School cancels ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ over ‘white saviour’ narrative

To Kill A Mockingbird will no longer be taught to pupils at a secondary school after teachers claimed the book promotes a "white saviour" narrative.

The seminal text is to be excluded from classrooms at James Gillespie High School in Edinburgh as part of wider plans to decolonise the curriculum amid concerns over its "dated" approach to race.

The 1960 work tells the story of a black man in Alabama who is falsely accused of rape by the town’s citizens and later defended by a white lawyer, Atticus Finch.

John Steinbeck’s classic novel Of Mice and Men will also be phased over its use of the N-word, according to the school’s head of English, Allan Crosbie.

The proposals are part of a wider initiative to ‘decolonise’ the curriculum with greater emphasis placed on works from non-white authors with less Western-centric viewpoints to better reflect a diverse range of experiences.

Students will instead focus on more contemporary works including Angie Thomas’ award-winning novel The Hate U Give, which was inspired by a police shooting in 2009 of an African-American man while he was restrained and unarmed.

Decolonising the curriculum

Mr Crosbie, in an online meeting with the Educational Institue of Scotland (EIS), Scotland’s largest teaching union, said: "Probably like every English department in the country, we still have Of Mice and Men and To Kill a Mockingbird [on] the shelves.

“They are now taught less frequently because those novels are dated and problematical (sic) in terms of decolonising the curriculum. Their lead characters are not people of colour.

"The representation of people of colour is dated, and the use of the N-word and the use of the white saviour motif in Mockingbird – these have led us as a department to decide that these really are not texts we want to be teaching third year anymore."

But critics of the proposal say it is wrong to judge literature by today standards and should instead focus on their literary merit:

Calvin Robinson, a former school governor and policy advisor to the Department of Education, said: “We can contextualise them, teachers are not just reading the books they are teaching English literature.

“We can talk about the use of the N-word and why it is not appropriate for anyone to use. I think it’s ridiculous to cancel the books because of it.

“It’s very sad we are scraping through old texts and judging them by today’s standards rather than teaching them for their literary value.

In 2015, James Gillespie was awarded the Sunday Times accolade of being the Top State Secondary in Scotland. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *