Is 50 Years of “To Kill a Mockingbird” Enough?

On the way to pick up Z from school, I hurriedly turned on On Point with Tom Ashbrook. It is one of my favorite NPR shows, but I rarely get to listen to it, as I am hardly ever near a radio at 11:00am. This show was just for me. It was about To Kill a Mockingbird (TKAM) at 50.

When Z got into the car, we listened together because his 7th grade class studied it this year.

K: Should we continue to read TKAM?

Z: Yes. It’s too late, anyway; we’ve already read it.

K: Who?

Z: Everyone. Everyone who has ever been to school here.

K: Yes, a caller said something like that earlier. But I mean should Ms. M-- teach it next year?

Z: Yeah, but I’ve seen those sixth graders and they’re pretty immature.

Um. Z’s hinted at something: the developmental level of the reader makes a difference. The panel and callers seemed to repeatedly say that adolescents today don’t see the importance of the subject matter in the book because they believe the matters discussed in it are confined to history. But what if it’s that the students are not thinking abstractly? Exercising empathy? Able/willing to see outside their own experiences?

Sometimes TKAM might be “wasted on the youth” simply because they are not ready for it yet. Nah, not wasted. A seed will likely be planted.