TORONTO, February 5, 2002 - Greater skill needed in how sensitive materials are taught and ensuring racists be punished. The Canadian Race Relations Foundation (CRRF) is urging Nova Scotian schools to reconsider proposals concerning books like To Kill a Mockingbird and In the Heat of the Night simply because of the use of the obnoxious term: "nigger". While the Foundation agrees that the term is offensive, the books present a context that is historically relevant and can send a strong anti-racist message; but they require great care and sensitivity in teaching.
A National Post article on May 6, 2002 refers to the Black Educators' Network which is calling for the ban who say that students are "being taunted with racial slurs and made to feel insignificant because of the tone of classroom discussion over these books."
"Educators and parents have valid concerns about racist incidents. However, banning works of literature is not necessarily the appropriate route to go," said Benjamin Elms, principal of Digby Regional High School in Nova Scotia, himself a member of the Black community and a member of the board of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation. "Instructors should be properly trained and sensitized to deliver the material in the proper way to ensure effective antiracist response."
Mr Elms noted that the Tri-County School Board does have a policy in which some books are "delisted" because of the inappropriate content. This was to be the case but somehow the term "banning" entered the picture.
"I get very nervous when we get into debating whether to ban or not ban books, " said Dr Karen Mock, Executive Director of the Foundation. "Obviously, a book that specifically incites racism and hate is one thing. But clearly, these books could not be classified legally as hate propaganda that should be banned. And teachers should realize that students, for the most part, will be uncomfortable with the use of the word, while others will take advantage of the situation. This is where effective teacher education comes in, and the importance of effectively implementing the Board's race relations policy, so that students who perpetrate racist acts are punished and victims of racism are protected."
The Board is expected to make a decision at a meeting tonight.