Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga

Friday, March 25, 2011

Don't Throw Out the Baby with the Bathwater

I look younger than my age; at least, that's what people tell me.  I don’t usually feel old either.  But Mom kept one of my college papers that really dates me. 

In a discussion of abnormal psychology, I referred to “mental deficiency” as a form of abnormality.  So that you can truly appreciate the lingo of the time, I have to quote the whole paragraph.  “Included in this term are those persons with exceedingly low IQ:  idiots, imbeciles, and morons.  They are incapable of learning from experience and cannot distinguish right from wrong.  Although idiots and imbeciles do not profit from education as we know it, morons may benefit to a certain extent.”

OMG.  The prof didn’t throw me out on my ear.  In fact, he remarked, “Am pleased about this [paper].  You might enjoy a course specifically in abnormal psychology.”  Evidently, that was acceptable language; and I wasn’t an idiot, imbecile, or moron for using it.

Thank goodness we’ve discarded that particular vocabulary in favor of more respectful terminology.  Being politically correct isn’t always easy, but it’s usually desirable.

But not always.

I’m referring to the furor over Huckleberry Finn.  Talk about overcompensation.  Twain used the word “nigger” 219 times for a reason.  A reflection of the times, yes; but as soon as Huck overlooked Jim’s color and adopted an us-against-them mentality, we knew that he no longer thought of Jim as a “nigger.”  How could any publisher think that changing the word to “slave” would not dilute the impact Twain intended?  And, please.  Indian Joe?  Really?  Indian?  At  least, we were spared Native American Joe.

Feel free to disagree, but please don’t call me an idiot, imbecile, or moron.



  1. Hey mom. I think I saw this story on 60 minutes last week.

    The publisher made the point that Huck Finn is currently banned from hundreds of schools. So for some people it's either the revised version, or nothing.

    I bet these lists of banned and challenged books will get your blood boiling:


  2. Oh, gosh. Some of those banned books are my favorites!