kishnevi (3bfc26)

  6. Yes its overwrought, otoh, the gainseville police will actually paying attention this time.

    narciso (d1f714)

  7. My understanding is that some of the music these same kids listen to uses the n-word as well.

    This is obviously problematic and troubling.

    happyfeet (28a91b)

  8. 46 times ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ echoed through pop culture

    One of the earliest references to Lee’s book on American television came in 1969, with an episode of the comedy “Get Smart” featuring the agents on the trail of a figurine called the “Tequila Mockingbird.”

    happyfeet (28a91b)

  9. To Kill a Mockingbird is the one book that every American my age or younger has read, and I suspect for most Americans younger than myself it is the only book they have read, since we were all made to read it in school. I wouldn’t say it’s the best book ever, I can think of plenty of others all high-schoolers should be made to read in its place, but to have it go out this way is a damned shame.

    Frederick (910b21)

  10. I liked the movie better.

    There are two things in the book that have stuck in my mind:
    1. When the black lady who keeps house for the Finches explains to the little girl why she talks with one grammar and diction to white people and with another to black people; and
    2. When Atticus is cross-examining the white trash accuser, and she thinks he’s mocking her because he calls her “Miss Mayella”, not expecting such courtesy or thinking that it is due to a person of her socio-economic status.

    Anyhow, our daughter asked for the book a couple of years ago and we bought if for her. I don’t know if she ever read it. I told her the movie was better. I don’t know if she watched that, either.

    nk (dbc370)

  11. I remember Dolphus Raymond the town drunk having to fake the condition (with a bottle of Coke in a brown paper bag) to excuse his interracial coupling and mulatto children.

    urbanleftbehind (6a13e5)

  12. Urbanleftbehind,

    I had a whole para in the post about Dolphus Raymond, and took it out. He is one of the best characters in the books, and certainly as wise as Atticus Finch, if not even more wise to the frailties of his fellow man in Maycomb. I believe he was just a genius addition to the story, who both surprised readers with his depth in such a brief appearance, and who so very gently and effectively accepted the weaknesses of those around him by quietly carrying their sin. He was so noble. (I took out the para because it really didn’t fit with the post, and because I just kept blathering on about his significance.)

    Dana (023079)

  13. @ kishnevi,

    If it’s like the one in my locale, the school board members are elected and have about as much experience in education as your average PTA member. Which I think is where several of them started out.

    One need not be a professional educator to grasp the depth and wisdom of the book, and just how relevant its truths are. Parents are the ultimate educators. They should be making a lot of noise in protest.

    Dana (023079)

  14. @ Frederick,

    I wouldn’t say it’s the best book ever,

    Those are fighting words!

    Dana (023079)

  15. And this is isn’t censorship, it’s the opposite. Anybody who wants to can still read it, they’re just not forcing the kids to. The only one hurt is the bookseller.

    nk (dbc370)

  16. I have a friend who has a PhD in biochemistry who took the required Ed courses to teach in public schools. Her kindest word for it was “ignorant.”

    The modern teacher is not required to have (and therefore certainly does not have) significant knowledge in the subjects they teach. They learn HOW to teach a curriculum that is handed them, and they can teach it to the letter. God help them if they get a bright student who wants to ask questions though.

    Kevin M (752a26)

  17. Maybe the book should be edited.

    Can anyone see the slippery slope? Hands! Yes, Dana?

    Kevin M (752a26)

  18. They should try watching “The Wire”, which may well be the best TV series ever made.

    Kevin M (752a26)

  19. I wonder who complained? Some racist’s kid brought it home and asked daddy what ignorant and trashy meant?

    Kevin M (752a26)

  20. nk, they are suppressing it in the classroom, no?

    Dana (023079)

  21. @Dana:they are suppressing it in the classroom, no?

    Removed from curriculum, not banned. You can only cover so many books in a year, the ones not in curriculum aren’t banned.

    Frederick (910b21)

  22. Meanwhile…..

    Suspect Arrested for Campus Graffiti Swastika Is Black Ex-Employee

    https://pjmedia.com/trending/2017/10/16/suspect-arrested-campus-graffiti-swastika-black-ex-employee/

    It’s like there are now more racist incident hoaxes than here are racist incidents……then again, saying “the most qualified person should get the job” is hate speech on CA college campuses.

    harkin (0db537)

  23. . Parents are the ultimate educators. They should be making a lot of noise in protest
    True, quite true. Although in this case they only need to go to Barnes and Noble and buy it.

    kishnevi (3bfc26)

  24. Harkin@23
    I’ve been subjected to enough overt anti-Semitism from blacks–far more than from whites. Enough of them that I have to say it may not be a fake hate crime.

    kishnevi (3bfc26)

  25. 18 – “They should try watching “The Wire”, which may well be the best TV series ever made.

    Nice review by someone who disagrees (as I do):

    http://jeopardygreenroom.blogspot.com/2009/04/race-reality-vs-wire-or-watching.html?m=1

    harkin (0db537)

  26. True remember that African American intercept reporter who has responsible for some of those threats against synagogues:
    https://mobile.twitter.com/alimhaider/status/920112046250778625/photo/1

    narciso (d1f714)

  27. Removed from curriculum, not banned. You can only cover so many books in a year, the ones not in curriculum aren’t banned.

    Thank you, Frederick. For every book I read as part of the curriculum in high school, I read hundreds of others on my own. If I were to force eighth-graders to read a particular book, it would be Strunk & White’s “Elements of Style”.

    That’s the same White who wrote “Charlotte’s Web”, BTW.

    nk (dbc370)

  28. @nk:For every book I read as part of the curriculum in high school, I read hundreds of others on my own.

    Me too. If I were to force eighth graders to read a book, it would probably be one of Twain’s.

    Frederick (910b21)

  29. they’re going to use another book in the 8th grade course

    hello

    i need to know the title of the approved book for so I can be certain to have read it at a precociously early age and that I’m conversant in what are assuredly its many virtues

    unless it’s a newer book in which case I shall have read it rather recently

    we’ll figure it out

    happyfeet (28a91b)

  30. Don’t think that every book or short story that teachers make kids read is in the curriculum because it’s good. More often than not it’s because the writer managed to ingratiate himself, or herself, with the academics, the intelligentsia and the literati, and nobody would read him or her otherwise. Like this guy. And let’s not discount the publishers who like nothing better than a captive market and relentlessly lobby the schools and teachers’ groups.

    nk (dbc370)

  31. “Teach him to think for himself? Oh, my God, teach him rather to think like other people!”

    ― Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

    happyfeet (28a91b)

  32. @nk:More often than not it’s because the writer managed to ingratiate himself, or herself, with the academics, the intelligentsia and the literati, and nobody would read him or her otherwise.

    Time takes care of all that. The fads of the intelligentsia and the best-selling potboilers all fade away and the geniuses who wrote to make a buck: Twain, Shakespeare, Dickens, they go on and on.

    Frederick (910b21)

  33. Never heard of him before.
    Of course I was schooled in the 70s, We didn’t do Mockingbird…we did Light in August and As I Lay Dying in 11th and 12th grade. I read Intruder in the Dust on my own.

    Of course the school made no pretense about having a normal reading list. We did Chaucer..in the original Middle English.

    But parents are important. When I was nine my mother got hold of a list of “100 Greatest Books” and made me read them all by the time I was 15. I’m not sure they were all that great (Lorna Doone was one of them) and some obvious ones were left out (no Proust, for example), and some are just not meant for pre-teens (Austen was on the list, but it wasn’t until college that I grokked her.) But it certainly confirmed me as a reader.

    kishnevi (3bfc26)

  34. @kishnevi:We did Chaucer..in the original Middle English.

    We only read the prologue, but my English teacher tipped me off to “The Miller’s Tale” and “The Reeve’s Tale”.

    @nk: You know who time has not treated kindly? Sinclair Lewis. I happened to pass through Sauk Center and there was a little museum/rest area dedicated to him. It clearly didn’t see many visitors. I really liked his books when I was growing up, but I don’t know who reads him now.

    Frederick (910b21)

  35. “If you just learn a single trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” – Atticus Finch [Gregory Peck] ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ 1962

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  36. “Mockingbird” is too confusing for students educated in a Title IX enviromnent. After all, Mayella Ewell must be believed, and Atticus Finch is little more than a rape apologist.

    Phu Bai Phat (f35c80)

  37. Apropos of nothing, this might appeal to those who have an interest in late 19th century criminology:
    variety.com/2017/tv/news/the-alienist-tnt-luke-evans-dakota-fanning-1202590897

    narciso (d1f714)

  38. So I’m comfuzzled America us as nasty a world as it was a hundred years ago, these literary experts opine, a review of us grant Bo by chernow referred to the end of the first reconstruction suggesting this is the second.

    narciso (d1f714)

  39. I’m sure the replacement will be “Dreams from My Father”

    Kevin M (752a26)

  40. That march through the institutions is going well.

    Patricia (5fc097)

  41. Frederick (910b21) — 10/16/2017 @ 7:01 pm

    To Kill a Mockingbird is the one book that every American my age or younger has read, and I suspect for most Americans younger than myself it is the only book they have read, since we were all made to read it in school. I wouldn’t say it’s the best book ever, I can think of plenty of others all high-schoolers should be made to read in its place, but to have it go out this way is a damned shame

    I don’t think I ever read it, although it was included in one volume of Reader’s Digest Condensed Books.

    The title made no sense, and I think I saw it as boring. I did learn about the old south pre-1960s other places.

    Sammy Finkelman (26a080)

  42. 16. Kevin M (752a26) — 10/16/2017 @ 7:23 pm

    I have a friend who has a PhD in biochemistry who took the required Ed courses to teach in public schools. Her kindest word for it was “ignorant.”

    Education courses make people worse teachers and it takes about five years of teaching for people to get it entirely out of their system. Education courses have always been this way. But the credential acts as a barrier to teaching and increases teacher’s salaries, even before unions.

    Sammy Finkelman (26a080)

  43. Congress can’t wait to ban the bible. They only pass things that’ll damage the middle class and kill the soul of Americans. You know, traitors like john mccain. I wish this pos would go away.

    mg (31009b)

  44. 6, what did that Department do about the “hunky” but antisem officer? Is he the bod y man for the haircut?

    urbanleftbehind (6a13e5)

  45. My problem is not the books they get rid of, my problem is the new ones they pick. Unless the author is a POC and the book is about how awful the US is to POC, the book does not see light of day.

    Tupac Lives (Somewhere) (665ab2)

  46. tupac lol that sounds like a star trek name

    happyfeet (28a91b)

  47. No he caught a bullet at the mgm grand,
    http://www.foxnews.com/us/2017/10/16/las-vegas-guard-jesus-campos-vanished-after-visiting-urgent-care-clinic-union-leader-says.html

    They don’t have tight security there even 20 years later

    narciso (d1f714)

  48. public schools suck ass

    happyfeet (28a91b)

  49. They took it off the reading list because its teachings conflict with the progressive social justice views of race and the south not because of the phony excuse about hurtful word(s). Complain and remove is no different than sue and settle.

    crazy (d99a88)

  50. If you mean progressive in the positive sense, I agree. It shows a view of a South which does not exist anymore, and there’s no reason to rub it in kids’ faces that their grandparents treated black people (and poor white people) like dirt, and that the false accusations of some half-witted white trash girl would send an innocent black man to prison.

    nk (dbc370)

  51. They took it off the list crazy, because the hero of the book was a white lawyer. How can a person with white privilege, himself a racist be the hero to an oppressed black man in racist, white supremacist America? They cannot teach the next generation of black children to hate whites if they pose whites as hero’s.

    Bear in mind the only time my black foster son ever was called ni@@er was by other blacks. The only place most of us ever hear the word is from blacks in music and movies and by them on the street. I don’t know any whites or Asians who use the word not even in private.

    Rev.Hoagie® (6bbda7)

  52. Campos never spoke to the public, and the onl;y reason we know anything s=is that he spoke to his union leader.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/09/us/jesus-campos-las-vegas-shooting.html

    https://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2017/10/10/us/10reuters-lasvegas-shooting.html

    The story as it stands now, I think, is:

    1. At 9:59 Campos, investigating a door alarm, went to the 32nd floor, and found the entrance (from the stairwell?) blocked. This time was later mistakenly given by the hotel as the time he was shot, but did not immediately affect the police chronology.

    2. He then went to another floor, (either the 31st or the 33rd) and got on to the 32nd floor that way.

    3. He fixed the door problem.

    4. Approximately 40 seconds before the shooting began at 10:05, he was fired upon through the closed door to Room 32-325, and he reported the attack to hotet security.

    5. He also stopped an engineer from the hotel from going on to that floor.

    6. The shooting began slowly, with some carefully aimed shots at aviation fuel tanks, probably intended to make them explode. They hit the tanks, but nothing exploded, and that was what actually should have been expected.

    7. Stephen Paddock then began shooting at the crowd.

    8. The police radio first reported shots at 10:06

    9. The first 911 call came at 10:08

    10. Police were getting reports of shots being fired all sorts of places, inclding other hotels. Some were the result of people fleeiing and then their injuries being reported to 911.

    11. People fled or were helped out.

    12. Stephen Paddock stopped firing at the time when there ws nobdoy left standing in the field. That took only about 10 minutes. When ambulances or EMS entered the grounds about 10:20, they found only dead people.

    13. Police met Mr. Campos at 10:18 pm and assumed he had been shot one minute earlier.

    14. The first reports that there didn’t seem to be any more firing came at 10:19.

    15. The wounding of the security guard was reported on police radio at 10:24.

    16. It gradually became clear it seemed to be over. They thought there were other shooters or maybe the shooter had escaped to another location in the hotel. They first evacuated the 29th floor, then all the floors in between the 29th and the 32nd.

    16. Police are usually stationed very near casinos, called in case of serious incidents (some the casinos handle themselves) and enter through obscure entrances. Most casino security guards are not armed and they work in plain clothes. The process for carrying arms on the job involves a long period of study, costs money, and results in very little extra pay. Many are former police officers.

    17. Police waited for SWAT teams. They breached the floor or something at 10:58 and the room at 11:20. They saw Paddock lying on the floor and immediately fired some bullets into him. But he was dead already.

    18. On Thursday, October 12, 2017, the security guard is scheduled to give several television interviews, but then mysteriously disappears, most likely detained by psychiatrists who are on the take. (I mean, what else?)

    You wouldn’t think the hotel could be held liable for anything. It is not like anyone could epect anything like this. Stephen Paddock first registered for a room on September 25, then on September 28, he changed his reservation to include a woman and changed the method of payment as well (changed one credit card for another?)

    Sammy Finkelman (26a080)

  53. The man who knew too much, Sammy.

    nk (dbc370)

  54. Youve been in rarefied air for some time now, Reverend. You are probably correct, but mainly because POS (piece of spit) and No-Goods have been the go to words for the urban/near-suburban white working and civil servant class for about the past quarter century. And that latter group, inferring from your previous writings, has been a PITA to you for some time.

    urbanleftbehind (5eecdb)

  55. It’s the one word that’s not “reasonably accommodated” for people with Tourettes in a U.S. government job. Under current practice, anyway. It may change.

    nk (dbc370)

  56. Here’s What the NeverTrumper’s, Democrats, Hollywood and the NFL just don’t understand.

    Three roofers in Maine upon hearing the National Anthem begin at an adjacent football game:

    https://theconservativetreehouse.files.wordpress.com/2017/10/role-model-roofers.jpg?w=640&h=360

    Rev.Hoagie® (6bbda7)

  57. . I don’t know any whites or Asians who use the word not even in private.

    You don’t get out much.

    Ben burn (b3d5ab)

  58. All I know urbanleftbehind, is those are the only places I hear the word. And I’m no Shrinking Violet. Up until this last year stuck with oxygen I was out all the time. Mostly bars, restaurants and groups of some sort and the word was never used, except by blacks which was quite irritating and unnecessary. Just sayin’. Now that may just be a reflection of the type of folks I associate with but I know all kinds. Admittedly not street people or drug addicts but also I’m not in Harvey Weinsteins circle either. Of course in his circle I probably would hear the word.

    Rev.Hoagie® (6bbda7)


  59. You don’t get out much.

    </blockquot

    See #59. You are too quick to attempt ridicule.

    Rev.Hoagie® (6bbda7)

  60. Remember when Trump elbowed his way past the Maltese President ?

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/16/malta-car-bomb-kills-panama-papers-journalist

    Ben burn (b3d5ab)

  61. Why don’t you block me Hoagie? It’s better that way.

    Ben burn (b3d5ab)

  62. I don’t need to block you Ben. I skim you. Sometimes you have decent, thoughtful comments. Why should I throw the baby out with the bathwater? If you go off on one of your sarcastic propaganda rants I skim. If your pearls of wisdom seem worthwhile, I read. It’s really quite easy, no blocking required. I do the same with Davehulu, DISCO and Tillerman. Just cause some is just nasty trolling doesn’t mean it all is.

    Rev.Hoagie® (6bbda7)

  63. You don’t get out much.

    Or he doesn’t move in the racist circles that you move in. The only folks I have heard that word from in my adult life have been African-American.

    Kevin M (752a26)

  64. Why don’t you comment on thoughtful? Oh, I understand…

    Ben burn (b3d5ab)

  65. Orwell on fascism

    Thirdly, even the people who recklessly fling the word ‘Fascist’ in every direction attach at any rate an emotional significance to it. By ‘Fascism’ they mean, roughly speaking, something cruel, unscrupulous, arrogant, obscurantist, anti-liberal and anti-working-class.

    Except for the relatively small number of Fascist sympathizers, almost any English person would accept ‘bully’ as a synonym for ‘Fascist’. That is about as near to a definition as this much-abused word has come.

    https://philebersole.wordpress.com

    Ben burn (b3d5ab)

  66. You’re pretty much on target with fascist I think, Ben. When I use it I’m thinking “Despot/Dictator” even though I realize that’s not the real definition. I don’t think just being a bully is being a fascist dictator. Just an A-hole.

    Rev.Hoagie® (6bbda7)

  67. Yes hoagie. But many times where there is bully smoke there’s fascist fire.

    Ben burn (b3d5ab)

  68. This isn’t easy, but it must be said: Professional conservative Ann Coulter deserves credit for being the first to deride explanations describing Stephen Paddock as a successful full-time gambler, which she found too ludicrous for words. On that we agree, probably for the first and last time. She’s onto something. It’s as if the New York Times never heard of using casinos for money laundering.

    “Sure looks like he was laundering money. It is statistically impossible to be a consistent net winner at video poker. Like every game in Vegas, the odds are fixed for the house. If someone knows how you can beat the house at video poker, let us in on it. “

    What that “something” is remains unknown. Or at least, it remains unknown to me.

    Investigating previous (and subsequent) owners of single and twin-engine planes and luxury jets is an excellent tool for uncovering circles of associates and acquaintances surrounding an airplane owner of interest.

    Until one looks a little closer, Stephen Paddock seems like an ‘ordinary’ guy from Florida who inexplicably went nuts one day. That is, until you saw his arsenal, and wonder if he’d ever seen similar arsenals in other places. Owning multiple airplanes isn’t sinister. But it is just slightly out of the ordinary. Ditto the oodles of still-unexplained cash. Add to that a resume leaning heavily towards federal government work. After working between 1985 and 1988 as an auditor at defense contractor Morton Thiokol— the O-rings that failed on the Space Shuttle Challenger—he apparently never held another real job.

    Other than a few forays into rental real estate, little is known about how Paddock got rich, or spent his time.

    http://www.madcowprod.com/2017/10/17/vegas-shooter-general-aviation-cia-planespotting/

    Ben burn (b3d5ab)

  69. 69 – “It is statistically impossible to be a consistent net winner at video poker. “

    I remember the first time I heard him described as “successful gambler” followed by “video poker”, I almost fell down laughing.

    harkin (8789d3)

  70. So how does that work? Jamal gives you $10,000 in crumpled $10 bills; you go to the casino and buy $10,000 worth of chips; hang around a couple of hours, have a couple of drinks, ogle the cocktail waitresses; then go and and cash in the same chips; the casino gives you a check; you deposit the check in your account; cut Jamal a check for $9,000 or whatever?

    nk (dbc370)

  71. As best I can tell Campos is hiding himself from press and public. His motive is unclear: he may be dealing with PTSD. Or he might be complying with the demands of people who have a vested influence in his silence. Or both.

    kishnevi (9a5a41)

  72. I wouldn’t trust with Vegas aurhirities? They have proved as trustworthy a luev shrievber when he guess starred on CSI.

    narciso (d1f714)

  73. they need to get to the bottom of this

    but they’re gonna have to bring in some professionals not these fbi bozos

    happyfeet (28a91b)


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