Trying to defuse the Huckleberry hot button issue


Two Portland high school students recently asked the Portland school board to launch sensitivity training for teachers in the wake of criticisms of the use of 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn' in some district English classes.

The students presented their petition shortly after Portland school board member Derry Jackson failed to convince other board members that the book should be removed from district reading lists. Board Chairwoman Karla Wenzel has asked district leaders to examine how teachers are trained in racial sensitivity.

Jackson and the students object to the word 'nigger' used repeatedly in the book. The students have said that many educators are insensitive to the discomfort that many black students feel while reading the book.

Here are two views on the use of the book and the need for racial sensitivity in student instruction. One article is by Franklin High School student Charles McGee III, one of the two students who presented the petition. The other is from Manuel E. Mateo, an English teacher at Franklin and one of McGee's teachers.