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To Kill A Mockingbird Banned In School Over ‘White Saviour’ Narrative

by : Emily Brown on : 06 Jul 2021 11:09
To Kill A Mockingbird Banned In School Over ‘White Saviour’ NarrativeUniversal Pictures/Amazon

A secondary school in Scotland is set to remove To Kill A Mockingbird from its teaching list after the English department claimed it promoted a ‘white saviour’ narrative.

The 1960 book by Harper Lee is often a staple read for students, telling the story of how a white lawyer, Atticus Finch, defends a Black man when he is falsely accused of sexually assaulting a white woman in Alabama.

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Like many other schools, it’s a story that has previously been taught at James Gillespie High School in Edinburgh, but will now be removed from its classrooms as part of a wider effort to ‘decolonise’ the curriculum after teachers expressed concerns it has a ‘dated’ approach to race.

To Kill a Mockingbird (Universal Pictures)Universal Pictures

To reflect a more diverse range of experiences in the school, teachers are set to place greater emphasis on works from non-white authors with less Western-centric viewpoints.

Contemporary works will include Angie Thomas’ novel The Hate U Give, which was inspired by a real police shooting and the Black Lives Matter movement and tells the story of a 16-year-old who witnesses the fatal shooting of her unarmed childhood best friend.

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Allan Crosbie, the head of English at James Gillespie High School, said the school will also be removing the popular novel Of Mice and Men from its curriculum over its use of the N-word.

To Kill A Mockingbird cover (Wikipedia)Wikipedia

Per The Telegraph, he commented:

Probably like every English department in the country, we still have Of Mice and Men and To Kill a Mockingbird [on] the shelves.

They are now taught less frequently because those novels are dated and problematical (sic) in terms of decolonising the curriculum. Their lead characters are not people of colour.

The representation of people of colour is dated, and the use of the N-word and the use of the white saviour motif in Mockingbird – these have led us as a department to decide that these really are not texts we want to be teaching third year anymore.

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Though the school’s efforts appear to stem from good intentions regarding representation, critics have argued that the literature should not be judged by modern standards and instead by literary merit.

Calvin Robinson, a former school governor and policy advisor to the Department of Education, said the books are acceptable within the context of teaching English literature,  ‘It’s very sad we are scraping through old texts and judging them by today’s standards rather than teaching them for their literary value.’

Referring to Of Mice and Men, Robinson noted that classes can ‘talk about the use of the N-word and why it is not appropriate for anyone to use’, adding: ‘I think it’s ridiculous to cancel the books because of it.’

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The move has also been criticised by Oliver Mundell of the Scottish Conservatives, who described removing the books as a ‘mistake’,  saying there should be a ‘meaningful debate about what the policy for excluding specific books should be’, The Scottish Sun reports.

He continued:

Rather than denying children access to specific works of literature, perhaps we should introduce them with a subtext highlighting how times have changed and what we can learn from them.

Schools have the responsibility to educate, not dictate.

James Gillespie has previously been dubbed as the top state secondary in Scotland by the Sunday Times.

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Emily Brown

Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.

Topics: News, Scotland

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The Telegraph
  1. The Telegraph

    School cancels To Kill a Mockingbird over ‘white saviour’ narrative