Sanitizing the classics

Discussion in 'General Education' started by runsw/scissors, Jan 5, 2011.

  1. runsw/scissors

    runsw/scissors Phenom

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2006
    Messages:
    4,492
    Likes Received:
    100

    Jan 5, 2011

    I just heard about this on the news tonight. Apparently some of the classics are under fire again, but instead of banning them outright, offensive language would be replaced. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Of Mice and Men were the titles I saw highlighted in the report. The word n****r would be replaced with "slave" in Huck Finn with the rationale that the language is outdated. What are your opinons on the matter? Personally, I htink the literature ought to be left alone.
     
  2.  
  3. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

    Joined:
    May 13, 2005
    Messages:
    29,807
    Likes Received:
    1,171

    Jan 5, 2011

    Ah, Bowdlerization. It didn't work in the Victorian era, and it's unlikely to work now - except to look ridiculous in a generation.
     
  4. runsw/scissors

    runsw/scissors Phenom

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2006
    Messages:
    4,492
    Likes Received:
    100

    Jan 5, 2011

    Hi TG! I knew I'd see you here.
     
  5. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

    Joined:
    May 13, 2005
    Messages:
    29,807
    Likes Received:
    1,171

    Jan 5, 2011

    (chuckling)

    That predictable, am I?
     
  6. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2009
    Messages:
    3,432
    Likes Received:
    603

    Jan 5, 2011

    This is so frustrating. I hope no one in my school thinks that this is a good idea. Now I definitely want to go to the Banned Book event in my city coming up soon.
     
  7. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2007
    Messages:
    17,362
    Likes Received:
    46

    Jan 5, 2011

    I agree with TG. It was written to highlight the racisim of the word.
     
  8. G00d d00bie

    G00d d00bie Rookie

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2010
    Messages:
    61
    Likes Received:
    0

    Jan 5, 2011

    Leave it alone. People today should see the story as written, not as if written in a politically correct environment.
     
  9. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2007
    Messages:
    6,876
    Likes Received:
    229

    Jan 5, 2011

    I think they should leave it alone also. Good gosh. Whatever happened to freedom of speech? What is happening to our country???
     
  10. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

    Joined:
    May 13, 2005
    Messages:
    29,807
    Likes Received:
    1,171

    Jan 5, 2011

    Twain's tongue was so far in his cheek, you could see the bite marks from Ellis Island to the Golden Gate.
     
  11. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

    Joined:
    May 13, 2005
    Messages:
    29,807
    Likes Received:
    1,171

    Jan 5, 2011

    It's less a matter of free speech, though, than a massive failure of historical thinking.
     
  12. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

    Joined:
    May 8, 2008
    Messages:
    8,585
    Likes Received:
    1,700

    Jan 5, 2011

    From the classic Gilbert and Sullivan operetta Princess Ida:
    :eek:hmy::whistle::whistle::eek:hmy:​
    If you’d climb the Helicon,
    You should read Anacreon,
    Ovid’s Metamorphoses,
    Likewise Aristophanes,
    And the works of Juvenal:
    These are worth attention, all;
    But, if you will be advised,
    You will get them Bowdlerized*!

    *Remove material that is considered improper or offensive from (a text or account), esp. with the result that it becomes weaker or less effective: "a bowdlerized version of the story".

    Sorry, that's what came to mind when I heard this ridiculous idea.
     
  13. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

    Joined:
    May 13, 2005
    Messages:
    29,807
    Likes Received:
    1,171

    Jan 5, 2011

    In all cases, bowdlerization would take all the fun out of those authors.

    (The alternative to bowdlerization was often to leave the really racy passages untranslated. Generations of boys in the tonier British schools regarded this as the single best reason to learn Latin.)
     
  14. teachntexas

    teachntexas Rookie

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2011
    Messages:
    31
    Likes Received:
    0

    Jan 5, 2011

    Where's the "like" button. ;-) That makes me want to cover Huck Finn this semester just because I still can. :rolleyes:
     
  15. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

    Joined:
    May 13, 2005
    Messages:
    29,807
    Likes Received:
    1,171

    Jan 5, 2011

    Why, thank you, teachntexas!
     
  16. Mark94544

    Mark94544 Companion

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2010
    Messages:
    150
    Likes Received:
    0

    Jan 5, 2011

    Using a "sanitized version" of a classic work of literature is worse than excluding it from the curriculum. What would be next: changing the endings? Hey, while we're at it, "Scout" and "Jem" are silly names, let's change them to "Alice" and "Bob." And let's drop that unpleasant old-lady character. And...

    I'm thankful that To Kill a Mockingbird and Of Mice and Men are both protected by copyright law, so no modifications could be made without the permission of the author (or the author's estate or heirs).

    If somebody wants to publish a "cleaned-up version" of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, nobody could stop them; there are a number of abridged editions, and I'm sure some of those have "cleaned up the language."

    If my child's high school teacher used an "abridged" or "sanitized" version of Huck Finn, I'd complain. That seems unlikely in her school; last year, her class read Dick Gregory's book, "N----r: An Autobiography." I remember being surprised (but not upset).

    I remember taking a sub assignment for a teacher who emailed me that the class was "doing Moby-Dick." When I arrived in the classroom, I learned that they weren't reading the book at all, but only a brief excerpt in their textbook (which was probably selected because it didn't bring up any "issues"); they were cheated. If they're going to miss out on the "real" novel, then we should either give them excerpts that are meaningful and representative, or use complete versions of shorter works.
     
  17. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

    Joined:
    May 13, 2005
    Messages:
    29,807
    Likes Received:
    1,171

    Jan 5, 2011

    Hear, hear!
     
  18. beccmo

    beccmo Comrade

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2007
    Messages:
    490
    Likes Received:
    12

    Jan 6, 2011

    Changing the language in a piece of literature is just plain wrong. IMO classics like those listed are windows to the past, as far as social acceptances and culture of the era. The opportunity to explore and discuss the evolution of how society has evolved in written language would be lost, and that would be a shame.
     
  19. DizneeTeachR

    DizneeTeachR Virtuoso

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2003
    Messages:
    6,809
    Likes Received:
    190

    Jan 6, 2011

    I couldn't agree more...

    Sorry to bring this up I know this is for books, but I was saying the same thing when we went to Disney. We go on Splash Mountain based on the movie Song of the South. I'm singing along, loving the characters & what not... I look over at our lil ones & they are asking me who is that, what are they doing. They have NEVER seen the movie. People have been up in arms about that movie for different reasons & I think it's a shame. It's part of our pop culture/culture at that time. FYI... did you all know that the man (can't remember his name) that sang Zippity Do Dah was the first African American or any "live" person to do a Disney movie?!? I thought that was interesting. I will get off my lil soap box... but I wonder how we "learn" from our history if we keep wanting to "change" & make it more pc.
     
  20. blazer

    blazer Connoisseur

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2009
    Messages:
    1,688
    Likes Received:
    399

    Jan 6, 2011

    Wasn't there a thread along these lines a few weeks back where someone said that they were uncomfortable reading out certain words in texts and felt that they should be changed? I'll see if I can find it and bring it to the top.
     
  21. knitter63

    knitter63 Groupie

    Joined:
    Jun 26, 2007
    Messages:
    1,396
    Likes Received:
    4

    Jan 6, 2011

    Why change the texts? All kids have to do to hear the N word is to turn on the radio....
    Classics should remain as they are. As beccmo said, they reflect the era in which they were written. Reading the classics with middle schoolers and high schoolers is a great way to incorporate some history too.
     
  22. Chrissteeena

    Chrissteeena Companion

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2009
    Messages:
    154
    Likes Received:
    0

    Jan 6, 2011

    My cousins wife posted something about this on her facebook earlier today. This is her post: "Isn't removing certain words from Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn censorship? I find this offensive for two reasons 1 it violates constitutional rights. 2 if this is censored why not rap music?"

    I completely agree with beccmo; it would be a shame to change the language in these books!
     
  23. clarnet73

    clarnet73 Moderator

    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2002
    Messages:
    6,123
    Likes Received:
    0

    Jan 6, 2011

    My bf got in trouble with that book in 6th or 7th grade. His class was reading Huck Finn, and the teacher hadn't really bothered to explain that, although the terminology exists in the book, it is'nt a term polite people use today, etc. etc. etc. He hadn't been exposed to the term before the book. Of course, as a 6th grader, he used that term to refer to a classmate. He got in trouble for it, somewhat... but when they realized it was out of sheer not-knowing-ness than malicious intent to be disrespectful, he wasn't in "much" trouble.... but really what happened is that the teacher learned she needed to explain the histrocial basis for the word, why it WAS used, and why we DON'T use it now.

    I don't even think that's a very good substitution for the word. Can you imagine people going around town calling each other a "slave?" I don't have a problem with the edited edition EXISTING, but I do have a problem with using it in schools.

    When we read Catcher in the Rye in high school, we read aloud words that are not generally in my vocabulary... and our teacher was totally OK with us not saying them out loud if we chose not to. We did, however, have to use the language in our writing pieces that were supposed to be based in that style... they're words.

    Teach the history, don't avoid it.
     
  24. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Virtuoso

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2005
    Messages:
    6,040
    Likes Received:
    1,520

    Jan 6, 2011

    I was an English major, and I have a masters in literature. I hate when people mess around with literature. It makes me crazy.
     
  25. runsw/scissors

    runsw/scissors Phenom

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2006
    Messages:
    4,492
    Likes Received:
    100

    Jan 7, 2011

    Exactly. Books such as these are primary sources of historical and social study. If we sanitize them, we lose a sense of what our society once was. We need to keep these books as they were written or we are erasing/rewriting history. We need to acknowledge all of our past including the ugly parts.
     
  26. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2005
    Messages:
    14,070
    Likes Received:
    1,886

    Jan 7, 2011

  27. indigo-angel

    indigo-angel Companion

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2007
    Messages:
    200
    Likes Received:
    0

    Jan 8, 2011

    Why mess with books? I think we'd be better served as a society to sanitize sleazy commercials that use sex to sell toothpaste, popular music on the radio with lyrics that are un-repeatable and often incoherent, etc...
     
  28. runsw/scissors

    runsw/scissors Phenom

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2006
    Messages:
    4,492
    Likes Received:
    100

    Jan 9, 2011

    Yes, let's go after the classics because they contain offensive language but protect pornography. Mind the sarcasm.
     
  29. alschoolteacher

    alschoolteacher Companion

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2007
    Messages:
    153
    Likes Received:
    0

    Jan 9, 2011

    Would the authors have to give permission (those that are alive) for the book to be changed? Harper Lee would never (and in my opinion should never) give permission. She is a great lady.
     
  30. indigo-angel

    indigo-angel Companion

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2007
    Messages:
    200
    Likes Received:
    0

    Jan 9, 2011

    Somehow I feel like these little publicity stunts are really jabs at the public school system.
     
  31. Ms. I

    Ms. I Maven

    Joined:
    May 13, 2004
    Messages:
    5,892
    Likes Received:
    169

    Jan 9, 2011

    Let's look at it from others' viewpoints. For the n word, if you were a Black teacher, would you still want the word left as it is or want it changed? Now I'm not saying ALL Black teachers will want it changed. There's always a few who may not care either way, but it's a bit easier to say to leave the word "as is" if you aren't a person of the ethnicity that a book is referring to.

    If you were Mexican & the words in a book said wetback, gringo, or one of the worst derogatory racial words, would you want the words left as is? I guess some people always won't care, but others may want it changed. WHY? Because these words don't really change the story. It just shows how hateful, racist, disrespectful the characters were because if they cared, they would refer to the person in a more respectful & valued way.

    But, I know. The words probably won't be changed because if words are changed, other people will point out about ALL these other situations, words, etc. that need to be changed in numerous literary works. So everyone will be wondering how is the line drawn?
     
  32. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2007
    Messages:
    17,362
    Likes Received:
    46

    Jan 9, 2011

    Ms.I, I see your point. The n word was not always thought to be derogatory. Back in the time that Huck Finn was written, it was just a natural part of speech. Was it wrong? Back then, people would say probably not. Today, yes it is. And the word continues to remind us of that time in our past. I'm still with the camp that says the classics need to be left alone. They are classics for a reason.
     
  33. Ms. I

    Ms. I Maven

    Joined:
    May 13, 2004
    Messages:
    5,892
    Likes Received:
    169

    Jan 9, 2011

    I'm glad you can at least see me point stg. Now it would be different if a word WILL ALWAYS be meant something POSITIVE, but certain words do NOT. But then that's the other point I had raised. If those words are changed, others will point out all kinds of other situations, words, etc. that are NEGATIVE, so then they'd demand all those things be changed as well.
     
  34. blazer

    blazer Connoisseur

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2009
    Messages:
    1,688
    Likes Received:
    399

    Jan 9, 2011

    So what about other words that have changed meaning? Do we have to alter those as well. What about a word like Gay? It used to mean one thing now when you hear it the meaning is totally different. So what if, in 10 years time it was decided that the word gay is offensive. Would we have to sanitise everything that used the word?
     
  35. Sam Aye M

    Sam Aye M Mr. Know-It-All

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2003
    Messages:
    248
    Likes Received:
    5

    Jan 9, 2011

    I disagree with the words not really changing the story. You stated that it shows how hateful, racist, and disrespectful the characters were. That characterization is intentional, and is part of the story. If you change the words, you sanitize the character, and they are no longer as hateful, racist or disrespectful as the author intended.
     
  36. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2004
    Messages:
    2,974
    Likes Received:
    1

    Jan 9, 2011

    Nothing is worse than altering the classics...well maybe altering primary sources. That boils my blood.
     
  37. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2007
    Messages:
    17,362
    Likes Received:
    46

    Jan 9, 2011

    Can a person even do that, Brendan? Because that would be changing what the person actually wrote.


    I agree Sam. Also, words like 'wetback' are meant to be derogatory. I don't believe the n word was meant to be derogatory at the time, but it came to be that way later on. Mark Twain wrote Huck Finn not long after the Civil War so the word was still being used as it had been before. When Harper Lee wrote To Kill a Mockingbird, the n word was derogatory. And the book was written to stress the racism of the use of that word.
     
  38. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2004
    Messages:
    2,974
    Likes Received:
    1

    Jan 9, 2011

    I've seen it. They replace or take out fully the bad words.
     
  39. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2007
    Messages:
    17,362
    Likes Received:
    46

    Jan 9, 2011

    Do they at least put the brackets around them?
     
  40. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2004
    Messages:
    2,974
    Likes Received:
    1

    Jan 9, 2011

    Not usually....
     
  41. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2007
    Messages:
    17,362
    Likes Received:
    46

    Jan 9, 2011

    Ohhh, that would make me upset!
     

Share This Page

Members Online Now

Total: 292 (members: 0, guests: 260, robots: 32)
test