09 January 2011

I used to read the Daily Howler on a regular basis, but not so much in the last 5 years. Here is an example of what turned me off:

What’s it like to teach Huckleberry Finn in public schools these days? More specifically, how do teen-age public school students respond to all those N-words? What happens when this usage is confronted in all-black schools? In all-white schools? In schools where a few black kids may be found among a white majority? Does this create a problem for students—for black kids, let’s say? It doesn’t seem to occur to most journalists to wonder or to care. After all, these overseers possess a magic solution:
KAKUTANI: Haven’t we learned by now that removing books from the curriculum just deprives children of exposure to classic works of literature? Worse, it relieves teachers of the fundamental responsibility of putting such books in context—of helping students understand that “Huckleberry Finn” actually stands as a powerful indictment of slavery (with Nigger Jim its most noble character), of using its contested language as an opportunity to explore the painful complexities of race relations in this country. To censor or redact books on school reading lists is a form of denial: shutting the door on harsh historical realities—whitewashing them or pretending they do not exist.
It sounds so easy when Ole Massa says it! That said, that is a very strange construction. Kakutani is concerned that children are being deprived of exposure to a classic work. But she’s more upset by something else. To her, it’s even “worse” to think that teachers are being relieved of a fundamental responsibility!
Good lord, but that’s a strange reaction! It’s bad that the kids don’t read the book. It’s even worse that those lazy proles are getting away with a fast one!
I agree with him about so much, but to take exception with Mr Kakutani for her view strikes me as weird and off the point. The issue is about bowdlerizing, or sanitizing, texts. Kakutani's opinion such revised texts relieve teachers of discussing  controversy is beside the point.
While on this subject, I hate the N-word, the word is nigger, it is historical and it it is ugly, but if someone uses it, why hide it in reporting by saying "the N-word"? Everyone knows what is meant. If I write the F-word or f*ck, everyone knows I meant 'fuck'. This is childish.

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