A high school in Scotland plans to stop teaching classic novels To Kill a Mockingbird and Of Mice and Men due to their “dated” representations of race.
Allan Crosbie, the curriculum leader for English at James Gillespie’s High School in Edinburgh, said the novels should no longer be taught to students in third year, the equivalent of the 9th and 10th grade in the U.S., and should be replaced with texts that include lead characters who are people of color.
He also criticized the use of the N-word and the white-savior motif in Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.
“Probably like every English department in the country, we still have Of Mice and Men and To Kill a Mockingbird [on] the shelves,” Crosbie reportedly told the annual meeting of a teaching union. “They are now taught less frequently because those novels are dated and problematical in terms of decolonizing the curriculum.
“Their lead characters are not people of color. The representation of people of color is dated, and the use of the N-word and the use of the white savior 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.”
Instead, the school is reportedly likely to focus on teaching contemporary novels like The Hate U Give, the award-winning book written by Angie Thomas in response to the 2009 police shooting of Oscar Grant in Oakland, California.
According to edinburghlive, Stephen Kelly, the headteacher at Liberton High in Edinburgh, said there was a need to develop “an anti-racist culture that recognizes notions of stereotyping, notions of white-centric attitudes, notions of white people being more important, notions of representation.”
But he suggested books like To Kill a Mockingbird and Of Mice and Men could be used to teach students “what white saviorism actually is.”
The move to exclude them from English classes has prompted some criticism, including from a Scottish conservative politician who said schools should “educate, not dictate.”
“I believe that completely removing certain works from the syllabus would be a mistake,” Oliver Mundell, of the Scottish Conservatives, told The Times newspaper.
“Before imposing any form of censorship, we should have a meaningful debate about what the policy for excluding specific books should be.
“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.”