There has been an alarming trend sweeping society that says anything from our past that represents something that offends us today must be downplayed, ignored, or outright eliminated.
The latest such example is a public school in Duluth, MN removing “To Kill A Mockingbird” and “Huckleberry Finn” from its required curriculum.
Those are two of the most famous and well-regarded books ever written and have been required reading for high school students for as long as I can remember.
And now they are being eliminated from the essential reading list because they contain “problematic” language and stereotypes.
First of all, the language spoken in the books was the language generally used at the time. Second, and more importantly, these are characters. The authors were not writing these people to all be symbols of virtue, rather they were creating fictional human beings who were not perfect.
At the heat of this whole issue is a bizarre desire to sanitize the current generation of anything previous generations did that do not live up to today’s standards. Woodrow Wilson was President of Princeton University and of the United States. Yes, he did some bad things.
In fact, there are many bad things that even President Obama did that may not be looked upon so kindly in the future (like, perhaps spearheading the largest domestic surveillance program in American history).
But that does not mean Wilson didn’t exist. And it doesn’t mean that the answer to what to say about the more troublesome parts of his history is to completely whitewash them.
There is nothing wrong with presenting Woodrow Wilson as a flawed man who did some pretty terrible things that were not considered as bad during his time. It is also perfectly fine to then explain to people why those things are wrong and why they are no longer acceptable.
The same can be said of “To Kill A Mockingbird” and “Huckleberry Finn.” Start a dialogue about the more worrisome aspects of the two books. Facilitate a discussion and educate the students on why some of the language used is wrong and some of the characters in the books are imperfect human beings.
But throwing out classic American literature just because it might cause some students to be offended?
The real world contains people and ideas we don’t like or approve of, but we that does not give us the right to just eliminate those people and ideas. Teaching children otherwise is doing them a huge disservice and is actively harming their ability to learn and adapt to the real world.
So, I must implore all schools going forward to heed the paraphrased advice of one of America’s great American philosophers and LEAVE HUCKLEBERRY FINN AND TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD ALONE!