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Huck Finn To Stay In Curriculum at Virginia School

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Although the outcome of Huck Finn's latest scrape with "sivilization" was not entirely clear last week, a Fairfax County, Va., superintendent rejected a proposal to ban his adventures from the school that bears his creator's name.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn can continue to be taught at the Mark Twain Intermediate School with "appropriate planning," Doris Torrice, an area school superintendent for the county, said in a memorandum to the school's principal.

The principal, John Martin, had recommended restricting Mark Twain's novel, considered a classic of American literature, to the school's library and supplementary-reading lists, following a report from the school's human-relations committee that characterized the book as racist.

In its report, the racially mixed committee objected to the "flagrant use" of the word "nigger" and said that black people were "demeaned" by their portrayal in the novel. A book-review panel composed of faculty members, parents, and administrators concurred with the human-relations committee's assessment.

Teachers Must Use Judgment

Ms. Torrice's memo rejecting the recommendation said: "In this case as in all others, it is the responsibility of the teacher to assist students in understanding the historical setting of the novel, the characters, and the social context, including the prejudice which existed at the time. ...

"Balanced judgment on the part of the classroom teacher must be used prior to making a decision to utilize this material in the intermediate-school program. Such judgment would include taking into account the age and maturity of the students, their ability to comprehend abstract concepts, and the methodology of presentation."

John H. Wallace, an administrative aide at the Mark Twain school and chairman of the school's human-relations committee, said that the committee had not decided whether to press the matter with the countywide school board and the superintendent.

Although Mr. Wallace said that, in his opinion, "the maturity factor" cited in the memo effectively barred the teaching of the novel at the intermediate-school level, a spokesman for the school district said that Ms. Torrice's intent was to have the book remain a part of the curriculum. The spokesman added that other school officials supported Ms. Torrice's decision.

Groups Support Book

Other groups, including a local teachers' association, the state branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, and a number of news-media commentators, have publicly supported continued teaching of the book.

Mr. Wallace, who is black and has led the drive to restrict the novel, said that he had been forced to read the novel when he was in high school, as had his son, and he believed it had an injurious effect on black students and should only be required reading at the college level.

Mr. Wallace has said on several occasions that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn "is the most grotesque example of racist trash that I've ever seen in my life."

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