To Kill a Mocking Promotes Negative Messages in Schools

To Kill a Mocking Promotes Negative Messages in Schools

Keertana Addagudi

The views and impacts of racism have changed since the late 1960’s and it’s important to recognize that. So why are we as students still expected to read literature focused on racism from the 60’s?


 As a teenager growing up in the 20th century I notice the world changing all around me. Everyday new laws are passed, and new celebrities get into new scandals. The world has changed since the late 1960’s, drastically. Lifestyles changed, technology advanced, and so much more. Another topic that has come into light again because of recent events like Georgy Floyd’s murder and the shooting of Breonna Taylor is racism. 


One of the most common pieces of literature used to teach racism is the book To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. This book was made as an option instead of required reading at Rosemount High School in 2020. I believe it should be banned completely. Not only does the book glorify white people as “saviors”, it also teaches dangerous messages including ignoring color. It doesn’t address white privilege and ignores systematic issues. 


Lauralee Moss, an English teacher in Illinois says, “Teenagers, with their still developing brains, seek answers from literature; not until they are older can they see literature as adults see literature. As teachers, we must be aware of what answers we present to students.” Teachers are influential in students’ lives and if they normalize teaching incorrect ideas about racism and prejudice students will think the behavior exerted in To Kill a Mockingbird is acceptable. 


Not only does this book teach racism wrong, it pursues gender expectations, dealing with rape, addiction representation, and old gender expectations incorrectly. 


Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubois deals with a morphine addiction through the book. She beats this addiction with the concept of willpower and help from another character in the book, Jesse. The problem with this representation is how it inusinates all you need to overcome addiction is a glorified speech from a trusted individual in your life and willpower. In reality, addiction as a disease itself is not simple, which makes it harmful to represent it so simply. It could mislead students, or really anyone on the ideas of drug addiction.


One of the biggest themes in To Kill a Mockingbird is how Scout doesn’t cater to stereotypical gender expectations. In a scene where she is invited to tea with the ladies they criticize her for not being feminine enough. These ladies are also depicted as crude people that only gossip about others in their community. These untrue stereotypes, which by the way were written by a woman, show the assumed character of women in the past. Rude, lazy, worthless, and gossips. There’s also no real lead female in this story. 


Instead of reading a book that portrays multiple problems, but most importantly racism, incorrectly and is outdated, we should read better written and more modern racial justice novels. It’s important as ever growing teenagers to learn about the issues our peers face through non-biased and modern eyes. Some fictional recommendations are The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas, Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, and An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. Non-Fiction novels include Becoming by Michelle Obama, So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo, and Heavy by Kinsey Laymon.