The Precedent

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Controversy in literature sparks needed classroom conversation

Controversial books are often on and off the chopping block constantly in every state across the U.S.

Controversial books are often on and off the chopping block constantly in every state across the U.S.

Emma Kline

Emma Kline

Controversial books are often on and off the chopping block constantly in every state across the U.S.


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It seems every week there is a new controversy circulating the web — abuse in Hollywood, crime rocking our neighborhoods, or the President’s latest 140 characters. However, the latest controversy has been reborn in the media, right in the East Valley.

An assignment given in preparation for a class reading of To Kill a Mockingbird at Hamilton High School went straight to the news, with parents fuming over the in class discussion revolving around the use of the “N-word” in the novel.

When literature becomes the source of such outrage in our communities, many question what constitutes adult material and how controversial issues should be presented in classes filled with teenagers. Now more than ever, though, these uncomfortable topics have merit.

With more than nine hundred hate groups throughout America, gun violence surpassing the massacre levels of the week prior, and the ever-growing list of abuse at the hands of those in positions of power, how could it not be imperative to bring up this very same themes in literature and emphasize that it is still relevant?

While the idea that racism and hatred are still so prevalent in our society is something to be ashamed of, having these types of conversations about the past and its role in the present are absolutely vital.

The beauty of literature is that it is timeless, and though written decades ago, still carries truth. Literature gives us the opportunity to look into history in a different way. A way that allows us to look at humans, and how they treated one another. Sharing these books through our curriculum allow us to break down social issues in a setting that many young adults feel more comfortable in than their own homes. Teaching novels like To Kill a Mockingbird allow students to feel the reality of a time that is both far away, but still leaves its vile traces.

The future belongs to the children — the ones sitting in classrooms across the state and country finding universal truth in literature that may be deemed “too much” by adults who cannot seem the comprehend that the world is a very different place that when they were young. By calling for novels like To Kill a Mockingbird to be removed from the classroom, parents are taking away the next generation’s ability to incite meaningful change, to open their eyes to the things affect them and those around them.

No matter the honorable attempts by parents to protect their children from the painful reality of the world, unfortunate truths of the world will only be harder to swallow upon leaving the confines of a town like Gilbert.

We need to spend less time focusing on the language and sexual content of these novels, and study them for their themes of tolerance, friendship, and unity. If we fail to do this and call for the removal of these texts and the educators who dare introduce them, we are no more than bystanders allowing history to repeat itself.

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The student voice of Perry High School
Controversy in literature sparks needed classroom conversation