Mississippi school has its head … in the sand when it comes to race relations

Calling all remaining logical, level-headed, backbone-possessing public-school administrators (yes, both of you): One of you needs to get to Biloxi ASAP.

By Tim Thomas

In a move challenging even Georgia Rep. Hank Johnson in ridiculousness, the Biloxi (MS) School District recently decided to remove Harper Lee’s classic Pulitzer-winning novel “To Kill A Mockingbird” from its 8th grade reading curriculum. The move was apparently made due to parental concerns about the book’s use of the “N” word and the fact that the word made some students uncomfortable.

No word on whether those parents had also demanded that the music of Jay-Z and Kanye West be banned from students’ phone playlists.

“There are many resources and materials that are available to teach state academic standards to our students. These resources may change periodically. We always strive to do what is best for our students and staff to continue to perform at the highest level”, Superintendent Arthur McMillan stated.

But left out of that McMillan quote – according to a letter to the editor of Gulfport’s Sun-Herald – is the fact that the book wasn’t removed during summer pre-planning (when such decisions are typically made), but rather “mid-lesson plan”. In other words, classes had already begun studying the book, then abandoned it before finishing.

School board VP Kenny Holloway stated “There were complaints about it. There is some language in the book that makes people feel uncomfortable”.

If that’s the case, then McMillan, Holloway, and the entire Biloxi school board owe a huge apology to Christian students and parents who feel uncomfortable with lessons about evolution and sexual identity.

One must wonder – did anyone on the Biloxi school board ask what message this would send to students? A few that come to mind:

  • You should never have to learn something that makes you uncomfortable
  • Your feelings are more important than your education
  • It’s okay to give up on something midstream
  • If you complain enough, you’ll get what you want

As noted in the Sun-Herald story, “The current themes for 2nd term language arts classes in Biloxi this year are the Golden Rule and taking a stand.”

There is no better story than “To Kill A Mockingbird” for discussion of both those themes.

Refusing to engage in uncomfortable discussions is not going to improve our nation’s problem with race relations. The ugliness of the past cannot be swept under the rug – it must be confronted and accepted as historical fact, or progress can never be made.

The Biloxi school board can keep their heads in the sand – or wherever else – if they wish, but they are doing their students and their community a tremendous disservice.

Hopefully voters will remember it come election day.

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