Duluth teachers file complaint over “Huck Finn” and “Mockingbird” ban

Duluth public school teachers deserve extra credit. A year after the administration banned “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Huckleberry Finn” from the curriculum, faculty members refuse to back down or cave to political correctness. Seventeen teachers have just signed a letter to the administration, curriculum director and school board, criticizing the district’s ham-handed decision.

The impact of this decision and the process behind it is significant. English teachers are angry and demoralized. The district is about to spend a lot of money to implement a book that is not engaging and simply makes a lateral move from discussing the historical oppression of African Americans to that of Native Americans, while lacking an engaging storyline.

Last year the Duluth district received widespread criticism for an action seen as tantamount to censorship for pulling the American classics out of the classroom.  The racially-charged language in the novels upsets critics. But Duluth teachers continue to maintain the books are an effective means of challenging students to confront racism in society, according to the Duluth News Tribune.

Without question, [English teacher Kristin] Warmanen acknowledged: “The use of the N-word in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ makes all of my students uncomfortable, no matter what their race, to varying degrees obviously.”

Yet Warmanen views the book as “overtly anti-racist.”

“The characters who use the N-word in that novel are the most despicable people, and Atticus, the father, tells his daughter: ‘Don’t say that word, Scout. Only trash uses that word,'” she said.

Recently school administrators finally replaced “To Kill a Mockingbird” with a contemporary title called “Spirit Car.” But predictably the process got bogged down and politicized, taking months longer than expected.

Like it or not, [English teacher Stephanie] Mickle said staff will need to make the best of the situation.

“We’re going forward with ‘Spirit Car,’ and I hope that it works. I hope that kids love it. I told our curriculum director I feel like I’m very good at what I do, and I’ll do everything I can within my abilities to make the kids love this book,” she said.

“But I will never stop believing that the decision to remove ‘Mockingbird’ was wrong, and I hope that someday it comes back.”

The district has yet to announce a book to take the place of Mark Twain’s classic “Huckleberry Finn.” That could take awhile.