Editing classics not OK

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Imagine walking into the Louvre, the world famous art museum in Paris. There, with golden lighting casting shadows on the gray stone, you see the Venus de Milo. She is exactly like you have seen in photos – except one thing. She now stands with an evening gown covering her bare stone body.

What about viewing Michalangelo’s David while the marble statue king wears a pair of Joe Boxers?

Defilement? Blasphemy of art?

Artistic integrity is not important to the publisher releasing new versions of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. They have edited the classic Twain novels to be more polite, replacing “injun” and the n-word with “Indian” and “slave,” respectively. But who can say using the term “slave” in its place is really respectful at all?

The novel was written in a time when prejudice was the norm in America. Since then, blood has been spilled to rectify the path of hatred that those before us created. To edit out the context of the time period erases the cause that so many fought for.

The proponents of the new editions claim to be helping students. Their goal is to provide literature in classrooms that are apparently unable to handle these terrible words and a portrait of our history.

Part of that sentiment is cavalier. Students should be reading great works of literature. But at what point in censorship do the works no longer hold the value the author intended?

The Great Gatsby and The Grapes of Wrath are not only famous for narratives. They give a glimpse of life in the time periods where they are set. Twain’s work has always done the same by capturing an accurate historical context of the stories. To edit it is to lie to students about pre-Civil War America.

Are high school students not able to handle racial slurs? Classrooms are filled with pupils who spend their free time playing profanity-laced video games like Call of Duty.

They watch explicit Judd Apatow films and listen to music about sexual escapades on the public radio waves (where songs with the n-word are prevalent). They even “sext” pictures of themselves to each other.

Is adult content only allowed when it comes to entertainment? Apparently. Looking at racism for the sake of education? Well, the publisher thinks that just cannot be tolerated.

Advocates say that students become so distracted by the words in the text, they can’t appreciate the story. If that’s true, then the students need to grow up.

How will they ever mature if what might push their preconceived notions is struck from their experience?

Religion classes in college are filled with ideas that shake the very foundations of faith in students. Difficult subjects are necessary for the growth of true knowledge

Censorship is dangerous. While it can protect from unnecessary exposure to mature content, artistic integrity and accuracy must be preserved.

That doesn’t mean smut should be made for the sake of smut. The public will determine the value of art, and for those gems that have lasted hundreds of years, it is not our place to change them.

Racism and hateful slurs are wrong, no doubt about that. So was the holocaust. Just because some things may be offensive, acts of great importance cannot be omitted.

If you happen to find yourself with a copy of the newly edited Twain classics, throw them away. The only way to prevent book burning in the future is to burn the books that herald the dangerous movement of censorship.

Comic by Garrett Pekar

Comic by Garrett Pekar

Author: Evan Duncan

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