Lee  Culpepper

The latest politically correct attempt to feign offense over The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (which unleashes Mark Twain’s piercing wit and bitter criticism of society) is currently smoldering in North Richland Hills, Texas. Ibrahim Mohamed, a 17-year-old junior at Richland High School, claims that his teacher’s reluctance to replace the hateful word “nigger” on the blackboard with the “N-Word” was “cruel” and demonstrated “bad judgment.” Mohamed was the only black student in his class. He has since been transferred to a different English class with another teacher.

Mohamed’s mother (who has never read the entire text) has aligned with local black and Muslim leaders and claims to be outraged, too. The mother, Tonya Mohamed, wants Huck Finn banned. She also thinks teachers should have to undergo sensitivity training in order to present touchy issues. Backed by the Coalition to Stop the N-word, the Mohameds also want a written apology from the teacher. Apparently, teaching students to think critically by examining uncomfortable history fails the PC test of self-esteem. Perhaps encouraging students to feel like victims is more worthwhile.

Twain’s 1884 classic opens with a warning to the readers who attempt to find a “motive, a moral, or a plot” to the story. The key word in Twain’s sentence is “attempting.” Clearly, the readers who fail to find all three elements are the mentally encumbered to whom Twain refers when he states that he would just as well see those readers “prosecuted, banished, or shot.” To miss these literary elements in the book would require tremendous effort.

In our politically correct, multi-cultural, intolerant-tolerant, and over-sensitive society, children are fortunate if they ever have the opportunity to read this historically controversial book. Today most of the controversy surrounds the repugnance of the dreaded word that is a degrading brand suggesting a human being is not a human being. At least that’s what it once meant before rap music enslaved the term to cultivate its “art.”

To defend including the novel in a school curriculum, some teachers suggest looking past the word because of its historical context. Other educators candy-coat the issue by replacing the word with PC terms like “African-American” or the “N-word.” Students often giggle or grimace and then usually struggle through the rest of Huck’s humorous yet unsettling narrative.


Lee Culpepper

Lee Culpepper is a recovering high school English teacher and former Marine. He currently teaches firearm courses and has resumed his passion for writing.