English teachers weigh in on teaching ‘Mockingbird,’ banning books

Tanian Schuttler, Staff Writer

Last week,  a school district in Washington state banned the novel To Kill A Mockingbird from its curriculum. This has reignited a controversy amongst the nation, leading many people to ask: What are we teaching in schools if not the importance of deep-seeded controversy in America, and how to combat it?

Turns out that this school district in Washington is not the first to ban the book. Many schools all over the country have been banning it since 2019. But this one has made national headlines following recent current events.

Ignoring the tough-to-talk-about topics that stay relevant today, such as racism, gender inequity, corrupt justice, politics, and so much more sets learning and positive change in growing generations back hundreds of years, according to the people protesting the ban. 

On the other side of the coin, some parents and administrations are saying that the use of racial slurs and the “White savior” – Atticus – in the novel, could create a negative effect on students and alter their perspective in a negative way on the Black experience. 

Parents can be protective about what their children are learning, of course, but where is the line? 

English teacher Ms. Amy Tuttle, who actually teaches the book in her 9th grade English classes, said, “[To Kill A Mockingbird] is one of the most commonly banned books. It does use language and deals with racial injustice, but the fact that people are afraid to have young people face those hard issues in real life disturbs me.” 

Tuttle said that parents have a right to know what their kids are reading, but says banning books goes too far. “I do believe that some books should be labeled age-appropriate, but I do not believe in banning books. When I teach To Kill A Mockingbird we talk about a lot of places that ban the book and how the students feel about that,” Tuttle said. 

In agreement with Tuttle, English and AVID teacher Ms. Elizabeth Dent thought, “I feel like it is the divergent teaching of the novel that is the key, not the novel itself.”

Dent said the context of teaching the novel is what is most important.  “It’s dependent on how the novel is presented to the students and the issues to be discussed. Those issues should be openly discussed so that we can all learn. To honor the students and the issues in the novel is equally as important as the novel itself,” Dent said.