AP English teacher Mary Wood was once punished for having her class read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ acclaimed book “Between The World and Me.” Last year, two students in Wood’s class at Chapin High School in South Carolina complained to the school board about her lesson.
They stated that “Between the World and Me” made them ashamed to be white (the book discusses racism in America). Furthermore, it indicated that Wood was in violation of a state proviso that bans teachers from causing students “guilt, anguish or … psychological distress” due to their race.
Days after the complaint, Lexington-Richland School District Five officials made Wood stop teaching the book. Additionally, parents and residents demanded that she be fired. However, that didn’t deter her from having her students learn Coates’ work.
The school’s new principal—a Black man—gave Wood permission to teach the book once more. Per The Washington Post, she revised her curriculum so it wouldn’t violate the state proviso. Parents reviewed her lesson, gave them the chance to have their child opt out and included a conservative perspective contradicting Coates’ work.
“It teaches kids a different perspective, [it] teaches kids how to write well,” Wood said in an interview explaining her decision. “It’s the right thing to do.” However, there has still been palpable opposition to Wood’s decision. Conservative accounts on Facebook and TikTok have stated that Chapin High teachers—including Wood—are pushing left-wing ideologies on young students.
However, Wood has been allowed to continue teaching the book. A board meeting last month allowed students to explain the impact of reading work from diverse viewpoints—one of them being Wood’s son Summit who was enrolled in the course.
Wood is just one of many teachers across the country who are fighting censorship. Hopefully, her story will inspire other educators with privilege to do the same.