Monday, May 7, 2007

my favorite book has come under attack...

My friend Eli sent me an IM tonight with sad news...

Eli Ruggles
11:07 dude

11:07 what up?

Eli Ruggles
11:07 news is on ( NBC )
11:07 segment just ended about how parents have challenged the 8th grade reading list at some columbus middle school
11:07 they want To Kill a Mocking Bird removed from the reading list

11:08 what?
11:08 that is crazy...

I can't believe it. How can someone attack one of the greatest books of all time. How can they realistically want to eliminate this classic from the approved reading list? I am in shock and horrified that this could possibly happen. This world has become over the top about being politically correct. I understand that there is language used in the book that, by today standards, is no longer politically correct. Here is the problem, To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1960. The story takes place in the 1930's. It uses language of the times. So, this has led me on a quest. I found out that To Kill a Mockingbird has been attacked many times before now. It was one of the most controversial books of the 1990-2000's. So maybe this should not be "new" news to me. Read more at the W.

Why am I so passionate about this book? Why do I take this so personal?

When I was a young kid, I read everything I could get my hands on. I loved books. As I got older, I grew tired of reading. Television, video games and sports took over my life and I only read when it was required in school. When I was in High School I had to take an English class that spent half of the school year studying American Literature. Mrs. Wiggins required lots of reading. I just could not get into anything. We were reading classic literature. I was dying. After reading Cliffs Notes to prepare for the tests and sleeping through most of these so called great books, she decided to assign To Kill a Mockingbird as our next book. She looked at me and said, "I really think this book is exactly what will get you interested in reading again". I scoffed at the title of the book and sort of mocked her by reciting the old cliche' "Don't read a book buy its cover?" Mrs Wiggins said, "Just trust me on this one and give it a chance."

I was playing baseball and we had an away game. I knew I had to read the first couple of chapters, but just could not force myself to read on the bus. I threw the book in my bag and focused on the game. After I got home that night, I realized that I had to at least make an attempt to read the first chapter. Mrs Wiggins was famous for pop quizzes and I at least had to know who the characters were in the story. I started reading. I finally put the book down around 4AM. I had read it cover to cover. The story came alive. I felt like I was in elementary school again, when books use to come alive to me. When I was excited about reading stories!

The next day at school, Mrs Wiggins asked me if I was able to get through the first chapter. I said, " I read it." She laughed, "Good, at least you will be able to tell me who the characters are and a little bit about them." POP Quiz. I wrote a book. As she graded the quizzes, we read for our next assignment. I watched as she got to my quiz. She peeked up at me and I quickly glanced back at my book. She laughed and said, " went to the library and found the movie!" MOVIE? There was a movie?

I told her that I had stayed up half the night and read the book completely. She thought for sure I knew that there was a movie, and that was sort of the reason she picked the book. She thought I could watch the movie, since I struggled staying focused on any of the books she had assigned up to this point.

I fell in love with the story. It was my favorite read. It still is my favorite book. To Kill a Mockingbird effected my life in ways I can't explain. It gave me such a great example of why racism is wrong. It showed me that there are still good people in the world. It taught me to stand up against hatred and racism. I looked up to Atticus Finch, he was a man I hoped that I could emulate. I hoped that I could be as brave as Jem. I loved Scout. Dill reminded me of a friend I grew up with in Kingston. I knew men who were ignorant like Bob Ewell and we had our own mysterious character like Boo Radley in the town I grew up in as a child. My heart broke for Tom Robinson and his family. Harper Lee hit a home run with this story. She never wrote another novel. It was converted to a screenplay in 1962 and Gregory Peck won an Oscar for his portrayal of Atticus Finch the following year. You just don't sit down and write stories like this, I think you have to live them.

I have read the book too many times to count. I wrote a college paper for a Philosophy class titled, "Why Atticus Finch is a virtuous man". It has occupied the top spot in my "Best books of all time" list (the Bible is obviously the greatest book;) ) since the day I closed it at 4AM. The movie tops my favorite list too. I secretly wanted to name my daughter Maddie after "Scout", but I knew that would not fly with Jennifer. So I gave the name to our Chocolate Lab. I am a big Third Day and Mac Powell fan and after perusing through Mac Powell's bio on their website, I found out that To Kill a Mockingbird is his favorite book and movie as well. Mac named his daughter Scout, and that is so cool.

It is obvious that Harper Lee wrote a book that has had an impact on lots of people. She wrote a book that was real, true and controversial. She wrote this book in 1960 that used a particular word that today is considered, not politically correct. I do not use the word, I have never used the word. To Kill a Mockingbird taught me that the word is offensive. Please do not allow a few words to destroy the opportunity for a great piece of American Literature to change young students views of racism and hatred. This book won a Pulitzer Prize. The movie won an Oscar. There are so many other books that could be removed from the reading list. To remove To Kill a Mockingbird from the approved list would be like the story itself, to quote Atticus Finch..."it's a sin to kill a mockingbird".


jodi said...

To Kill A Mockingbird is my favorite book as well ~ I plan on rereading it over my summer break.

Teachers have LONG been engaged in the battle between sharing this masterpiece and fighting against its censorship. I think those that want to ban the book have, in actuality, never read the entire text. Taken within the context of the times, geographical location, and story itself, the use of "that word" is totally understandable.

I find it interesting and IRONIC how "that word" is now so commonly used in rap songs and as a label of brotherhood among some members of our society.

JennRoogles said...

I think that instead of taking the book out of the classroom why don't they pause and teach the kids what the word _____ is all about and why it's not appropriate and why it was used when the book was written. Educate, make people aware of what is going on and what has gone on in our nation's past.

T5Guy said...

I agree, I believe the parents are attacking the teacher and how they presented the book, not the book itself. I think the teacher could have used a little more tact, reading the book aloud and forcing the kids to verbalize a word that is uncomfortable for most people might be over the edge.

anna said...

"I think the teacher could have used a little more tact, reading the book aloud and forcing the kids to verbalize a word that is uncomfortable for most people might be over the edge."

i was going to say that, but you did.

I LOVE this book as well.