Duluth schools' decision to drop American classics over racial slurs attracts national attention

The Mark Twain and Harper Lee classics won't be required reading for Duluth students.
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The Mark Twain and Harper Lee classics won't be required reading for Duluth students.

What's happening?

Remember how Duluth schools announced it was removing "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" and "To Kill a Mockingbird" from its required reading after concerns over its use of racial slurs?

Well, given how sensitive the issue censorship is particularly when it comes to famous works of American literatures, the decision is unsurprisingly attracting attention.

Who from? 

Duluth is used to attracting national headlines for being one of the best destinations in the country for outdoor sports, but this week it's filling column inches thanks to the decision by its school district.

Removing the books from its required reading for 7th and 9th grade students wasn't done in response to any specific complaint, but rather "concerns over time" from students and community members that the language used in the books is making some uncomfortable.

Among those picking up on it was The Guardian, which notes the decision has been criticized by the National Coalition Against Censorship, which said it was "deeply disturbed by the decision."

The group argues that while it's understandable the language in the books (both of which contain numerous n-words) might generate discomfort, it argues that racial tensions won't be solved "by banishing literary classics from the classroom."

It's also been reported on by The Hill, which notes that a school in Philadelphia decided to outright bank "Huckleberry Finn" from classrooms, arguing that "community costs" outweigh the book's "literary benefits."

Time also got in on the story, adding that a similar effort in Biloxi, Mississippi sparked a censorship debate last year, drawing criticism from a former U.S. Education Secretary and a U.S. Senator.

This opinion piece in the Duluth News Tribune is also worth checking out, because it was written by former student Anja Leitz-Najarian.

She argues that the use of the n-word and the themes of rape and racism in the books are "intended to make those of us who have the advantage of a lighter skin color, and therefore inexperience with these things, uncomfortable."

"We owe it to future generations to be made uncomfortable by these topics so we can create change and a better environment," she adds.

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