05 January 2011

Offensive: Mark Twain gets worded

The word police are at it, and they’re giving Mark Twain the PC treatment

Auburn University’s Alan Gribben has worked with NewSouth Books to publish a new edition of "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" and "Tom Sawyer", scrubbed of (in their words) “two racial slurs that have increasingly formed a barrier to these works for teachers, students, and general readers.”  The intent according to them is “to introduce both books to a wider readership than they can currently enjoy.

I suppose that means that sanitizing it is better than banning it?  I don’t recall my old grade school teachers being concerned about that when I had to read these years ago, and that was in the middle of Uptown Chicago.  Have we really changed that much since then? 

For reference:

“nigger” becomes “slave”
"Injun Joe" becomes "Indian Joe" and
"half-breed" becomes "half-blood"

History is ugly.  It’s messy.  It’s offensive.  To present a sanitized version of it for schools seems contradictory to why we have education in the first place.  Why not use it as a frank discussion about race, history, and attitudes?  I’m not sure if any of these folks realize, but racism is alive and well.  Sanitizing or banning these books hasn’t erased that from the world outside their windows.  

If this becomes acceptable, what’s next?  I for one will hope that my kids will get the un-sanitized, full frontal version of these works slapped on their desks at some point in their schooling.

[USA Today: New edition of 'Huckleberry Finn' loses the N-word]
[AP: New edition removes Mark Twain's 'offensive' words]
[NewSouth Books: A word about the NewSouth edition of Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn | Excerpt]

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