Editor’s Note: The following column contains a racial slur that might offend some readers.
Last week, the superintendent for Morgan Local School District in McConnelsville, Ohio, canceled a performance of To Kill a Mockingbird because of parental concerns over racial slurs contained in the play.
In an effort to avoid controversy and perform the play for students, the secretary for the Zane Trace Players, the theater troupe scheduled to perform, contacted the publishing company to receive permission to alter the offending passages, but the company denied the request.
Why? Chris Sergel, vice president of Dramatic Publishing, said, “Being uncomfortable with history is not means to change it. We’ve always denied these requests. People need to figure out how to confront issues.”
Sergel’s denial is admirable, but his need to issue it is deplorable. Canceling the performance is inimical to the fundamental basis of education. By avoiding the issue of racism and injustice in American history because of concerns about political correctness or mature themes, students are prevented from developing a critical understanding of history and comprehending the roots of hateful ideology.
The cancellation of To Kill a Mockingbird is an insult to the Morgan High School students involved. It is a presumption that not only can these students not understand the terribly obvious faults inherent in a racist ideology, but also their lack of intelligence prompts the prevention of a performance with racist ideas, even when said performance illustrates the inferiority of those ideas. Such paternalism inhibits the abilities and development of students while ignoring reality.
Racism still exists in American society, along with many other individual and social ills. To Kill a Mockingbird remains relevant; unbridled hatred remains much more offensive than hearing “nigger” in a play aimed at confronting that hatred.
If communities continue to avoid the issue because parents feel uncomfortable, any progress is stifled before it begins. Individuals should be offended by To Kill a Mockingbird, and they should feel terribly uncomfortable.
What should make us more offended and more uncomfortable, though, is that such idiotic and unthinking ideas were at one time so prominent in America as to be institutionalized and sanctioned by the ruling democracy.
The same individuals, who endlessly chanted Shibboleths and platitudes about freedom and equality, ignored — and in some cases engaged in — atrocities because the victim was in a despised minority.
To surpass hateful ideology and prevent future and present tragedy, we’re forced to learn about lynchings. We must study the Holocaust and comprehend how the Nazis accumulated power.
It is not simply a pedantic interest. It is an individual responsibility to confront evil in the world and prevent it from escaping punishment or to implicitly acquiesce because anything else may garner social scorn.
If the administration at Morgan Local School District considers themselves educators devoted to challenging students in an effort to develop critical thinkers, they’ll ignore cowardly phone calls from those offended at the content of a literary classic. Instead, they’ll try to circumvent parental influence that shies away from ugly realities.
Anthony Hennen is a junior studying journalism and a columnist for The Post. Do you think the superintendent was in the right?
Email Anthony at firstname.lastname@example.org.