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.
These are the wise words of the fictional Atticus Finch from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, who like poor Huckleberry Finn, has now been assigned to the ash heap of history by society’s politically correct censors.
A school in Mississippi has banned the book from its English curriculum after the Biloxi School District got complaints about the wording. The book — long an American classic — is listed in the curriculum as a core text for 8th grade English language arts Common Core state standards. The school’s administration pulled the book in the middle of the lesson plan, meaning that students will not be allowed to finish the book to complete their class assignments.
A local school board member told the Biloxi Sun Herald that the board did not vote on the matter. It was “an administrative and department decision” made last week.
“There were complaints about it,” Kenny Holloway, the school board’s vice president told the Sun Herald. “There is some language in the book that makes people uncomfortable, and we can teach the same lesson with other books.
To Kill a Mockingbird is a Southern Gothic novel published in 1960 that deals with rape and racial inequality in a small, fictional Southern town, modeled roughly on the author’s home town of Monroeville, Alabama. The plot is based on events that Harper Lee observed as a child. Published in the middle of the Civil Rights Era, the book immediately became a best seller, winning a Pulitzer prize in 1961, and being made into an Oscar-winning movie in 1962 starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch.
The school intended to use the book to complement themes for second term language arts classes this year. It was intended specifically to teach students that compassion and empathy do not depend on race or education.
“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,” a reader emailed the Sun Herald. “It would be difficult to find a time when it was more relevant than in days like these.”
The banning of To Kill a Mockingbird is only the latest absurdity in the Left’s effort to eliminate anything from the past that “makes people feel uncomfortable” because of the use of antiquated terms that some today consider offensive.
It likely won’t be long before schools ban pro-civil rights speeches from the 1950s and 60s, and teachers are reprimanded for showing unedited versions of Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream” speech. After all, the alarmingly politically incorrect language that King, John F. Kennedy and others used, could potentially trigger students to riot or at least seek safe spaces.
If upcoming generations are to understand the past, they must, as Finch puts it, understand things from the point of view of the people who lived it. They must metaphorically enter those people’s skin and walk around in it. But those who insist on vilifying literary classics prefer that future generations forget about the past. After all, it is much easier to fundamentally transform society if people are convinced that past generations didn’t leave them anything worth keeping.