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Should Huckleberry Finn Be Taught in 8th Grade?

By steelcitymark Aug 26, 2013 1076 Words
Should The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn be taught in 8th grade?

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a classic novel by Mark Twain, is being questioned by adults everywhere. The question is whether or not it should be taught in eighth grade. A parent who reads between the lines of Huckleberry Finn could easily see that it is a stepping stone into maturing a child’s young mind and preparing it for the real world. It is those parents who fail to see the ideas behind the book, those parents who are blinded by that one word, nigger, that don’t understand how necessary it is for an eighth grade child to read the book. No matter how harmful the word is, the concept behind the book overcomes that evilness in the word and it changes your thoughts and perspective of life. Huckleberry Finn is a life altering tale of a young white boy and a black slave who overcome their differences to see the good in each others heart and not the taint of their skin. Every adolescence should read the book in 8th grade because it positively changes their life forever, and that is caused by the lesson they learn from the black slave, Jim and the white boy, Huck. “It was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up ... to go and humble myself to a ******; but I done it, and I warn't ever sorry for it afterwards, neither. I didn't do him no more mean tricks, and I wouldn't done that one if I'da knowed it would make him feel that way.” (Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Race Quotes) In this quote it’s showing how Huck sees past Jim’s race and accepts him for having human qualities. Quotes from the book like this one, only help prove the fact that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is not a racist novel. Also, David Bradley talks about how when Huck comes back to that raft, he says “they’re after us” not “they’re after you”. (Staff) This is the part of the book that shows the American dilemma-whether or not blacks are going to get along with whites. In the end, Huck and Jim become friends and it, once again, shows how Huck has accepted Jim as a person, not as an object or property. This book was not written to be racist, in fact is was written satirically to show the stupidity of racism.

If the book is taught correctly with care and concern for the students, it should touch every student and teach them a life lesson while maturing them at the same time. Nora Weiss, a ninth grade language arts teacher, believes strongly in teaching the original version of Huck Finn at this age. She says, “I do feel that any time you come up against anything that creates tension, it is a point at which you could grow and I think that life in general has many many many moments like these. And I don’t think that teaching kids to step away from that is healthy.” Some parents might think it’s just as easy to read an alternative book, but would that be protecting your child or just making them hurt in the long run? Anderson, an 11th grade language arts teacher feels the need to read it. She says, "We could ignore the book, but then we're ignoring history. We're ignoring that that language exists. I don't think, in the long run, that's helpful to our kids (Born to Trouble: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)." So as you can see, professionals like these people feel that kids can grow from reading the book. If a kid is never exposed to a book like this, they will never know what life was like back then and they will always have a biased opinion on the nigger. Some of the lesson this book brings is the fact that you should use your conscious to make decisions and not what everybody else does.

When the topic of the nigger is brought up, the first thing people think about is how are people feeling about it, their reactions. Nobody really thinks about the controversy this topic brings, which is a very important part of teaching Huckleberry Finn in 8th grade. In every class there are people who come from different ethnicities, cultures, lifestyles, etc. and knowing this, when they read the book-and the language in it-it may bring up conflict, emotions, and more or less controversy. Karen Morill, also a ninth grade language arts teacher, who believes that “It makes sense in this novel to teach it with the controversy. It makes sense to bring up all of the hard emotions. They come with it. It's not just a classic book. It's not just the way the words are written, it's the ideas” (Born to Trouble: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn). The African American scholar, David Bradley, personally loves the word, and feels that the only way to teach it is by using the word. He believes that it starts conversation about the word. “You're my nigger, man.' Look, in every group, there are words that you use, there are inflections, there is knowledge about what a word means to you, or to me, or how I mean it when I say it that is not an insult.” He also states, “Yes the word is nigger. Get over it.” “any body can be a slave, only a black person is a nigger. Good stuff that comes from the word nigger is that your people have overcome centuries of oppression.” What Bradley is trying to put across is that, depending on who uses the word and how it is used, “nigger” may have good qualities. (Pitts 3).

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn should be taught in eighth grade for the fact that it shows the history of our country and how people were treated, teaches teenagers a lesson on maturity, and also creates a controversial environment. The book was not written to showcase racism in a harsh way, it was written after slavery was abolished to show people the cruelty of racism. There are many scholars, professors, and teachers who believe teaching the novel to eighth graders-uncensored-is a great experience. There are two sides to every story, as well as the N-word, it is used in Huck Finn to emphasize racism in a certain way and scholars like David Bradley emphasize the positive side.

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