HomeLearning CenterBook on Race Was Removed from SC Classroom, but Teacher Taught It Again. How She Did It.

Book on Race Was Removed from SC Classroom, but Teacher Taught It Again. How She Did It.

Originally published by Bristow Marchant for The State

Mary Wood didn’t want to provoke another controversy like the one that led to calls for her to be fired at a school board meeting last year.

She was reluctant to reintroduce Ta-Nehisi Coates’ memoir, “Between the World and Me,” to her Advanced Placement language arts class because her previous lesson was so controversially shut down in the spring of 2023, pulled by administrators after the writer’s recounting of being Black in America had at least one student feeling “ashamed to be Caucasian.”

But despite concerns that teaching the book violated a state ban on teaching concepts related to “critical race theory” and the strong reaction against it from some members of her community, the Chapin High School teacher felt that she had to try to teach the book again.

“It’s a good book, and it didn’t hurt anybody,” she said in a recent interview with The State. “A book can’t hurt a community, even if people try to make it sound like it’s something nefarious.”

This time, she would dot every “i” and cross every “t.” She made sure everything she did was lined up, approved and announced ahead of time. No parent or administrator would be able to say they didn’t know exactly what she was planning to do.

Wood was committed to teach “Between the World and Me” not only because she thought it would be valuable for her students, but because she is concerned about the future of teaching.

The state’s prohibition on race-related topics remains in effect, and the state recently dropped an AP African-American studies course from the curriculum. Under S.C. Superintendent Ellen Weaver, elected in 2022, the Department of Education also has moved to centralize the approval of books that can be used in the classroom and potentially remove a challenged book from being used statewide.

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