Criticism Of Teaching Huck Finn

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Teaching Huck Finn: A Modern Day Guide to the Classic
In over 70% of classrooms all across America, students crack open the book The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (“Huck Finn”). And in these same classrooms stand teachers anxiously wading through the material, waiting for students to latch on to Twain's message, but fearing complaints, misconceptions and racist remarks instead. Although surrounded by controversy, the teaching of Huckleberry Finn in the English classroom is an essential part of educating students about the American past and moving forward as a diverse society. Teachers knowing how and why to teach the novel is what makes this daunting task achievable and successful in modern day classrooms.
Though many people have read and enjoyed Mark Twain's novel, the book is riddled with controversy, including statements on gender and sexuality. However, the most controversial theme in the novel is that of racism. The word “nigger”1 is used over 200 times in the book. Naturally, this has raised serious concerns about the appropriateness of the text in the classroom, and whether the book has racist intentions or not. A further look into the controversy over racism in the novel is necessary in order to address the issue of how and why one should teach the story.
There are many differing viewpoints about the racism in the story, even among the African American community. For instance, M. Garlinda Burton, regional director of the United Methodist News Service and author of the book Never Say Nigger Again: An Anti-racism Guide for White Liberals, says that there is never a time to use the “n-word”, regardless of the speakers intentions. Regardless of the scenario, Burton states that using the “n-word” evokes feelings of ang...

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...mates read the “n-word” aloud. Harris also notes that if one is able to make the characters come to life within the classroom, students are going to leave with a much greater understanding and appreciation of the overall message of the book (Harris).
The variety of resources teachers have at their fingertips when teaching Huckleberry Finn is endless. Although there is serious controversy surrounding the novel, by approaching the book in a way that is sensitive to others, historically grounded, and culturally aware, students can make inferences about the novel that they may have missed otherwise. By offering opportunities for differentiation, relevance, and humor to shine within the teaching of the book, students are much more likely to grasp the underlying themes of the story, and grow to appreciate the American classic that is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
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