William Shirer and Gays

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Donald Schneider

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I recently read where a gay activist wants the publisher of William L. Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich to change the wording when Shirer discusses SA Chief of Staff Ernst Röhm and his homosexual cohorts and in some other instances. The book was published in 1960 and when I first read it some years later, but before the gay rights movement was up to anywhere near full steam, I didn’t think much of it, which goes to show how times have so radically changed in a relative eyeblink of time. Now, of course, I can see the activist’s point.

Shirer, who was a great liberal who hated the Nazis, wrote so matter-of-factly (i.e., in a manner then that never would have occurred to him would later be controversial) regarding homosexuality in language like: “...jealousies and rivalries among only men of such unnatural tendencies."; and describing the early Nazis as: “...a collection of criminals, murderers, crackpots and perverts.” (Note: this is from memory as I don’t have the book in front of me, but this is close to what and how he wrote.)

I can see what a raw nerve this touches in gays today precisely because Shirer had not been some aberrant “homophobe,” but rather a pillar of society with quite conventional and even enlightened views for the times. I was wondering how people feel about the request (demand?) to change the text now, long after the book’s author has died. Is this unwarranted censorship or an understandable appeal to sensitivity?.

By the way, I have been an voracious reader since childhood. I think I read this book around 1968 at age 13 or 14. I recall while doing so that I asked my father in all innocence what a “pimp” is. His face turned red and he just told me to “never mind!” For younger folks here, I don’t think you can ever really appreciate how very much times have changed in the last fifty years, no matter how many reruns of fifties and sixties TV shows you might have watched!
You had to have been there.
 
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I completely disapprove of attempts to edit past works like that. I understand the urge - as a woman, I can't tell you how many times I've read casual put downs that someone thought was a charming observation or a genuine truth about us. However, I also know what biases an author is likely to have depending on time, culture and circumstances, so it's up to me to decide if I think the information or story in a given book is good enough to make myself read about how childish, perfidious or sinful the author knows women to be. But in no circumstances do I think it's acceptable to demand the right to edit the past to avoid offending people today.

If that activist is offended by the existence of Shirer's book, he needs to get over it. If he's offended it's being taught in a particular school, I think he'd do better to speak to the teacher about pointing out biases and how to spot them as part of a lesson on totalitatrian societies.

I can't help but think there's a certain irony in any attempt to censor a history of the Nazis because one feels the author doesn't hold the right opinion.
 

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We shouldn't erase the evidence that even the most learned, enlightened people in history had shitty opinions. Otherwise you risk forgetting how hard the fight has been to change them.

At the same time, though, we should never excuse shitty opinions just because 'everyone thought that way back then'. Read the article Helix posted.
 

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This isn't editing; it's bowdlerizing, and it's totally unacceptable.
 

Donald Schneider

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Are you referring to Peter Tatchell's comments from 21 years ago or this a more recent discussion?

I have to amend my OP by stating that rather than having read about this very recently, I heard it on the radio. I think it was on NPR. However, here is another article by the same man that you link to, only much more recently:

http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/homophobic-histories-nazism-ignore-hitlers-war-against-gay-men-1519717

I’m uncertain if this is the same man as the one mentioned in the radio report.

Also, here is an article in an Iowan newspaper about Shirer, one of the state's illustrious sons. It mentions how Shirer was somewhat discriminated against because of his liberal views during the McCarthy era. This now seems tinged with irony:

http://data.desmoinesregister.com/famous-iowans/william-shirer

Thank you for the reply and link.
 

Donald Schneider

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This isn't editing; it's bowdlerizing, and it's totally unacceptable.

It’s been awhile since I heard or read that word, so I had to look it up. According to its definition in Merriam-Webster, you chose the exact right word! Yes, this is exactly what this is an example of. The question is, whether or not it’s justified. I agree it never is. In fact, I think it provides an excellent learning opportunity for intelligent contemporary readers, an epiphany moment. Just as archeologists attempt to understand ancient cultures by artifacts they unearth as clues, the intelligent reader might note: “Apparently, this was the attitude of these times” and perhaps investigate further.

I saw a movie about the Boston Strangler years ago with Henry Fonda who plays a police officer who leads the investigation. In one scene, he visits a gay bar or nightclub and makes no bones about his distaste for what he obviously, like Shirer, considers moral degeneracy. This surprised me as Fonda was noted for his politically liberal views. This wasn't a case of an actor willing to play a despicable character such as Hitler, for example. That’s his or her job. Rather, this was a case of a notable actor willing to play a “good guy” who harbors such views; again, a testament to the times.
 
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Donald Schneider

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Sounds much like the sanitation of Huck Finn a few years back.

Somewhat, but there is a distinct difference. Huck Finn is a case where an author presents characters in a manner realistic to their time and place and faithfully reproduces their attitudes and manner of being. As in all such cases, Twain doesn’t necessarily reflect his personal opinions. Shirer’s work is nonfiction and does reflect his attitudes regarding homosexuality. Again, what hits a raw nerve is that Shirer was not attempting to propagandize against gays. Rather, he writes matter-of-factly with views that would never have occurred to him that others would find objectionable.

The cornerstone strategy of those seeking to legitimize homosexuality was to change the view that the practice of homosexuality was a behavior, like fornication or drug usage, into a state of being. In other words, the attempt to convince people to think of the word “homosexual” as a noun rather than as an adjective. The strategy succeeded remarkably well; indeed, probably way beyond the expectations of the most fervent gay advocates years ago. The thought of people of the same sex being permitted to legally marry would have seemed like something out of dystopian SF novel to William Shirer then and virtually his entire generation, and an utopian one to gay people then.

One final point on Huck Finn. I do recognize its greatness as an American classic, a watershed work. However, I’m not insensitive to others’ feelings. I don’t think this book should be forced upon anyone, especially youngsters of color. A teacher should explain beforehand that the work includes racial pejoratives and that it reflects the times in which it is set and allow students to opt out of reading it in favor of another book. I don’t think black youngsters should be forced to subject themselves to the book’s verbiage and implications. It’s not as if Huck Finn is the only novel of merit in American literature.
 
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Donald Schneider

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I completely disapprove of attempts to edit past works like that. I understand the urge - as a woman, I can't tell you how many times I've read casual put downs that someone thought was a charming observation or a genuine truth about us. However, I also know what biases an author is likely to have depending on time, culture and circumstances, so it's up to me to decide if I think the information or story in a given book is good enough to make myself read about how childish, perfidious or sinful the author knows women to be. But in no circumstances do I think it's acceptable to demand the right to edit the past to avoid offending people today.

If that activist is offended by the existence of Shirer's book, he needs to get over it. If he's offended it's being taught in a particular school, I think he'd do better to speak to the teacher about pointing out biases and how to spot them as part of a lesson on totalitatrian societies.

I can't help but think there's a certain irony in any attempt to censor a history of the Nazis because one feels the author doesn't hold the right opinion.

I agree completely and very well said. Thank you.
 

Donald Schneider

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We shouldn't erase the evidence that even the most learned, enlightened people in history had shitty opinions. Otherwise you risk forgetting how hard the fight has been to change them.

At the same time, though, we should never excuse shitty opinions just because 'everyone thought that way back then'. Read the article Helix posted.

Thank you for the response. Please read my answer to AW Admin
 

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Somewhat, but there is a distinct difference. Huck Finn is a case where an author presents characters in a manner realistic to their time and place and faithfully reproduces their attitudes and manner of being. As in all such cases, Twain doesn’t necessarily reflect his personal opinions. Shirer’s work is nonfiction and does reflect his attitudes regarding homosexuality. Again, what hits a raw nerve is that Shirer was not attempting to propagandize against gays. Rather, he writes matter-of-factly with views that would never have occurred to him that others would find objectionable.

Fiction or non-fiction, it makes no difference. Indeed, one could make the case that it's even worse to edit non-fiction in this manner. What's more frustrating, in day-to-day life, then trying to state your opinion and being told, "I know you said this, but surely you actually meant something else?" Having people wait until you're dead and can't defend your words, then proceeding with abandon.

Additionally, Huck Finn may have been an examination of and commentary on racism itself, but there are plenty of older fictional works where racist/sexist/homophobic/etc. subtext is just as visible without being the subject matter of the story itself. They're products of their time, and to pretend that all other times and places are exactly like our own time and place is both dismissive of history and other cultures, and a disservice to ourselves.

I wrote my senior thesis on the racist and sexist elements in Jack London's work, examining whether those elements detracted from whatever literary merit the work had otherwise. In the process, I ran into an interesting situation, quite by accident.

You see, I was living in Italy at the time, so books in English were hard to come by and generally had to be ordered online. Luckily, Project Gutenberg was a thing by then, which gave me access to most of London's work (first-edition texts, no less), most usefully the ones that were out of print. I ordered hard copies where I could, and used PG to fill in the gaps.

One of London's lesser-known works, "Jerry of the Islands," came back into print while I was in the midst of my research, and I ordered it immediately. However, it took several weeks to arrive, so in the meantime I read it online and copied down the passages I wanted to quote in the paper, making notes of their location in the text so I could cite the hard copy rather than the website.

When the hard copy arrived, however, several of the passages I'd marked were nowhere to be found. Multi-paragraph chunks had simply been...removed. One spot had replaced two paragraphs of insulting character description with one vaguely complimentary sentence, completely altering the meaning and implications of the entire chapter.

I checked every inch of that book, certain that if a publisher had changed the work, they'd have to notate that fact somewhere. It had a brief blurb at the beginning that apologetically stated that the opinions within the work weren't those of the publisher, but there was no indication that the text had been "edited for content" or altered from its original form in any way. If I had only read that version, I would never have known anything was amiss.

The proper response to problematic elements in older texts isn't to change those texts, but to write new stories with new ideas. Raise the bar within your own work...and hope that future generations don't decide it was still too low and alter your text to suit their own tastes, tying your name to words you never wrote.
 
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Somewhat, but there is a distinct difference. Huck Finn is a case where an author presents characters in a manner realistic to their time and place and faithfully reproduces their attitudes and manner of being. As in all such cases, Twain doesn’t necessarily reflect his personal opinions. Shirer’s work is nonfiction and does reflect his attitudes regarding homosexuality. Again, what hits a raw nerve is that Shirer was not attempting to propagandize against gays. Rather, he writes matter-of-factly with views that would never have occurred to him that others would find objectionable.

This is wishful thinking on your part, and ahistorical

Twain used the word nigger because people who were racist bigots (including often Twain himself) used the word nigger in his era. He wasn't as much of a racist as many, but he certainly was racist and bigoted, and he knew that.

Shirer referred to homosexuals the way people like him referred to homosexuals in his his era.

They are exactly equivalent. Both were typical men of their social class and cultures and times.

The cornerstone strategy of those seeking to legitimize homosexuality was to change the view that the practice of homosexuality was a behavior, like fornication or drug usage, into a state of being. In other words, the attempt to convince people to think of the word “homosexual” as a noun rather than as an adjective. The strategy succeeded remarkably well; indeed, probably way beyond the expectations of the most fervent gay advocates years ago. The thought of people of the same sex being permitted to legally marry would have seemed like something out of dystopian SF novel to William Shirer then and virtually his entire generation, and an utopian one to gay people then.

You know you're revealing your own issues here; first, you've got the "cornerstone strategy" inverted. The use of gay, or homosexual or queer as a noun is problematic, as in the gays, the homosexuals, the queers, much like the blacks, the Jews or the Swedes; nominalizing is a distancing strategy to turn people into objects.

I also love the way you refer to "gay advocates," like it's a campaign. It's usually followed by "the agenda" and "lifestyle."


One final point on Huck Finn. I do recognize its greatness as an American classic, a watershed work. However, I’m not insensitive to others’ feelings. I don’t think this book should be forced upon anyone, especially youngsters of color. A teacher should explain beforehand that the work includes racial pejoratives and that it reflects the times in which it is set and allow students to opt out of reading it in favor of another book. I don’t think black youngsters should be forced to subject themselves to the book’s verbiage and implications. It’s not as if Huck Finn is the only novel of merit in American literature.

I absoutely am fine forcing people in a classroom to read the book. Moreover, it's more often than not not PoC who don't want to read the book, it's white people who want to re-write history. Much like the people wanting to re-edit Shirer's book.
 
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I completely disapprove of attempts to edit past works like that. I understand the urge - as a woman, I can't tell you how many times I've read casual put downs that someone thought was a charming observation or a genuine truth about us. However, I also know what biases an author is likely to have depending on time, culture and circumstances, so it's up to me to decide if I think the information or story in a given book is good enough to make myself read about how childish, perfidious or sinful the author knows women to be. But in no circumstances do I think it's acceptable to demand the right to edit the past to avoid offending people today.

If that activist is offended by the existence of Shirer's book, he needs to get over it. If he's offended it's being taught in a particular school, I think he'd do better to speak to the teacher about pointing out biases and how to spot them as part of a lesson on totalitatrian societies.

I can't help but think there's a certain irony in any attempt to censor a history of the Nazis because one feels the author doesn't hold the right opinion.

Totally agree. Every few years, I'll pull The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, off the shelf, reserve some hours over a few weekends, and dive deeply through 1,250 pages of one of the best books I've ever read. Is Shirer's flawless in his research, reporting and conclusions? No, but he's generally on point and even if the history of Nazi Germany rankles some historians, it's still one of the most edifying books written about Adolf Hitler and his dark reign of evil.

It is simply revisionism at its worst to apply 2016 standards to a 1960 book. It's fair game to pick apart the book and the author for its inaccuracies and errors, but it's puerile to go after the book in the way Peter Tatchell did. If a book glosses over a significant point in history, the best way to correct it is to write a better book that doesn't.

Somewhat, but there is a distinct difference. Huck Finn is a case where an author presents characters in a manner realistic to their time and place and faithfully reproduces their attitudes and manner of being. As in all such cases, Twain doesn’t necessarily reflect his personal opinions. Shirer’s work is nonfiction and does reflect his attitudes regarding homosexuality. Again, what hits a raw nerve is that Shirer was not attempting to propagandize against gays. Rather, he writes matter-of-factly with views that would never have occurred to him that others would find objectionable.

Again, what would you have Shirer do? He would have had to be clairvoyant to be prescient enough to know how his views on homosexuality would grate and offend reader sensibilities. Shirer died in 1993, so it's safe to conclude he's not doing any rewrites of his magnum opus.

The author's work outlives the author and while it is subject to review and reanalysis, it should be impervious to revision. Either you read it or you leave it. If The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, offends a given reader I'm confident there are options less offensive to their sensibilities.

I submit for any writer to try and determine what in their books will outrage someone 56 years later is not only an impossible errand, but a fool's errand as well.

Donald Schneider said:
The cornerstone strategy of those seeking to legitimize homosexuality was to change the view that the practice of homosexuality was a behavior, like fornication or drug usage, into a state of being. In other words, the attempt to convince people to think of the word “homosexual” as a noun rather than as an adjective. The strategy succeeded remarkably well; indeed, probably way beyond the expectations of the most fervent gay advocates years ago. The thought of people of the same sex being permitted to legally marry would have seemed like something out of dystopian SF novel to William Shirer then and virtually his entire generation, and an utopian one to gay people then.

One final point on Huck Finn. I do recognize its greatness as an American classic, a watershed work. However, I’m not insensitive to others’ feelings. I don’t think this book should be forced upon anyone, especially youngsters of color. A teacher should explain beforehand that the work includes racial pejoratives and that it reflects the times in which it is set and allow students to opt out of reading it in favor of another book. I don’t think black youngsters should be forced to subject themselves to the book’s verbiage and implications. It’s not as if Huck Finn is the only novel of merit in American literature.

I recall my wife and I once attended a PTA meeting with our son's high school instructors. One very nice young White lady explained how they were not going to be assigning books by Melville, Dickens, Shakespeare among others. We asked why and she smiled and replied, "This is a majority Black school and we feel the students should be reading books they can relate to instead of ones from a bunch of old, dead White guys."

That's what she said. Honest.

I smiled back and said, "That's all well and good, but while I not only respect, but urge greater cultural diversity in literature, our son wants to go on to college. We believe at some point in his college career he will be asked what he knows about Melville, Dickens, Fitzgerald or Shakespeare and he's going to have to come up with an answer better than 'I didn't read them because they were old, dead White guys.' "

They couldn't have looked more surprised if we had jumped up and slapped them in the face.

There are good reasons not to read Huckleberry Finn and its verbiage and implications are two of them. I have no problem with parents objecting to their kids being required to read certain books. I have a big problem with parents and students whom seem to believe they should never be compelled to read books that may be challenging, disturbing, offensive and contrary to their beliefs.

If I had my way, Richard Wright's Black Boy and Native Son would be required reading in high school and if somebody gets bent because Wright uses the slur, "nigger" then they're just going to have to deal with it. Literature should not be cooked up and served up designed to feed the masses with the blandest of the bland ingredients. In the zeal to make books as inoffensive as possible we've overfed a generation of thumb-sucking babies raised on a steady diet of mushy pablum; short on literary taste and even shorter on intellectual nourishment.
 

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If it were my book and I had the ability to do so, I'd definitely issue a new edition that changed such wording to reflect the evolution in my own thinking (and that of society as a whole). Plenty of authors do this with non fiction, and not just for social reasons (they may change editions as new information becomes available that is relevant to the topic at hand).

I'm a bit more hesitant about changing the wording of a different author, even if he is dead and not capable of deciding for himself how to handle this (unless, of course, I'd been authorized by said author to continue issuing new editions with appropriate changes). Maybe the publisher of the current edition could include a forward or annotations that explain that some of the thoughts represented in this book are dated (and prejudiced) by modern standards, and the reader should be warned and hopefully take them in that context. I've certainly seen this done with other books.

It's a tough issue, and one that is often dismissed as "preciousness" or "political correctness," but if one belongs to a demographic that has always been regarded as normal or typical human beings, it's easy to dismiss the pain that comes from constantly being reminded of how prejudiced everyone was until quite recently (and how prejudiced some still are) against your flavor of humanity. I know that I cringe at the casual and unexamined sexism that is present in many older books, even though I know the authors generally didn't mean to be cruel or belittling and were simply products of their times. For this reason, I tend not to enjoy books as much that were published prior to the elevation of my gender to full humanity (of course, some writers haven't gotten the memo, even today).

So I have a good deal of empathy for the pain and frustration that comes from most of the assigned and "edifying" reads one encounters in school being written by people who aren't from your demographic and were horrifically prejudiced against people who are like you.
 
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For non-fiction I think the frame is different if you are using the book as a direct text, or as the text under study--and whether it has a history of active revision. Textbooks are regularly updated and material reflecting archaic prejudices is removed. This process is constant and not considered unusual, just part of being a living text that is still adapting it its audience. But once a book falls from that active process it becomes frozen as an artifact of its period.
 

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I recall my wife and I once attended a PTA meeting with our son's high school instructors. One very nice young White lady explained how they were not going to be assigning books by Melville, Dickens, Shakespeare among others. We asked why and she smiled and replied, "This is a majority Black school and we feel the students should be reading books they can relate to instead of ones from a bunch of old, dead White guys."

I know this is a serious subject, and I'm all about authorial diversity, but I'm entertaining myself imagining how restrictive the options would be if these criteria were genuinely followed to the letter and schools only assigned works by authors that didn't fit any of those adjectives.

There's be a huge market for classic-quality works by young, living, women of color, plus a lot of turnover in material as those women aged, thereby rendering their work ineligible for further study.
 
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This is wishful thinking on your part, and ahistorical

Twain used the word nigger because people who were racist bigots (including often Twain himself) used the word nigger in his era. He wasn't as much of a racist as many, but he certainly was racist and bigoted, and he knew that.

Schneider referred to homosexuals the way people like him referred to homosexuals in his his era.

They are exactly equivalent. Both were typical men of their social class and cultures and times.



You know you're revealing your own issues here; first, you've got the "cornerstone strategy" inverted. The use of gay, or homosexual or queer as a noun is problematic, as in the gays, the homosexuals, the queers, much like the blacks, the Jews or the Swedes; nominalizing is a distancing strategy to turn people into objects.

I also love the way you refer to "gay advocates," like it's a campaign. It's usually followed by "the agenda" and "lifestyle."




I absoutely am fine forcing people in a classroom to read the book. Moreover, it's more often than not PoC who don't want to read the book, it's white people who want to re-write history. Much like the people wanting to re-edit Shirer book.

I don’t know enough about Twain as a person to form an opinion as to how racist he might have been. The point is that he presented characters from his experience, as all writers do, and presented them realistically. Lincoln’s “enlightened attitudes" towards people of color basically amounted to “be kind to dumb animals." He wanted them out of America and back to Africa and even scolded a group of black leaders for the black man being the cause of whites butchering one another in the war. One cannot divorce a person from his or her times. Shirer’s view of homosexuals were those held by the vast majority of people of his generation. We seem to agree on that point so I don’t see where any conflict occurs between us.

The strategy I referred to of gay activists was one of first establishing gays as an identifiable group by virtue of birth based on what came to be known as sexual orientation (as opposed to people like anyone else simply engaging in wrong behavior) and then playing the identity politics game. I’m not criticizing that strategy (it worked), and I don’t believe that the vast majority of gay people are making a choice contrary to their inherent sexual and romantic desires. Therefore, it was effective without being mendacious.

I agree with you that it is never all right to change anything of substance written by another without his or her permission: period! We shall have to disagree that it is all right to force black children to read Huck Finn. As I said, the novel is hardly the only work of merit in American literature.
 
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Nighttimer, the only thing I said about Shirer’s views on homosexuality was that they represented the vast majority of people of his generation. Even liberalism hadn’t caught up with homosexuality then. The point of the post was what I indicated. Is it proper now to edit out what he had written in future editions of his book?

I enjoyed hearing of your encounter with school officials. Bravo!

We seem to agree that it is proper to excuse students from reading Huck Finn if they find the language and subject matter offensive but it is not all right to change what an author had written without his or her permission. I also agree with your subsequent thoughts about what is proper to teach.

Thank you for the very interesting reply.
 
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Shirer’s view of homosexuals were those held by the vast majority of people of his generation.

It is wording like the above that Medi is referring to. Moreover, it is the continued use of such wording that she is referring to specifically. Such language is distancing and, frankly, disgustingly inaccurate when referring to the LGBT+ community. Gay and Lesbian people are not the only ones under the umbrella. There's bisexual people, pansexual, asexual depending on which asexual person you ask, transgender and other gender variant people. The community is large, and many of the people not acknowledged as existing by using such wording have been advocating for one or all parts of the community from the start of the movement to secure our rights.

I agree with you that it is never all right to change anything of substance written by another without his or her permission: period! We shall have to disagree that it is all right to force black children to read Huck Finn. As I said, the novel is hardly the only work of merit in American literature.

There's nothing to disagree about, because there is nothing wrong with exposing black children to the fact the ancestors of a lot of their white classmates were, to be perfectly blunt, assholes when it came to matters of race. We are raised on this history, we already know it. Our families don't hide it from us or gloss over it. The ones being protected by not wanting to teach black kids Huck Finn are the white kids, not the black and mulatto ones. And the attempt to protect and coddle us when the world doesn't give a damn about our feelings is patronizing to say the least.
 

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It is simply revisionism at its worst to apply 2016 standards to a 1960 book. It's fair game to pick apart the book and the author for its inaccuracies and errors, but it's puerile to go after the book in the way Peter Tatchell did. If a book glosses over a significant point in history, the best way to correct it is to write a better book that doesn't.

Yes. This. Let's not change history or pretend it wasn't what it was.

We can't do better if we hide the truth.

There are good reasons not to read Huckleberry Finn and its verbiage and implications are two of them. I have no problem with parents objecting to their kids being required to read certain books. I have a big problem with parents and students whom seem to believe they should never be compelled to read books that may be challenging, disturbing, offensive and contrary to their beliefs.

If I had my way, Richard Wright's Black Boy and Native Son would be required reading in high school and if somebody gets bent because Wright uses the slur, "nigger" then they're just going to have to deal with it. Literature should not be cooked up and served up designed to feed the masses with the blandest of the bland ingredients. In the zeal to make books as inoffensive as possible we've overfed a generation of thumb-sucking babies raised on a steady diet of mushy pablum; short on literary taste and even shorter on intellectual nourishment.

I agree wholeheartedly with this.

We need to make the canon larger, not restrict it. There are lots of books that more people should read. Life is hard, and often, unpleasant.

Reading stuff that's hard and unpleasant is not going to be the end of the world. But if we widen the canon we provide room for if-not-this-than-that.

Let's cultivate an understanding of reality and history and ways we need to do better.

ETA: If you teach English literature you're sooner or later going to meet the person who wants to "just edit" Chaucer's anti-Semitic comments, or just remove the suicide from Hamlet, or leave out the part about skinning and cutting up the whale while it's alive in Moby Dick.

I'm strongly opposed to that. If the author during his lifetime wants to edit a work, that's his right, (or if he leaves clear indication via his or her papers that the writer planned a new edition, for instance).
 
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Roxxsmom

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I'm strongly opposed to that. If the author during his lifetime wants to edit a work, that's his right, (or if he leaves clear indication via his or her papers that the writer planned a new edition, for instance).

This. I'm pretty uncomfortable abridging another writer's words without their input or permission, which they can't give after they've died, obviously.

I would love it, however, if they'd include more works by people who aren't white and male in intro to literature classes. When I was growing up, I had this weird idea that no woman (or person who wasn't white) did anything good or important before 1960 or so, and I was pretty thoroughly pissed at and disgusted by my own gender's (apparent) complete lack of gumption and creativity throughout most of history.
 
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Donald Schneider

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It is wording like the above that Medi is referring to. Moreover, it is the continued use of such wording that she is referring to specifically. Such language is distancing and, frankly, disgustingly inaccurate when referring to the LGBT+ community. Gay and Lesbian people are not the only ones under the umbrella. There's bisexual people, pansexual, asexual depending on which asexual person you ask, transgender and other gender variant people. The community is large, and many of the people not acknowledged as existing by using such wording have been advocating for one or all parts of the community from the start of the movement to secure our rights.



There's nothing to disagree about, because there is nothing wrong with exposing black children to the fact the ancestors of a lot of their white classmates were, to be perfectly blunt, assholes when it came to matters of race. We are raised on this history, we already know it. Our families don't hide it from us or gloss over it. The ones being protected by not wanting to teach black kids Huck Finn are the white kids, not the black and mulatto ones. And the attempt to protect and coddle us when the world doesn't give a damn about our feelings is patronizing to say the least.

Wording like that? It is a simple statement of fact that virtually no one disagrees with. Shirer was talking about homosexuality, not all these other sexual groups that you refer to, so I don’t understand your point.

Regarding Huck Finn, I prefer to defer to black students as to what offends them. They should know.
 

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Wording like that? It is a simple statement of fact that virtually no one disagrees with. Shirer was talking about homosexuality, not all these other sexual groups that you refer to, so I don’t understand your point.

That's a rosy colore view of what he was referring to. Homosexuals included transgender people and bisexual people due to the near ubiquitous idea people were either straight, homosexual deviants, or some other form of deviant not related to homosexuality. Homosexual was, at the time, the umbrella term that LGBT and queer, to a smaller extent, are now.

Regarding Huck Finn, I prefer to defer to black students as to what offends them. They should know.

Good thing I was a black child, then. I can say that such thinking has nothing to do with what offends us, but what other people think offends us. And by the time you're reading Huck Finn, it gets pretty damn old.
 
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frimble3

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Yes. This. Let's not change history or pretend it wasn't what it was.

We can't do better if we hide the truth.



I agree wholeheartedly with this.

We need to make the canon larger, not restrict it. There are lots of books that more people should read. Life is hard, and often, unpleasant.

Reading stuff that's hard and unpleasant is not going to be the end of the world. But if we widen the canon we provide room for if-not-this-than-that.

Let's cultivate an understanding of reality and history and ways we need to do better.

ETA: If you teach English literature you're sooner or later going to meet the person who wants to "just edit" Chaucer's anti-Semitic comments, or just remove the suicide from Hamlet, or leave out the part about skinning and cutting up the whale while it's alive in Moby Dick.

I'm strongly opposed to that. If the author during his lifetime wants to edit a work, that's his right, (or if he leaves clear indication via his or her papers that the writer planned a new edition, for instance).
If future publishers want to stick in an explanatory note, well and good, but no, we should not erase history, especially the history of ideas and attitudes, which leave little record but the recorded word.
Yes. This. Let's not change history or pretend it wasn't what it was.

We can't do better if we hide the truth.
If we change the record, we can, in fact, do worse. If we censor the past so that it resembles the present: remove the unpleasant bits, or the parts that make us uncomfortable, how long before the revisionists claim that there was no problem? That there was no need to struggle, that the battles did not need to be fought, that the current generation is just whining about things they've exaggerated for their own purposes?
That POC and Jews and women and every other historically oppressed group are just making stuff up, and that whatever group had the upper hand was fair and kindly and just, and much maligned by opportunists?
Academics and researchers will know the fuller picture, but to the man in the street, glancing briefly over the material in school, will know nothing but the bowdlerized version.
Even now we have Holocaust deniers, the bunch that claims the slaves never had it so good, and others of that ilk.

Maintain the record. Let future editions have an explanation of changing times and attitudes (especially for school editions, perhaps) and let the reader read for him or her self.
 
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Elizabeth George's book Write Away