Mark Twain has been quoted as saying, "Censorship is telling a man he can't have a steak just because a baby can't chew it."
Twain is probably rolling in his grave at the news that his classic novel, "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," is being censored for use in elementary schools. The new edition, being published through NewSouth publishing, will replace ‘the N word' with the word ‘slave' and also do away with the word ‘injun.'
Many Twain scholars and avid readers are angered by the change, and with good reason. "Huck Finn" is a historical novel, one linguistically accurate for the time it was originally published. Updating the language to modern-day standards of political correctness is like rewriting Shakespeare to make it easier to understand.
The book has been controversial from the time it was published; why should that change now? If the content is too strong or inappropriate for young children, then young children should not read it; the audience should be tailored to the book, not the other way around.
High school and middle school students should be perfectly capable of reading "Huck Finn" and accepting it as a historical, classic novel. They are old enough to understand that, while the language in the book was common for the time it was published, it should no longer be acceptable in our society.
However, that is part of the problem; the word shouldn't be commonly used, but the fact of the matter is that nearly every hip-hop song on the radio includes it – often bleeped out just enough so you can still tell exactly what the artist is saying.
Language like that — and sometimes worse — is heard in high schools across the country every single day, common ‘harmless' banter between teenagers; but try to teach a novel that includes the word and people want it censored.
What is this teaching children and teenagers? That it is okay to use the word in common, "joking" ways, but an outrage when used in a historical novel? It sure seems as though that is the case.
The fact of the matter is that "Huckleberry Finn" is considered one of the greatest American novels for its honesty and accurate portrayal of the America that existed in the 1800s. The use of ‘the N word,' slavery, and racism are all part of our history. They are not things to be proud of, but they shaped who we are today as a country. To water that down or try to hide it is shameful.
It is an old cliché, but the old adage is true: those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
We are doing future generations a disservice by trying to hide and cover up the controversial, ugly parts of our past. "Huckleberry Finn," all it stands for and all it represents, is part of that past whether people like it or not.
Censoring the novel to make it a bit easier to digest is the sad result of a society that apparently cannot handle controversial subjects with finesse and tact.