JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri- On Wednesday, Missouri Governor Eric Greitens postrd an open letter to his sons in response to a school district pulling Harper Lee’s classic “To Kill a Mockingbird” from curriculum.
Dear Joshua and Jacob,
Growing up, one of my favorite books was Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird.”
A few days ago, a school district cut the book from its curriculum because some words in it “make people uncomfortable.”
I read those words once. They made me uncomfortable. They were words you don’t use. Your grandparents taught me and your mom that. They also explained the difference between reading words on a page and using them yourself.
Boys, I want you to read “To Kill A Mockingbird.” It’s beautiful. It’s moving. It’s full of wisdom. And yes, some words in it will make you uncomfortable. When they do, your mom and I will talk to you about them.
Part of the wisdom of the book is how the characters respond to those troubling words. But you can’t appreciate their actions without feeling the discomfort. The author wanted you to wince.
That kind of discomfort is how you grow. You should read books that stop you in your tracks. Your coaches should make you sweat and put you through pain. Your teachers should push and challenge you.
My best teachers used a lot of red ink. To the extent I do some things well, it’s because they pointed out the things I did wrong. Sure, it didn’t always feel good, but they were right to correct me. They were right to worry more about deepening my learning than damaging my ego. There’s wisdom in all that red ink.
Our culture forgets this. It’s a culture that, out of concern, will try to shield you. You’ll get trophies just for showing up. Your teachers will fret about giving you a bad grade. You’ll get told not to read books because they contain a few bad words. If you’re not careful, you’ll end up encased in bubble wrap.
Don’t let that happen. Remember, a culture of banned books leads to a culture of brittle people. If you avoid what might offend or bother you, you’ll also miss out on things that will stretch and strengthen you. Discomfort is the warm-up act to growth.
I can tell you this much: in our house, we’re going to read “To Kill A Mockingbird.” It might well make you uncomfortable. And that’s the point.
“There is some language in the book that makes people uncomfortable, and we can teach the same lesson with other books,” Kenny Holloway, the vice president of the Biloxi School Board said in removing the volume from 8th grade lesson plans.