Below the radar of the American people, a dangerous public enemy exists. It is not always distinguishable, but is slowly corroding the history of culture. This treacherous demon could be a wolf in sheep’s clothing and often goes by the name of “censorship.” In the contemporary heat of political correctness it is possible that more could be lost than someone’s neurotic temper, as the banning of timeless literature and art pervades our country’s educational system.
As it is now that time of the year for children to return to school, families are busy and pressed for time. Yet amidst this never-ending rat race, responsible mothers and fathers take the time to filter what their children are exposed to, especially concerning the media. Parents are usually concerned with what is seen or heard on television or the Internet. Yet there are fewer numbers who generally question the content being taught in school, or what is not being taught.
The issue of banning books is far from new. Content has been closely watched and dissected for decades, mainly for offensive language and tone. Some of the more infamous materials in question include “Catcher In The Rye,” “Of Mice And Men,” “1984,” and “The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn.” “Huck Finn” in particular has aroused a significant amount of attention in recent years. It ranked No. 4 on the 50 Most Frequently Banned Books. The excessive use of the “N” word continues to offend many people. This Mark Twain classic was removed from classrooms in Cherry Hill, N.J. in 1997. More recently it was banned from three Renton, Wash. high schools in 2004, as a result of an African American student claiming that the book brought degradation to her and her culture. It is said as of 2011 that Alan Gribben and NewSouth Books plan to release a version that replaces the “N” word with “slave.”
Over the decades, cultural tensions have surmounted in debates over what is deemed freedom of expression. As far as what is let loose in public circulation the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) usually decides what is acceptable based on artistic taste, ethnic significance, etc. Yet with changing times and societal norms constantly shifting these barriers are often changing, and what used to be the “line” can now be crossed, and vice versa. In the present state of our country the use of racial slurs and prejudice is extremely taboo. In a country that preaches equality for all, it is very unacceptable to slander others under racial, religious or sexual pretenses. Unfortunately, the United States of America was not always this open minded, and as a nation we have considerably evolved.
“Huck Finn” was written by Twain in the later part of the nineteenth century. During this time African Americans faced many racial injustices and hardships. In this novel Twain strove to depict this as part of the culture of that era. Modern literary enthusiasts and analysts commonly look at the book through the context of the period. The use of the “N” word, which shows up more than 200 times, reveals the plight of the slave. To erase this word or any context that suggests otherwise would be a direct lie and desecration to a piece of literature written over a century ago. To simply replace the word with a less offensive one is pulling a blindfold over our children’s eyes, denying them of the truth.
In the novel “1984,” written by George Orwell, an authoritarian dystopia is illustrated where books are destroyed and historical events are rewritten. The people are forced to live in fear and are controlled under a powerful dictatorship. The past has been changed and rewritten so many times that the actual truth has been negated and lost forever. Those who control the past control the present. Those who control the present control the future. Is that the fate of America? If we do nothing else, let us lead our children to understanding the truth.