Huckleberry Finn: What to do About the N-Word
Um, if these "views" really were expressed in a classroom setting during a discussion of Huck Finn, this school has a much bigger problem than the presence of a book in a curriculum.
The "n-word" appears one too many times in "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" for Mark Lewis.
Make that at least 200 times in the Mark Twain classic.
Lakeville high school sophomores were required for years to read "Huck Finn," but that may change this year after some parents questioned the use of the book. Parents who disagree with a district's curriculum requirements have the ability to challenge the rules — and sometimes win.
Lewis first became concerned about "Huck Finn" when his daughter was required to read the book in her English class several years ago.
During discussion of the book, Lewis' daughter said she was uncomfortable with views she said students expressed — that blacks should go to hell and interracial marriage was immoral, for instance.
The reality, of course, is that this book didn't cause those views and, in fact, an appropriate classroom discussion of Huck Finn would actually counteract them.
I do understand the impulse behind highlighting and trying to completely ban words like the N-word (for blacks) and the F-word (for gays like myself); these words are hurtful reminders of our country's bigoted past, and sometimes still-bigoted present. And because racisim and homophobia are often intangible and maddenly subjective, some folks want to point to something solid, force society to take a stand and state, as a group, that we all agree that something is "wrong."
But it's an illusion. The N-word and the F-word are just mere words, assortments of letters. Any meaning they have, any power they wield, is meaning and power that we give them, and that power comes entirely from their context. Simply banning all use of these words outright, without discussion, is, I'm sorry to say, exactly the kind of thinking that gets books banned in the first place: a refusal to consider context, the idea that an idea, however noxious, is more than an idea, that it's somehow literally toxic or evil, that it must literally be destroyed.
But ideas are just ideas. Like words are arrangements of letters, ideas are arrangements of words; they're not literally toxic, and they're not literally evil. And they're defeated not by banning them, but by discussing them, by challenging them, and by exposing them as wrong.
To think otherwise is simple-minded, it's counter-productive, and it's stupid.
Needless to say, these are entirely my own opinions, and do not reflect the consensus of all AS IF! members.