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John Cornyn compared the Republican defense of Supreme Court then-candidate Brett Kavanaugh to Atticus’ defense of Tom Robinson.
I’ve reflected on my own relationship with the book and analyzed both the new “biography” of Atticus by historian Joseph Crespino and the new Broadway adaptation of We live in an America in which the majority of public school students are people of color and about 80 percent of public school teachers are White.
We assign our students this novel by a White author about a White girl whose White father tries (and fails) to save a Black man.
When author Malcom Gladwell published a critique of Atticus’ limited liberalism in Thein 2009, I sent him a self-righteous rebuttal, 2,500 words long and with no fewer than 19 pieces of textual evidence. “You want to believe in the Gregory Peck version of him,” a facilitator explained at one point during our workshop, but as you’re reading you will realize “he’s a man of his time.” Specifically, a White man of his time and far from revolutionary.
In Chapter 15 of , Atticus assures his son that the local Ku Klux Klan was “a political organization more than anything,” one that “couldn’t find anybody to scare” and would “never come back.” In Chapter 27, when asked whether he’s a radical, Atticus replies, “I’m about as radical as Cotton Tom Heflin.” I looked it up: Heflin was an Alabama politician and White supremacist.
Peck stands up to an angry mob and offers a vision of who I might become: a movie star. A little less than a decade earlier and a thousand miles from where I grew up, David E. While I read it as a White eighth-grader in the Northern Virginia suburbs, he read it as a Black ninth-grader in Detroit. While I had been aware of the recent Bill Clinton scandal involving Monica Lewinsky and the mass shooting at Columbine High, he had been aware of rioting in L. and the death of unarmed Malice Green at the hands of his city’s police.
“So I had a lot of questions,” said Kirkland, who would later become an English professor, an activist, and executive director of New York University’s Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools.I am sitting in my eighth-grade civics class learning what it is to be an American.Around me, the cool kids wear Abercrombie & Fitch, and I do too, ever since I persuaded my parents to buy me some.I’ve adored the book ever since my eighth-grade civics class; that was at an impressionable age for sorting ideals of manhood.I read it again in college and several times since.The educators there were predominantly White women.One 35-year classroom veteran estimated she had taught the book 20 to 25 times. ” she implored, punctuating her point by jabbing her index finger. Driven in no small part by the chiseled features and pacifying nobility of actor Gregory Peck’s portrayal, people talk about Finch in tones not only of reverence, but of attraction—and protectiveness.As a child, she said, she’d wanted Atticus Finch to be her father. At another moment in the workshop, when I noted some of his flaws, a teacher responded, “Not Atticus. I’ve tried to keep him as a good thing in my head.” “When I read this book in high school, I was guided to think that Atticus is the savior,” noted another teacher the next day.Someone else offered that this was perhaps a result of “our misreading of the text itself, and our need to lionize” our heroes.They are scrolling through Instagram and soaking up the stories and images of Black Lives Matter and #Me Too—and Make America Great Again.Too many White teachers, including me, fail to make ,” designed to provide resources for teaching the book in a more historically informed and culturally relevant way.