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Washington school district votes to remove 'To Kill a Mockingbird' from required reading

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MUKILTEO, Wash. (KOMO) — Mukilteo schools removed the Pulitzer-prize winning novel "To Kill a Mockingbird" from its required reading list.

It's among many classic pieces of literature that schools across the country are choosing to omit from their curriculum.

“I want to learn and get a good grade in this class but it's also kind of weird to be talking about this,” Kamiak High School Junior Esaw Adhana said, adding he remembers uncomfortable moments in school when reading Harper Lee’s 1961 Pulitzer Prize novel two years ago. “It's not just language, but it's also, like, the sort of white savior complex."

“ I think the lessons and ideas of racial injustice are super important, TKAM, at least how we teach it, is not the best sample. The way we teach it now is just really uncomfortable and almost invasive," Adhana said.

The district board signed off Monday of a request from students, parents and others to remove the book from the ninth grade required reading list, but it remains an option for teachers who choose to use it in their instruction.

“We don't want to harm any students but at the same time we want to have fruitful discussions that are not harmful, but at the same time prepare students as they go on to the next level,” said Mike Simmons, Mukilteo School District Board President.

This vote comes at a time when people from all political backgrounds appear to be stepping up to remove books — including classics — from school curriculum across the country.

“For me, a classic is not important just because it’s become a classic, but how it helps people in a certain time and place have debates Prizes are always a marker but this book really spoke to the community at that time. Is it still speaking? We’ll see," University of Washington teaching professor and associate director of writing programs Michelle Liu said.

The Washington Education Association said the move gives educators a chance to find more current authors whose books better reflect current community values.

“How do we bring curriculum into those classes in ways that reflect the values of our diversity?” WEA Director of the Center for Racial Social and Economic Justice Michael Pena said.

“I think it is still possible to teach this book to forge a conversation about, ‘How do we talk about racial and class and gender differences?’ But, I think it would need to be taught very different than how it has traditionally been taught as an example of ‘Atticus Finch is the greatest man on the face of this planet,’” Liu added.

Simmons said he knows of teachers who still plan to use the book in their curriculum.

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