Friday, August 21, 2015

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: The First "tweet" Against Racism

Teaching any controversial text is difficult.  Teaching a controversial text in a school that is comprised of mostly minority students is an extremely delicate process.  I have come to find the community where our school resides in an area that has a flashy exterior, but a troubled underbelly.  Many of our students are very low income, homeless, gang members, and dealing with more than many adults face daily.  Most of my students also don't have a solid educational support system at home.  Each of these issues combine to increase tensions and place students on edge when dealing with sensitive material.

Tensions rose very quickly when students were assigned to read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  I was somewhat appalled by a phone call I received where a parents voiced concerns over book choice.  This parent was concerned that Huck Finn contained derogatory and harsh commentary of African Americans.  The parent was concerned about their student's feelings and self image as the class discusses such inflammatory material.  My favorite remark from the parent was: "It is fine and good for a WHITE kid to read Huck Finn but this novel is seriously degrading to all your black students."

Has this parent even read Huckleberry Finn?!  

Mark Twain was an innovator of language, dialect, and social reform.  Twain argued against the societal views of 1840.  As Huck continues down the Mississippi River he is grappling with the pulls of an 1840 "civilized" society and his own moral compass of human decency.  

Mark Twain used The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as a way to show the world how to treat other people.  Twain fought against the societal norm of slavery and degradation.  Although we, as a world community, still have  SO MUCH to do to truly eradicate racism and defeat the ignorance that reigned in our nation, Twain demonstrates just how far we have come from the time where slavery and racism was rampant everywhere.

Twain used his novel to "tweet" to the world the significance of accepting others and finding the humanity of individuals, despite societal norms and ignorance.