Controversy in English Classics

by Sarah C.

For years, the ability to teach controversial works such as The Catcher in the Rye and To Kill A Mockingbird in high schools has been heavily debated. Some people argue that the topics discussed in these books are too heavy for students in high school. Others say that these books offer insight into these situations and help younger people better understand them.

The Catcher in the Rye is a highly controversial book that, from 1961 to 1982, was the most censored book in America. Its use of vulgar language, suggestive content, and display of mental illness made schools wary of allowing their students to read it. Others applaud its ability to begin a serious discussion about mental illness.

“I think it’s important for kids who have not experienced the same mental health issues . . . to be exposed to the feelings of people who do so that they . . . can become sympathetic,” said Mrs. Woodworth, a Duxbury High School English Teacher.

Students echo her perspective. 

“I would rather be exposed to these subjects in a controlled environment,” said Duxbury junior, Kaelyn B. “Having a group discussion on something like mental health can really make us feel more comfortable talking about it.”

As mental health continues to come out of the shadows and onto the public stage of society, the need to speak about it only grows. Along with mental health, other books such as To Kill a Mockingbird offer much-needed insight into the history of racism in America.

Although it takes much more than a single story to explain something as complex and horrifying as racism in the deep south, To Kill a Mockingbird is a much-needed perspective in schools today. 

“It may seem scary for some adults to see these books being taught at schools. But we’re 17, 18 years old. We need these books to prepare us for the outside world as adults,” said Brody D., a Junior at Duxbury High School.

Dr. Baynes, the English Department Supervisor, said it best. 

“We base our choices on great literature. We believe it’s important that the kids learn to put these topics in context in the guided setting of the classroom.”

It is not lost that both of these books are controversial. But it is up to the future to decide whether or not these books are important enough to see past their rough exterior and hold onto them for their deep and transcending message. 


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