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Friday, September 29, 2023


Sheltered students make poor historians

Near the end of January, “The New York Times” published an article entitled, “Send Huck Finn to College,” where the author, Lorrie Moore, argued to do just that— send Huck Finn and all of his classic adventures to college.

The article partly came in response to NewSouth Books’ announcement about publishing “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” without the N-word. The announcement prompted outrage from anti-censorship supporters but also got support from those who feel like the novel would be less uncomfortable for teenagers to read.

In the article, Moore suggests that instead of altering the book’s text, the novel should be designated as an advanced level book that is above for high school students.

“‘Huckleberry Finn’ is suited to a college course in which Twain’s obsession with the 19th-century theater of American hucksterism can be discussed in the context of Jim’s particular story,” Moore said.

“An African-American 10th grader, in someone’s near-sighted attempt to get him newly appreciative of novels, does not benefit by being taken back right then to a time when a young white boy slowly realizes, sort of, the humanity of a black man, realizes that that black man is more than chattel even if that black man is also full of illogic and stereotypical superstitions.”

The point Moore makes is biased and weak. Every child receiving an American public education comes across material that deals with the racist parts of our history. Deciding to not teach a book based upon the usage of one word is ridiculous.

The literature of Mark Twain is no more difficult to swallow than the lessons of the holocaust, or the many lessons that arose from the civil rights era. If the N-word becomes too advanced for high school students then what happens to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” or Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird?”

We simply cannot hide from difficult issues for fear that teaching them would discourage students in high school. In today’s society it would be unrealistic to believe that racial slurs or lessons in civil rights are unheard of or difficult to talk about by the time most children become of high school age.

Stripping teenagers of these books and their corresponding literary and scholastic value does nothing to make racism disappear. In fact, not discussing it and avoiding the subject altogether only makes things worse.

Camila Cossio contributed additional information to this article.

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