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Elixir

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Is Huckleberry Finn still taught in high schools? It is a real shame to cancel this book, one of the greatest novels ever.

Raised by white racist admirers of Mark Twain, I prefer to think that the epiphanies of Huck Finn regarding race were not an unintended consequence. It evoked my first real visceral anger at the treatment of blacks.
It would not surprise me if it was banned (cancelled) in some regions of the US.
 

Politesse

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Yes, Huckleberry Finn is still taught in high schools commonly across America, though not as many as in former times. Though, if you think that it's status as the bestest book ever is something that should be assumed beyond question, or that we shouldn't critique Twain's use of either language or the character of Jim more generally, I am not sure your high school teacher did their due diligence in walking you through it critically. It's interesting that here, on a forum with no language restrictions I'm aware of, most of our adult posters would be too bashful or polite to use the word nigger directly. But, you're fine with the implications of including it in a classroom context where a teacher may or may not be trying to ensure respectful use of the term and (more importantly to my view) its brutal original context.

For the record, I also think its a good book, and I don't mind it's being used as a textbook. But, we should be mature enough to realize that one social class' twee coming-of-age novel could, from the perspective of the social group mocked and used as a disposable resource in its pages, come across as just another weapon lodged against them, and adjust our approach to curriculum accordingly. I would not want Finn to be the only book a child ever reads about the enslaved South, for instance. And considering the problems it routinely causes, I would think twice about using it in my own classroom. There are other good coming-of-age novels, and definitely other good novels about race in the South. Why put my black students in an ugly situation for little reason, when alternatives are easily available?
 

Swammerdami

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Yes, I understand Politesse. It was my own over-indulgence in nostalgia that led me to a too-simplistic one-sided view. This same "nostalgia" (if that's how to describe it) makes me resent the denigration of the great Thomas Jefferson.

At first I was disgusted to read that an addition of Huck Finn replaces each 'nigger' with 'slave,' but perhaps that's a good compromise.
 

laughing dog

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Huckleberry Finn, Of Mice and Men, and To Kill a Mockingbird have been challenged and/or banned in some school districts.
 

laughing dog

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Yes, I understand Politesse. It was my own over-indulgence in nostalgia that led me to a too-simplistic one-sided view. This same "nostalgia" (if that's how to describe it) makes me resent the denigration of the great Thomas Jefferson.

At first I was disgusted to read that an addition of Huck Finn replaces each 'nigger' with 'slave,' but perhaps that's a good compromise.
There is no good compromise in adulterating literature. Better to exclude the book than to degrade it.

Any book included in a curriculum is a teaching tool. Properly taught, any of those books is a good addition to the curriculum. Literature teaches us about the human condition within the contexts of the time and place of the story. Any book that is not taught properly is a poor addition to the curriculum.

Banning a book or taking it out of the curriculum because of the imagined effects from poor teaching is an insult to the teachers and to basic reasoning.
 

Politesse

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Yes, I understand Politesse. It was my own over-indulgence in nostalgia that led me to a too-simplistic one-sided view. This same "nostalgia" (if that's how to describe it) makes me resent the denigration of the great Thomas Jefferson.

At first I was disgusted to read that an addition of Huck Finn replaces each 'nigger' with 'slave,' but perhaps that's a good compromise.
Oh yeah, the Jefferson problem. Unlike Huck Finn, that one I actually do have to tackle in the classroom, as Jefferson was an influential figure in early US anthropology/archaeology and thus hard to avoid having a conversation about. I try to err on the side of "don't censor the good, but don't censor the bad either".
 

Politesse

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Any book included in a curriculum is a teaching tool. Properly taught, any of those books is a good addition to the curriculum. Literature teaches us about the human condition within the contexts of the time and place of the story. Any book that is not taught properly is a poor addition to the curriculum.

Banning a book or taking it out of the curriculum because of the imagined effects from poor teaching is an insult to the teachers and to basic reasoning.
I think most educators, at least, would agree with you on that. Book banning is a sledgehammer approach to claw hammer problem, and it creates as many issues as it could possibly resolve. Alas, we're never the only voices in the conversation. Whether public or private, school content becomes a matter demanding of a public policy statement the second a complaint is lodged, and those who need to make the call don't always gravitate toward nuance. Simpler to just say "it's all good" or "it's all bad" and refuse to budge.
 

Elixir

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Why put my black students in an ugly situation for little reason, when alternatives are easily available?
Far far beyond my pay grade to answer that. (Why you get the big bucks, right?)
I was never assigned to read HF. My mother told me it was a great book, and I read it best I could (almost as well as I could now) at about seven years of age.

In addition to being really saddened and angered by it, it made me laugh and introduced me to "gage". Not only introduced, by made some recommendations that I would take up a decade or so later, regarding the separation of "light gage" from the "heavy gage".
 

Jimmy Higgins

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For the life of me, I'm uncertain why Huck Finn is taught in High School (I even had it in the curricula for a lit class I took in college). Certainly Huck Finn could be a middle school book. We read To Kill a Mockingbird in 8th grade, and I don't think I really was ready for it. Huck Finn would work ones way up to that.

Again, often my problem with "cancel" is the reason for it. Is a book being banned because of intent of the author or intent of the reader. And altering a work, that seems very problematic.
 

southernhybrid

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Maybe schools could assign some of Twain's work, along with Frederick Douglas, outstanding book, "Narrative of a Slave". I've read that two or three times and I think everyone should read it at least once. But, some of those on the right, don't want the little kiddos to feel bad about being white. Where did the silly notion come from! There is no reason why anyone should feel bad about the color of their skin. We should all be outraged that some people have been treated poorly due to the color of their skin.

The book that made me the maddest was the contemporary book, "White Rage", written by Carol Anderson, a black woman who teaches at Emory. It's a non fiction book about the history of racism throughout the country, not, just in the old South. She opened my eyes to some horrid things that happened as former slaves made their way to the Northern parts of the country. It's an excellent book, one that would be good to include in US History classes. In the current climate, red states would do their best to forbid these books to be part of a high school curriculum. That's cancel culture coming from the right. I hope nobody cancels the author for using the term "slaves" instead of enslaved people. ;)

And, now that I think about it, children should be taught about how many immigrants have been treated as they entered the country, including the Irish and the Polish. I once saw a sign when I was researching racism and xenophobia that read, "No Blacks, no dogs and no Irish. Decades ago, I was at a wedding reception where almost everyone at the table was bashing the Irish. Considering that I had a grandfather who was the son of an Irish immigrant, I listened quietly and then said, "Oh, by the way, I'm Irish". Those at my table were so embarrassed they didn't know what to say, while I felt very satisfied. I know damn well that white immigrants haven't been treated as poorly as African, Hispanic or Middle Eastern immigrants, but sadly, there has always been plenty of hate to go around.
 

Keith&Co.

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For the life of me, I'm uncertain why Huck Finn is taught in High School
Frankly, i feel that the curricula coordinator in our district hasn't read a book on her list. She knows Twain is 'a classic.' I think she throws darts.

A Melville scholar wants to have all Berkshire schoolchildren read Moby Dick because part of it was written here.
I can't read Moby Dick. I tried in high school. I gave up and retreated to something easier, Gulliver's Travels.
But the coordinator thinks he has a point and keeps asking if this should be part of middle school or high school curricula.
I keep wanting someone to ask her what's her favorite part of the book. Which i think was ritten on a pay-by-the-word contract.
 
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Politesse

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I love Moby Dick, but I suspect its sardonic humor and trenchant social commentary is not as obvious to straight folk, being as heavily coded it is in the "polite language" of the time. No one tell the conservatives about the subtext, they'd ban it on principle. Perhaps we should stick to a narrative of "it's a book about the once thriving whaling industry, unfairly canceled by woke environmentalists in 1971...."

Also, holy crap, if Huck Finn has too many race issues, Moby Dick is a positive dumpster fire of racist and bigoted language; sympathetic though Melville is to his fellow persecuted citizens, it is a work of satire and freely employs the racist language of the time to make its point. I think the secondary main character, the South Pacfic Islander Queequeeg, is called a heathen more often than he is called by his rightful name.

Interesting fact: it actually wasn't a pay-by-the-word serial, though that was a pretty common phenomenon at the time. The book was more like a personal obsession of Herman Melville's, a semi-autobiographical work that he banged out in less than two years and published as a three-volume set. It was an utter failure commercially, and was only revived after the hubbub surrounding the centennial of Melville's death brought it to scholarly attention. It had been quietly passed down as a "cult classic" within the equivalent of the queer community up to that point, and when William Faulkner, himself a celebrity author by that point and "well acquainted" with the gay community, remarked that it was his favorite novel, quite a buzz grew around it well after its initial publication.

Melville's main claim to fame during his lifetime was the book Omoo, which today is obscure as all hell. Funny how things go.
 
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laughing dog

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I read Moby Dick. For me, the book would have been more enjoyable if the detailed and long descriptions of how whales were carved up etc... were not included.

In my opinion, for any K12 curriculum there are plenty of excellent source materials - fiction and non-fiction - available are educational and enjoyable. While I appreciate the concern educators and some parents have about exposing their children to traumatic literature, I think it is better if they talk with their children than to ban books.
 
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jab

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Yes, I understand Politesse. It was my own over-indulgence in nostalgia that led me to a too-simplistic one-sided view. This same "nostalgia" (if that's how to describe it) makes me resent the denigration of the great Thomas Jefferson.

At first I was disgusted to read that an addition of Huck Finn replaces each 'nigger' with 'slave,' but perhaps that's a good compromise.
I t has been a while since I taught Huckleberry Finn, an overrated book because of its horribly fumbled resolution. Huck struggles with his racism, and uses racist epithets when he is losing the struggle--racist epithets which are a legacy of his white, rejecting society, and of his vicious white father. I am teaching Langston Hughes' Not Without Laughter to a group of undergrads tonight. When it goes out of copyright, how will politically correct editors handle its language? Then there's the use of the racist epithet in a white character's stream of consciousness in Woolf's "An Unwritten Novel", which I shall be teaching this summer.
 
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