The case against censoring ‘Huckleberry Finn’
By now you’ve probably heard about the new editions of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by NewSouth Books that will not include any mention of the n-word, which had originally appeared in the book more than 200 times. The n-word will be replaced by the word “slave,” part of an attempt by Auburn University professor Alan Gribben — who worked with NewSouth on the new edition — to keep the book in the hands of students. The Washington Post’s Adam Serwer connects this move to the Republicans in the 112th Congress, who, in reading the Constitution on Thursday, planned to omit the section that counts slaves as worth only three-fifths of a person (also known as the “three fifths compromise”). Serwer says reading this section reminds us that even a great and noble document like the U.S. Constitution can be flawed, and we should not ignore blemishes in our history. (Isn’t that how we learn from them?) Huck Finn itself is not a blemish, but of course the language and treatment are representative of that terrible time — a time that should be neither celebrated nor forgotten. In Tempe, Ariz., about 12 years ago, parents sued a high school for making the book part of required reading for students. The case made its way to a federal appeals court and the parents eventually lost. Other than that, there has been little involvement from government and courts on banning Huck Finn or other books. But maybe it’s time for an “official” opinion. Maybe it’s time somebody stepped in and said: OK, no more censoring books. And if a parent, or a teacher, or a student is still against it, they can be given an alternate assignment. I think if you are going to teach books in school, students should be reading them in their original form.