Sanity, Not Censorship: Standing Up for the Original Huckleberry Finn

We founded Common Sense Media on the belief that sanity, not censorship, would best help our kids navigate the complex world of entertainment, media, and technology. So you can imagine our reaction to the edited version of Mark Twain's classic The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn that was announced this month -- the one that replaces the word "----- " with "slave" and removes the word "Injun." Professor Alan Gribben at Auburn University, whose work this is, said he felt that these changes would result in keeping Huck Finn on bookshelves and reading lists.

This sanitized edit of a classic novel amounts to censorship. At Common Sense, we believe that we can't cover our kids' eyes -- it's up to us as informed parents and teachers to teach them to see. But to do so means that kids, teens, parents, and teachers need trustworthy information about a book or movie or game, and they need tools to discuss media's contents and meaning. Knowledge is power. And we hear from librarians, teachers, and parents that the more they know, the more comfortable they feel letting kids tackle sometimes-difficult works.

This is exactly why Common Sense reviews media -- to give parents the information they need in order to make thoughtful, informed decisions about the media their kids read, watch, play, and use. Rather than ban (or re-edit) a book or movie out of fear, we know that good information leads to great decisions. Some of life's best teaching moments come from characters we don't approve of or language that we find difficult. That's how kids read books like Huck Finn and learn about slavery, and how and why the noblest character in the book, Jim, has the least noble word in front of his name.

Our country's First Amendment protects our rights to free speech and expression. Common Sense exists to give families the tools they need to choose works of historical complexity, differences of opinion, and controversial subjects so that when their kids become adults, they can make their own informed decisions about works that are right for them, rather than run from them out of fear and ignorance.

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