The Great Tattling Scare on Campuses

“As students, they were members of free-speech movements; now that they’ve earned tenure, they have become advocates of speech codes. Radicals when they were on the bottom, they’ve become censors when they’re on top. And they see no discrepancy in their actions.” Daphne PataiThe Great Tattling Scare on CampusesChronicle)

I recently had a very interesting conversation about the use of offensive racial language in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Since Samuel Clemens wanted to depict a society that included racists, it makes sense that his story includes characters who use racist language to make racist statements. It’s too simplistic to say that everyone, therefore, who uses that same racist language should automatically be “the bad guy,” since literature is full of protagoinists who sin in all kinds of ways, yet who can still teach us something about humanity. That means we have to be open to the possibility that a character who uses racist language might be “good”. This is thin ice upon which to tread, but if we can’t tread this ice in college, what’s the point of teaching morals and ethics to students?