Sue Harris is probably right that controversy over Huck Finn is less than
one might think, probably because the sites of controversy get publicized
out of proportion to their numbers. And if in fact nine out of ten teachers
are using HF in class, that may be encouraging. Then again, it may not.
Although the recent contributors to the MT Forum on this issue all sound
very conscientious, I'm not sure this is a representative group. I was a
bit appalled, reading through articles relating to the Pennsylvania NAACP's
campaign earlier this year to remove Huck as a required text, to come across
some statements by teachers that suggested, at least, inadequate
preparation. One teacher, for example, said regarding the use of "nigger":
"The students know it had a much different connotation years ago than it
does today". [Why then did Twain himself stop using it in public?] Another
said, "The interesting thing is Mark Twain was anti-slavery," as though that
was some big deal in the 1870-80s. Then there was Judith Krug, director of
the Office for Intellectual Freedom for the American Library Association in
Chicago: "Samuel Clemens or Mark Twain wrote this book as a cry against
slavery and he did it in the context of the world at that time," she said.
"Jim's name is Nigger Jim in the book because that's exactly what he would
have been called at that time." Talk about making pronouncements without
knowing the book!
And I don't see anyone taking seriously, even acknowleding, the
that Jonathan Arac has assembled in Huckleberry Finn: Idol and Target. The
question of when and how to use HF in the public schools is still, I think,
open, and I hope it is not taboo on the Forum to talk about it this way.
[I'm a college teacher; I've never taught in the public schools,
I've sent five children through them.]
U. of Idaho, Moscow, ID