Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" is being revisited by one professor who wants to make it more accessible - by censoring it and reducing the offensive language that people are appalled by, or so the claim goes.
Important background information: Twain's novel was published in 1884 in England - so considering the time period, naturally a lot of things we recognize as prejudice today were considered social norms and regular vocabulary. African Americans and Native Americans in particular took a blow in social class and human rights.
The professor in question decided to appease people who found the derogatory terms from the time period offensive, taking out the 'n' word and 'Injun' to replace with modern day terms.
There are two things I find deplorable about this approach (and I'm even more worried that a professor would tell us it's OK to use this method of censorship).
One, this actually destroys the critique Twain was creating. This novel was a satirical critique of standards that were more prevalent twenty years before the novel was published. In essence, the novel was both a social reflection of true beliefs and perhaps a bit of a scolding for people continuing to hold those beliefs at the time of its publishing. Censoring it therefore destroys the intent of the author. Of course we're uncomfortable when reading these words in particular and seeing the interactions between people; that's the point! These are historical reflections of a reality that did in fact exist. We should be uncomfortable reading about it, and thus be motivated to make sure we avoid these same mistakes with other people we live with today.
More importantly, why do people feel the need to cover up the past? Making it look as if these sorts of issues did not exist in the past is more offensive than the actual issues. It's the equivalent of covering up a crime when justice can only be given when the evidence is presented in front of everyone and we have the chance to judge for ourselves.
In other words: we've made progress from this time period, and there is much progress to be made yet. But covering up the mistakes of the past is more offensive than admitting that we made mistakes in the past - and when it comes to social commentary and examination, we need to be honest with ourselves at all times, not edit the history we lived to cover up past crimes.
To read another editorial and commentary on this censorship, go here: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/06/opinion/06thu4.html?_r=1&ref=opinion