Now, Ron Howard, if you want to talk about censorship issues, here would be the topic to springboard off of.
A school committee in Florida had cancelled a production of To Kill a Mockingbird, which was scheduled to open on …
… November 12th, due to the use of the N-word. Which would be nigger. Yes, it’s a big bad word, but it’s pretty difficult to talk about it if we have to refer to it in a similar manner to how five year old refer to their ‘pee-pees’ and ‘wee-wees.’
The school was putting on the play because the novel was included in their school’s ninth grade curriculum, but the school’s principal, Jacob Oliva claimed “the guidance teachers give in the classroom about controversial material isn’t available to community members coming to the play.” Meaning that what most 14 year-olds can figure out with a little help from a teacher, cannot be understood by the adult public who would likely attend the show to support the kids.
Well I call bullshit. And all sorts of it. I had to read this novel for school in grade 9, but had read it beforehand of my own accord. And I understood it with ease. Likely on account that the novel is written from the perspective of a six year old. In fact I have difficulty understanding how anyone could read this novel or watch the novel in performance and not understand the message of the story, which is so very clearly about racial injustice.
Part of me thinks some parents overheard their kid practicing their lines, saying the words, you know, out loud, and panicked. They called up the school and lodged a complaint, because their perfect angel should not be using such words – without understanding how To Kill a Mockingbird very purposefully uses the word to outline the history of racism in the deep south. After all, we aren’t talking nudity, excessive cursing, or violence here. We’re talking about a courtroom drama as related through a six-year-old living in the 1930s.
But then there is is principal. He is an educator, and should know better than to brush off a Pulitzer prize-winning novel taught to children around the world. He should be sticking up for these kids, who have been working to deliver a legitimate message, instead of siding with concerned parents who have nothing to be concerned about. I can understand parents not wanting their children running around using the word ‘nigger.’ But shouldn’t they understand where the word came from, and why it is inappropriate to use in everyday conversation?
What really hurts me in hearing this story is that yet another play is being halted because of a lack of understanding at to what it is about. I strongly believe that theatre can reach out to people and interact with them in a way that other forms of media cannot, and I think that this play in particular would be of value to any young community old enough to understand its message. Not to mention the young actors involved in the show who have undoubtedly formed a deeper connection to the story for having rehearsed it, who are now to be met with disappointment.
I think this might definitely warrant an angry letter to the principal of Flagler Palm Coast High School. And not just because writing angry letter is a favourite pastime of mine. But because he deserves to hear how off the mark he is, and how his short-sightedness has let down his student body, his community, and future performers facing needless censorship.