By Mohima Oishe ’19 and Fanny Zhao ’19
How would you feel if you were stripped from the right to do something as simple as read a book? By banning books that bring up controversial topics, censorship has always brought up a stir within the community. The debate was revived when a Mississippi school district board removed To Kill a Mockingbird from the eighth grade ELA curriculum in a Biloxi school on October 23, recently students have been allowed to read the book, but only with parent’s permission.
One popular book that is included in literature circles at Midwood, where students read books as a group and has a reputation of being constantly challenged is To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. According to the American Library Association, To Kill a Mockingbird is number 21 out of the top 100 most banned or challenged books of 2000-2009.
Set during the 1930s, it is about a white Southern lawyer fighting for injustice for a black client. The controversial book has always been the center of debate. It discusses topics that are still talked about today, such as racial inequality and the civil rights movement.
According to Christina Caron’s article, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ Removed From School in Mississippi, Kenny Holloway, the vice president of the school board, claimed that the language in the book “makes people uncomfortable,” while the American Civil Liberties Union in Mississippi believes that the book brings about important discussions American students should be having.
Maureen Khan ’21 said,“I think that To Kill a Mockingbird should not be banned in schools for using vulgar language because young adults should be mature enough to understand the meaning of the words and the message it is trying to send. To Kill a Mockingbird is so much more than just vulgar language. It teaches important lessons.”
“The content of the book shows the reality of racial injustice through the character of Tom, which is really relevant in present day where racial injustice is happening everyday,” said Jingyi Li ‘19.
As stated by the Huffington Post, the American Library Association (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom has recorded 11,000 book challenges since 1990 and about three out of four of these challenges target material in school.
Some very well known books you may have heard of that are banned are The Great Gatsby, The Kite Runner, Captain Underpants, Looking for Alaska, and much more.
According to Mr. Casey Levinson, an English teacher, may of the books that are implemented in the English curriculum at Midwood are on the ALA banned list and “end up becoming a lot of students’ favorites.”
According to the article ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ remains among top banned classical novels, from PBS, censorship of Lee’s book goes back to the year 1966, the first time it was banned by the Hanover County School Board, after it was called “immoral literature” by a board member. Every couple of years after that, the book was either challenged or banned about 18 times.
Mr. Levinson thinks that the book is “perfect” for high schoolers because it has young characters, deals with complicated issues, and is the right length.
“It is a great book,” said Mr. Levison. “The writing is excellent.”
To Kill a Mockingbird is just another example in the sea of books that have been victims of censorship due to its contentious content.
Mr. Levinson said, “If a book does not deal with controversial topics, it’s probably not worth reading.”