District May Drop “Huck Finn” From Required Reading List

Bao Ong, Pioneer Press, Feb. 2, 2007

The “n-word” appears one too many times in “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” for Mark Lewis.

Make that at least 200 times in the Mark Twain classic.

Lakeville high school sophomores were required for years to read “Huck Finn,” but that may change this year after some parents questioned the use of the book.

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Lewis first became concerned about “Huck Finn” when his daughter was required to read the book in her English class several years ago.

During discussion of the book, Lewis daughter said she was uncomfortable with views she said students expressedthat blacks should go to hell and interracial marriage was immoral, for instance.

After meeting with administrators, Lewis daughter was allowed to go to the library to read a different book during discussions.

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Now, Lewis son is a sophomore at Lakeville North, and he doesnt want him to go through the same experience. His son would have had to write two research papers while other students could read the book and take an exam.

This time, however, Lewis was told the school district is re-evaluating how the book will be used in sophomore English classes. Students might be given a choice of two books.

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In Lakevilles case, the district also brought in a University of Minnesota professor to help instructors learn how to teach a controversial book like “Huck Finn.”

Laurie Quinlan, the schools department head, declined to be interviewed for this story.

Gwen Johnson, another Lakeville parent, said her son does not want to go through the “Huck Finn” unit but that “its more embarrassing to go out of the classroom. He didnt want to be put somewhere alone. Hed rather sit through it.”

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Offering an alternative to a student is simple, Berenz said, but the process becomes more complex if a parent wants no child to read a particular book.

Parents tend to be more concerned about library books and movies shown in classrooms, said Mary Noel, district curriculum and instruction director in Inver Grove Heights, where “Huck Finn” is not required reading.

“If there is a challenge of a policy, there’s a process to follow,” Noel said. “We stick to that.”

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