"The time has arrived to update the literature we use in high school classrooms," Ridgefield, Washington high school teacher John 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."
It's very sad that the so-called controversy still rages on after so many years, but apparently, it still does. Foley claims that he is tired of having to rationalize the book to offended students and parents, yet still claims to be "passionate" about it. Oh yeah, and he also wants To Kill a Mockingbird and Of Mice and Men dropped from the curriculum as well, because of their repeated use of the word "nigger", and their supposed demeaning depiction of African Americans as "ignorant".
How unfortunate that these sentiments would be coming from an educator, and that that educator would be using the historic election of Barack Obama--which Twain himself would more than likely have welcomed joyously--as a justification for the abandonment of Twain's greatest work. That a man who claims to be "passionate" about the novel is unable to comprehend its true message and the means to bestow that message upon his students. All he sees is that word, regardless of context and meaning. Now that's ignorant.
Want to find a demeaning use of the word "nigger"? Try listening to some of the music that those very high school students he's trying to "protect" are listening to on their iPods.
Foley's editorial was met with a largely negative response by readers of the Post-Intelligencer, as well as fellow educators. That, at least, I can take solace in. For the entire report, go here.