OPINION: Up to the Challenge

Huckleberry Finn ultimately needs to remain in circulation

By Nikki Aqui, Opinion Editor

The N-word is said in the novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn 219 times.

This year, the school district made the decision to suspend teaching the novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn until further reviews of the book take place. It’s a decision that has sparked mass debates between students and faculty members.

When I first heard about the debate surrounding the novel, to me, the answer seemed so obvious. It seemed clear the book is a great American novel and that the story is deeper than the word that is used. I thought it was absolutely ridiculous that the book would be suspended and the decision would take away my opportunity to read it.

While rummaging through my thoughts, I wondered what weight my opinions have. After all, I haven’t read the book yet. So, I decided to speak with English teachers who have taught the book, as well as some faculty who has been open about their distaste for the novel.
I find myself in an uncomfortable position.

As an intellectual, I believe that this text is important. I think it should be embraced, read and studied. I believe that being uncomfortable is OK, and it should be the white students who are made the most uncomfortable while reading this.

Yet, while submerging myself further into my chaotic thoughts, I thought about my own AP Language class. I am one of four brown students in that class. And although the N-word doesn’t directly affect me, I can imagine that if I were the only minority in the class, which isn’t a rarity in Kansas, I would be made incredibly uncomfortable reading the text.

I began to question, is the feeling of discomfort that comes with the text more destructive than beneficial to the student? Is my intellectual thinking forcing me to ignore the feeling that this word may give students? Is feeling stronger than intellect?

After talking to the faculty, I talked to mixed and white students and the consensus seemed unanimous: yes, the book was uncomfortable to read. But running away from the feeling of discomfort, and the word, and the history is worse.

Given the right teachers, reading Huck Finn is beneficial. Teachers need to teach this book in a way that makes the students understand why this was written and have an open conversation.

High school students are a lot smarter than what they are given credit for. The book should be taught, and if anything, use the suspension of the book as a time to train the teachers on how to better teach the book and what needs to be discussed while reading. Move forward in a way that makes us confident that the discomfort we feel is beneficial rather than destructive.