An Ontario school board is taking a hard look right now at the use of To Kill A Mockingbird as the text that starts the race discussion. It’s old, sure, which isn’t a problem. But it’s also a book about race written by a white person, with a white protagonist and a white man as its hero. So, when parents of black teens raised concerns, the board said it would look at changing the books it uses to spark class discussions on racism. As you may imagine, the idea of removing Harper Lee’s novel, which finds itself at or near the top of many all-time lists, didn’t go over well with everyone.
Which books should we use to teach our kids about racism and other sensitive subjects? If it’s a modern topic that is directly relevant to the lives of many students in the class, why is a 60-year-old book the place to start the conversation? How should teachers and school boards prepare lesson plans in a city and country that values multiculturalism? And who determines whether a book that many consider one of the true classics of literature gets removed from the curriculum of a class supposedly dedicated to teaching exactly that?