It was about the idea that schools should stop teaching and having kids read books like “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”, “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Of Mice and Men”, etc. since those books use the “N word” and “portray African-Americans as inarticulate and unintelligent”.
I really don’t know what I think about this. I’m white and I don’t know if my opinion should really matter when it comes to issues of race like this or not.
But as a woman I got to thinking about how girls, and both young and adult women, are portrayed in much of the classical literature – even in those books that are aimed at girls.
Unfortunately I can’t think of too many specific examples. I do remember that in “Little Women” (because I re-read it recently since I didn’t finish it when I was younger; I quit after Beth died – it made me too sad) the only options women had were to be good little girls and wives and mothers.
I came to the conclusion that I don’t think I would want my daughter to even read the book. I don’t even want her to get it in her head that women – even at some time in the past – had that limited of opportunities. Maybe when she gets older, but not as a young girl still trying to find her place in the world.
Very few if any of the books I read as a kid had a female character that was strong and educated. And I do believe that even if girls today are not inundated with messages that they are fragile and not as smart, etc. (and that’s debatable – I think they still are on T.V., movies, etc.) – even getting that idea in their heads now and then, in subtle ways, can have an impact on their self esteem and on what they think their future as adult women might be like.
Those subtle messages can be the most insidious of all too. Just a little comment in a book about how proper girls and women should behave gets the message in their heads. A kid could grow up – whether they are black, female or any non-white male – with great self esteem and feeling really good about themselves. And then a story is read in class that could put the idea in their heads, as well as in their classmates heads, that maybe, just maybe they aren’t as good as the others.
I certainly wouldn’t want schools teaching from books that would send this message to my daughter. If people who are black think certain books are not a good idea to be taught in classrooms maybe we should respect that.
You can’t erase history and certainly mistakes of the past need to be learned about so they aren’t repeated. But it could wait until kids are a little older. Juniors and seniors in high school, or even better yet, college. By that time young people should have a strong, and hopefully, positive self-image.
Most of the planet’s population is already non-white males. Over time, even in this country, white males will be a minority. In the future almost every kid in a classroom will be part of one of the groups that were discriminated against in the past. Maybe sexism, racism, the holocaust and other atrocities can be taught and linked together as examples of how we must not ever treat any group of people as less than human.
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