However, with an African American about to be inaugurated as president, Foley wonders whether 'Huck Finn' ought to be sent back down the river. Why not replace it with a more modern, less discomfiting novel documenting the epic journey of discovery?
"The time has arrived to update the literature we use in high school classrooms," Foley wrote in a guest column this month for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "Barack Obama is president-elect of the United States, and novels that use the 'N-word' repeatedly need to go."
Hmmm, let's see, how can I put this delicately? Oh, I've got it...
No. You're wrong.
How about, "Only if every piece of literature that has any word that any race or demographic can find offensive, regardless of context, comes off reading lists with it."
See where I'm going? Honors 12th Grade English would suddenly consist of The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew.
"It's just my experience teaching, especially 'Huck Finn.' Every year, it seems to be a tougher sell to the kids. I have a lot of passion for 'Huck Finn,' and my enthusiasm usually carries the book. But I have kids come up to me, very smart kids, who say, 'Mr. Foley, I hate this book.' " They hate not only the difficult dialogue, he said, but what students -- usually white ones -- object to as "demeaning stereotypes."
First - your students need to grow up. Not everything they read has to be (or will be) easy. I read EVERY FUCKING WORD of The Scarlet Letter and Of Human Bondage without pulling my eyes out (though I wanted to) or whining to my teacher. So can they. Oh, and Huck Finn is a tough read? Are you sure these students are "very smart kids"?
It's sad you have to try and educate the "angry mothers" of your students on the meaning of context as well as try to get your students to understand. You shouldn't have to. But it makes it that much more important that you take the effort to make the students, not give them an easier read. That way, maybe future teachers won't have angry parents asking why a book has the "N-word" in it.
If you can't do it, won't do it, or are too tired to do it, you need to find something else to do.