Should Books with the “N-word” be Taught in Schools?


Evan Tree

A page from “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”

To Kill a Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn–what do these two books have in common?

Both are novels from long ago, released in 1960 and 1880 respectively. They are known for their popularity, having a total of over 60 million copies of both books combined. Furthermore, they are both taught at Cam High, and they both contain the N-word–and other racist words. It has been a nationally acknowledged topic that these books could be deemed as inappropriate to teach in public schools, and the students of Cam High are not any less “on the fence” about this issue.

According to Travis Smith, senior at Cam High, the fact that a book contains the word should not devalue the educational usage of it–it was used because of the societal norms when the novel was written. Because these words are sensitive in today’s society, it does not mean they always were.

Some believe it is better not to ignore the existence of this kind of language, and censoring/removing books with such language could be seen as the erasure of the suffering of a demographic. Smith believes history as a whole should not be censored, as there are many positives that come out of understanding the history of America–namely that we know how to solve modern social issues. “Taking that kind [of] literature out of historic works is, y’know, like saying it never existed, as opposed to how we are overcoming it,” Smith said.

Zoe Gonzales, a Senior at Cam High, thinks differently from Smith, believing that it may best to retire these novels, and language: “Moving forward, it’s okay to acknowledge the past, however, we do not need to be continuing the usage of derogatory and racist language,” said Gonzales.

Gonzales believes that just because such language is a part of our nation’s history, it does not justify it still being read, written, and shared today. There have been cases of parents and students complaining about the usage of this word in lessons. To stop teaching something that won’t really affect knowing about this dark past, it could be taught about without the usage of said language, and that is done in some school courses already. The state of Virginia already has done this, for example, in 2016 by banning both books talked about due to their language.

Though both sides could be seen as reasonable, books containing the N-word should not be taught in school, It is not monumental to not teach certain books. Some believe a good compromise could be to reprint a new version of the novels omitting this specific language. Even if this language is censored from books taught, it does not mean it will be censored in other media–people have used the N-word for years, and some people even continue to use it to this day.

People should realize the weight this word truly carries. It is one of the components still standing from a disgraceful era of slavery and prejudice within America, and many other countries as well. This issue should not just tackle the N-word, but other racial slurs, and racism as a whole, as well. If we learn from the past, we can quickly understand the effect of our words, and insight true change.