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Some Canadian writers are applauding an Ontario school board that has mandated To Kill A Mockingbird be taught only through a critical “anti-oppression lens.”

The authors say it’s important for students to see their identities reflected in the material they learn in English class.

The Peel District School Board says it wants to expose students to texts from diverse authors on race and injustice in an effort to update its English curriculum, and sent a memo to English department heads and principals telling them as much.

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The memo indicates that if teachers choose to use Harper Lee’s classic novel in their lesson plans, it should be done with a critical eye.

The novel was published in 1960 and explores racial inequality in a small Alabama town through the trial of a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman, as told from the perspective of his white lawyer’s family.

African-Canadian poet George Elliott Clarke says texts taught to students about racism should have main characters of colour because that validates and centralizes their experiences of oppression.

Poleen Grewal, the school board’s associate director of instructional and equity support services, sent the memo and says the novel will be taught to explore the impact of how racism is portrayed by a white author and how that leaves out the perspectives of those who have actually experienced racism.

Chinese-Canadian writer Wayson Choy says he agrees that To Kill A Mockingbird should be taught with a more critical approach and in context, since racism is discussed differently today than it was more than 50 years ago.

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