Issue of the Issue: Hart District makes Huckleberry Finn, Of Mice and Men and To Kill A Mockingbird optional in the curriculum

Nicole Felici, Editor in Chief

For years, English teachers in the William S. Hart District have used novels such as Of Mice and Men, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird to address America’s history of prejudice through literature. However, as of a few weeks ago, the district office gave the order to halt mandatory instruction of the three novels listed above. 

While previous reportings on this issue may have been misleading, the district is not engaging in censorship of any kind. By no longer requiring the instruction of these books, the Hart District’s long term goal is to introduce literature from diverse authors into the curriculum for teachers to use.

A large motivator behind the idea of withdrawing these books from the required curriculum is the number of concerns that have been expressed to the district office from parents and students. Most of the specific concerns remain unknown, but it is not impossible to imagine that certain aspects of these books may rub the wrong way. 

For instance, all of these books were written by authors who are not from minority races or ethnicities. While they may have been witnesses of prejudice, none of them were on the receiving end of the discriminatory treatment that they describe. Due to this, their literature cannot fully convey the impact that prejudice has on a person. For example, imagine trying to look at a picture that is obscured by a veil. While you can see the general qualities of the image, the veil prevents the viewer from seeing the picture at its clearest. Those who have never directly experienced racism will always have a veil (to varying extents) preventing them from entirely understanding it. 

With this in mind, the William S. Hart District is discussing new ways to determine which books should be included on the mandatory reading list to ensure that students are learning from a wide array of perspectives. 

To clarify, Of Mice and Men, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird are not being banned. For the time being, reading these books is simply no longer required for English classes. The district’s Diverse Texts Committee is working to include material from authors of varying races and ethnicities, and it remains to be decided if Mice and Men, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird will stay in the curriculum. 

Whether these books reassume their position as required reads or not, the William S. Hart District is moving toward a more diverse English curriculum, especially when it comes to material that addresses racism and prejudice.