Victoria Gutschenritter, assistant director of the Mishawaka-Penn-Harris Public Library, said, "It’s interesting ... but it’s not unusual."
Classic works of literature have been changed for children over the years, and one publishing house even did essentially the same thing that a Twain scholar is doing now: replacing the n-word with one that’s more politically correct.
Alan Gribben, an English professor at Auburn University at Montgomery, along with NewSouth Publishing, is putting out a new edition of the book in which the n-word will be replaced by the word "slave."
It will reportedly be available in February, in a hardcover edition, for $24.95.
Mickey Roelandts, interim director of curriculum and instruction for School City of Mishawaka, said the current version of the book was used in the 10th-grade curriculum for eight or nine years at Mishawaka High School.
Then it was switched for another book by the teachers’ choice, not because of any controversy surrounding it.
During the nearly 10-year time span that it was used, Roelandts said, teachers at the high school could only recall twice that parents asked that their students be provided with an alternative book.
Mary Nicolini, an English teacher at Penn High School and director of the writing center there, said she’s disappointed that the creation of a new version is seen as a potential solution to the effect of the offensive language in the book.
As for the n-word, Nicolini said it should make readers uncomfortable.
"It’s a terrible word. As teachers, we must teach the pain and suffering it’s caused, the power it wields," she said.
That said, Nicolini said the book offers teachers the opportunity to talk to students about the way language is developed and how its meaning can change over time.
"Every word an author chooses is deliberate," she said. Twain scholars will say he almost used "slave" instead of the n-word, but he didn’t.
Nicolini said it’s a teacher’s job to address any issues with offensive language before students delve into a work of literature.
"If it makes you uncomfortable," she said, "deal with it. That’s when learning occurs."
As to whether she and other teachers would consider using the new edition in Penn High School classrooms, Nicolini said she will not, adding, "especially at $25 a pop."
Staff writer Kim Kilbride: