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Liberals have been guilty of banning books, too, like Huck Finn and “To Kill A Mockingbird”

Repost from Blogspot

… sort of like the Catholic Church outlawing “The DaVinci Code”

Outlawing or censoring classical literature is almost always reprehensible. Over the years, most of the censorship has come from conservatives who are outraged about sexual content or profane words that are used in the text.

However, in more recent years, the censorship has been coming from people of liberal persuasion who are attempting to eliminate classical works that use the “N-word.”

First, I consider that word reprehensible, and would like to ban it from society. However, I know better. In literature, the word is used quite often in classical works from some of America’s best authors.

What is ironical in the move to ban works like “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” is that in both of them, the word is being used to decry racism and slavery, both of which are abhorrent to liberals.

Now, the problem has crossed the "pond" to Ireland.

Irish are upset and are using BLM as a rationale

That two books that some Irish parents are asking to ban are one of the most popular ones with Irish teachers, “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, and “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck,

The Department of Education is considering removing "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Of Mice and Men" from the Irish secondary school curriculum after a number of parents and teachers complained about the repeated use of racial slurs in the famous books.

Both literary classics, set in the Deep South, have appeared on the Irish Junior Certificate syllabus for years, but have now faced calls to be removed in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests ignited by the killing of George Floyd in May.

A number of parents, teachers, and students have emailed Norma Foley, Ireland's Minister for Education, directly to complain about the use of the n-word when the books are read aloud.

The majority of emails contend that the books are no longer suitable reading material in Irish classrooms, according to the

Shane O’Brien, “Irish Dept. of Education may drop U.S. literary classics

in wake of BLM protests,” Irish Central, September 14, 2020

In my time as a teacher, I bought and assigned Huck Finn, but I always prefaced it by explaining why I believed that the book was a classic despite the use of that word.

Students need to be challenged

Those professionals who have been fighting against banning books are familiar with both Huck Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird.

A story from "Pen America, The Freedom to Write" five years ago showed how this is problematic, giving some background for the situation,

The N-word shows up 219 times in Mark Twain’s classic 1885 tale of childhood adventure “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” which tracks Huck’s flight from his drunken, abusive dad and journey down the Mississippi River with an escaped slave named Jim.

Over the years a number of schools have struggled with keeping the book in their curriculum, citing the offensive nature of the language, which scholars argue Twain used exactly because he wanted to drive home a point about slavery, but also because he was trying to be true to the language of the day. It was first banned just two years after its release, and it remains controversial. In 2011 the book was even revised, when a professor at the University of Virginia released a version that replaced the offending word with “slave.”

Gil Kaufman, “Here’s Why Banning ‘Huck Finn’ Over The N-Word Sends The

Wrong Message,” Pen America reprint from MTV News, December 13, 2015

Anthony Aiello of the PEN American Center explained how this has been problematic over the years,

Antonio Aiello, editorial director at the New York-based literary association the PEN American Center told MTV News, “When this book originally came out it was controversial because it was the story of a white boy who was friends with and went on a journey with a slave, a black man.” At that time, it was both unheard of and against all norms of social society to tell that type of story, which, in turn, made “Finn” an important piece of social commentary on American culture at the time. In the years since, it has often landed on the annual list of books most frequently banned in classrooms.

Aiello, who also works on PEN’s Banned Books Week project (and who noted that he does not have first-hand knowledge of why the Friends school pulled the book) said what’s lost when schools take these actions because of discomfort with the N-word is the larger message to students. “Because of the bigotry and racism going on in the presidential campaign, people are more aware of racism in a way they haven’t been before, but there’s also movements to whitewash that history and not seriously address the ongoing institutional racism in America, ” he said.

At this point in time, according to Aiello, discussing that discomfort and facing that institutional racism is what students need to do the most. “They need to be made uncomfortable,” he said. “Instead of taking this as a teachable moment to talk about where words come from and what they mean… it’s shocking that teachers wouldn’t take that opportunity. History is not going to go away.”

Gil Kaufman, Pen America reprint from MTV News, December 13, 2015

Classics are such because they present life as it is

When these books were written, the intent was to demonstrate the inherent racism found in the U.S. and the ugly consequences of it,

Harper Lee and Mark Twain didn’t shy away from using the n-word when they wrote the American classics. Both books have historically been among the American Library Association’s list of 100 most frequently challenged books. Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” a story about a poor white boy and a slave, most recently made the list in 2015, when a group of students in Montgomery County in Pennsylvania said its use of the n-word made them uncomfortable.

Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” a book about racism in the United States, has long been targeted for removal from libraries and schools. In 1966, a school board in Virginia invited the ire of the Pulitzer Prize-winning author, who mocked the board in a letter to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

“Surely it is plain to the simplest intelligence that ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ spells out in words of seldom more than two syllables a code of honor and conduct, Christian in its ethic, that is the heritage of all Southerners,” Lee wrote. “To hear that the novel is ‘immoral’ has made me count the years between now and 1984, for I have yet to come across a better example of double-think.”

Kristine Phillips, “A school district drops ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and ‘Huckleberry Finn’

over use of the n-word,” Washington Post, February 7, 2018

Conservatives have favored banning "To Kill a Mockingbird" because it casts the South in a negative light, so this censorship come from both sides of the ideological divide.

Student notes the danger of banning such books

One major concern for educators is the realization that students must be exposed to a variety of opinions and viewpoints, regardless of how controversial they may be.

A real danger of banning books is that, particularly in a public school, people meet others of all religious and ethnic backgrounds. While parents should be allowed to dictate what their children are and are not exposed to to some degree, there must be exposure to the outside world, and even to a measure of discomfort, so that students can achieve empathy and understanding …

America has a long and troubled history with race and race relations. The only solution, it could be argued, is education comprised of open dialogue.

Andrew Fehribach, “The thin line between sensitivity and censorship,”

AMSA [Advanced Math and Science Academy] Voice, March 7, 2017


The Irish are now facing a battle that America has been waging for decades, even centuries. How can we educate if we allow censorship of the classics?

The messages of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and Huck Finn are ones that young students can handle and assess. In fact, they need to handle such challenges as these.

Will use of the N-word offend some people? Of course, but if it is presented to the students in the way that I just have, they can handle it and will be much better people because of it.

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