Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Whitewashing Classic Literature

New South Books is planning on releasing a version of Huck Finn taking out the words "nigger" and "Injun." Now, I just graduated college with a degree in English Education. As I was student teaching in 9th grade English, I taught a story that contained the "n-word" within it. ("A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner) I prefaced reading this story by explaining the time in which the story was both written and set. I explained that while this word is not okay today and makes us uncomfortable today, it shouldn't be taken out of the story because that would change the tone and mood of the story.

Honestly, I don't see a reason to take out these certain words. If we start censoring, where will we stop? Will we take out mentions of Shylock in The Merchang of Venice? Will we take out T. S. Eliot's anti-Semetic comments in his poetry?

I post on a forum where we talked about this today. Another commenter mentioned that some schools teach a completely whitewashed version of history. It wasn't that way at my school, but I was surprised to learn that many students are only taught a history where America is a shining star and never did anything wrong. It is so wrong to pretend that our history is clean of any unprovoked bloodshed.

So, thoughts? What is your experience with censorship in literature or history?

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