To Teach or Not to Teach- That is the Argument Essay

Submitted By repzemail
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To Teach or Not to Teach- That is the Argument There are many different opinions about the novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, some are positive, others aren’t. It seems as if one of the main controversies is whether or not the novel should be taught in schools due to conflicting perceptions of the book. In the two articles “Why Huck Finn Belongs in Classrooms” by Jocelyn Chadwick who is an assistant professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and “Say It Ain’t So, Huck” by Jane Smiley a Pulitzer Prize winning author, the two writers take opposite stances on many issues. Chadwick argues that the novel artfully sparks the much needed discussion about race that is so desperately feared yet needed, whereas Smiley suggests that it lowers the standard of discussion about the issues and isn’t worthy to be in such a position. In her article Chadwick reasons that, being an African American herself, she would rather be dealing with someone who is working through their thoughts and beliefs when it comes to race rather than a blatant racist. She then goes on to say that people accuse Mark Twain of having “conflicting, conflicted attitudes” (Chadwick 1) on his stance with discrimination and racism in the book and life. She says that despite that, readers must still factor in that he is indeed questioning his roots and the foundations of his entire moral rearing, due to the time period this is a very positive thing. After reading many of Twain’s satires she believes that he does in fact “get it” (1), get that racism isn’t ok and that the world needs racial equality.
She also says that throughout Twain’s writing that if readers look they can see his growth, and argues that “if the African Americans of Twain’s time could recognize the extraordinariness of whites who dared question the prevailing social structures, can’t we as contemporary readers do the same?” (2) This question brings up an interesting point. Our generation favors thinking that we have reached an enlightened time where overall, most people are pretty acceptant of each other, therefore shouldn’t we, as readers of our generation, be more appreciative of his courage to speak out against the injustice that was taking place?
Smiley on the other hand is not Twain’s biggest fan. At one point in her article she even goes as far too says that “the villain here is Mark Twain” (Smiley 1). She says that “no matter how often the critics “place in context” Huck’s use of the word “nigger”, they can never excuse or fully hide the deeper racism of the novel…” (2). This goes to show her opposing viewpoint to Chadwick’s and suggests that one reason she would be against Huck Finn being taught in school is that its author is a racist.
The book’s so called “greatness” is another reason that Smiley questions it being taught in schools. She argues that the real reason the book is being taught is because “the critics of the Propaganda Era laid the groundwork for the universal inclusion of the book in school curriculums by declaring it great” (4). Essentially, according to Smiley, the only reason it is still being taught is because a bunch of dead guys said it was “great” 100 years ago, a point that many readers can sympathize with. She argues that “to invest (the novel) with “greatness” is to underwrite a very simplistic and evasive theory…