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Why We Should Choose New Books to Read in School

Photo by Ed Robertson on Unsplash

Last updated on July 25, 2022

“That’s so–that murderin’ half-breed!” This statement sounds like something straight out of 1876, and technically it is. It’s an excerpt from Mark Twain’s classic book, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, published in 1876 and still taught today in La Canada schools. Across hundreds of classrooms in America students read books such as To Kill a Mockingbird. These books are not only extremely outdated but also offensive to many different people. For instance, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, a book taught to sixth graders in our schools, contains racial slurs and harmful portrayals of Native Americans as you just saw in the quote. These books were written almost 100 years ago, yet are still used today. They promote harmful behaviors and possible bullying in today’s schools. What are these books really teaching future generations and how can we change it? 

The main reason why these books have stayed such a huge part of American education is because of the lack of diversity on school boards. In an experiment conducted by EducationWeek, 86% of school board members said they had no Latino colleagues and 81% said they had no Black colleagues. This may explain why only 15% of members considered it a major problem. Due to the lack of diversity on the school boards, the members who decide part of the curriculum might not be very aware of the issues with the books they choose to include. These decisions have led to harmful interactions between students. For example, after reading the book Rolling Thunder, Hear My Cry which has been included in the debate of rechoosing books, Destiny Helligar, a 15-year old was approached by one of her white classmates who racially taunted her and even stated the N-word. Incidents such as these prove how crucial it is to diversify our school boards so we can avoid situations like these. 

Along with this, books written by people of color are more likely to be banned than those written by white authors. Uncle Toms’s Cabin, which was written in 1852 and was mainly focused on the problems of slavery is considered to be one of the first books that was widely banned across the nation. More than a century later, the book The Kite Runner was also banned after accusations of promoting Islam. Alaina Morgan, the assistant professor of history at USC says that “Typically these book bans come down from people who are concerned about the books’ challenge to established order.”

While some parents and teachers might say that books such as these are “classics” and should still be used, I disagree because they were written in vastly different times and are not modern enough for today’s world. Even if the schools explain why these books are offensive and what period they are from, that doesn’t mean it won’t stop students from carrying out discriminatory actions against their fellow peers.

So if the topic of changing these books in school grabs the attention of more people, what could we do to make it actually happen? Well to start off, PTA meetings could possibly be held in a place such as La Canada to discuss the issue of outdated books. After enough support is rallied the topic could go to the board of education and then maybe some action could actually be taken in California or even nationwide schools. If you want to help change this in school districts you could sign petitions on such as Battle racism by updating GCSE reading lists. This issue if so much more than just one book and the longer it goes unnoticed the longer people get hurt in a place that is supposed to be nothing but safe. 

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