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Literary Classics Banned in Virginia School District

Parents need to stand up, say 'enough,' and take back their schools

As a citizen, a parent, and an avid reader, I am heartsick over the news that a Virginia school district has temporarily banned both Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” from the school reading list.

The Accomack County school district made the controversial decision after a parent complained her high school-aged son was “traumatized” by racial slurs used in the books.

How many of us who have children have striven to be the type of wise and loving parent that Atticus Finch was?

As a mom, I am angered. Books like Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” routinely make schools’ reading lists — in one passage of Morrison’s tome, sex with cows and rape are all discussed using the “F” word — yet Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning exploration of childhood, segregation, and the legal system is not fit for consumption? And Huck Finn’s trip down the Mississippi in a classic tale that examines the culture of the antebellum South is too racially insensitive?

Give me a break. Parents in Accomack County and everywhere need to stand up and fight this. Rap music advocating violence against cops and the abuse of women is celebrated in our culture. Smut is handed to innocent children in school to read. Political correctness will ruin the next generation if parents do not start speaking up about what happens in the schools they pay for with their hard-earned tax dollars.

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The complaining parent, whose son is biracial, told school administrators that the books’ use of racial slurs was “excessive,” and she also questioned their literary value.

She said she also felt teenagers weren’t mature enough to put the terms in context. She also didn’t see the historical value of either work, according to Heatstreet.com.

“I keep hearing, ‘This is a classic, this is a classic’… I understand this is a literature classic. But at some point, I feel that children will not — or do not — truly get the classic part — the literature part, which I’m not disputing,” she told the school board during a meeting in November, according to Heatstreet. “This is great literature. But there are racial slurs in there and offensive wording and you can’t get past that.”

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As an American citizen, I’m baffled by her remarks. The racial slurs illuminate how far we needed to come as a culture back then — and today, show how far we have come as a society. There is more work to do to be sure, but denying our past is both dangerous revisionist history and an example of the alarming trend in schools and in our nation of kowtowing to the politically correct minority.

As an avid reader, I’m heartsick that anyone is unable to see the gift of these classic books. “Huck Finn” examines pre-Civil War race relations. I read this book with my grandfather. It is a literary delight with a style and character all its own.

Don’t give in to a no doubt well-intentioned mother who is also totally wrong.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” helped form who I am — I still read it every July, and have since I was 10 years old. It taught (and teaches) me compassion and standing up for those who remain unseen in our society. It reminds me to not judge others until I have walked a mile in their shoes. How many of us who have children have striven to be the type of wise and loving father (or parent) that Atticus Finch was?

Like the whole book, the closing pages of “To Kill a Mockingbird” are widely considered some of the finest American writing ever produced:

“I wondered how many times Jem and I had made this journey, but I entered the Radley front gate for the second time in my life. Boo and I walked up the steps to the porch. His fingers found the front doorknob. He gently released my hand, opened the door, went inside, and shut the door behind him. I never saw him again.”

And then — “Neighbors bring food with death and flowers with sickness and little things in between. Boo was our neighbor. He gave us two soap dolls, a broken watch and chain, a pair of good-luck pennies, and our lives.”

Fight this book ban, Virginia parents. The school board has reportedly pulled both books pending a meeting in which they will fully review them, and then decide whether they should be permanently banned. Show up to that meeting — and let your voices be heard.

Don’t give in to a well-intentioned mother who is also totally wrong. You can’t fight injustice if you don’t know what it is — and our classics are culturally imperative to this understanding. Our children need to read fine literature to understand who we were, who we are — and who we can be.

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