The purpose of great literature: to make people comfortable

That’s what school officials in Duluth, Minnesota (and a few other places, unfortunately) would have you believe.

The school system in Duluth is the latest to remove To Kill a Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from the required reading list for ninth graders.

The reason they give: the language used in these books makes some students feel uncomfortable.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Well, thanks, Duluth, for clearing that up.

We now know what the purpose of literature really is. It’s to make people comfortable. Anything that makes them uncomfortable should, of course, be taken out of the hands of our tender, discomfited children.

It would be easy and tempting to continue in this sarcastic mode. One could suggest that anything that makes people uncomfortable — such as The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank or a Stephen King novel — should be struck from the list of required reading for Duluth’s children.

But enough.

While Duluth’s school officials richly may deserve the sarcasm, we should resist the temptation. These people are, after all, trying to do what is best for their students. They are simply wrong in their attitudes and wrong in their approach.

What we wish is that they had stopped to consider the implications of their action, both from a public relations standpoint and more importantly from the standpoint of the good of their students.

Striking these two great books from the reading list aligns the school with those who would ban and censor books. While they have not banned or censored these books, they seem to be standing with those who advocate this approach.

More seriously, they have aligned themselves with the thinking that it’s the job of adults to “protect” students from difficult or ugly ideas or words, particularly in literature. This is a terrible message to send to their students and one that students will ultimately come to see as vapid and senseless.

The students will see that their school system is run, not by people who are courageous and confident but by those who are fearful and cowardly. That is a terrible message to send to those students.

Source: Duluth schools remove ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ ‘Huckleberry Finn’ from curriculum due to racial slur | Bemidji Pioneer

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Jim Stovall, a retired journalism prof, is now a novelist, self publisher, watercolorist, gardener, woodworker and beekeeper -- among others things.

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