If you haven't heard yet, there's an edition of Huckleberry Finn coming out where an editor has decided to cut out any expletives, including "Injun" and "the n word" (I'm not putting the word because last thing I need is a search engine to link me based on that!).
A lot has been said about this already. I have two main issues. First, as an author, how DARE anyone alter the words of a writer like this? Twain's intent was to use the words. If he wanted to use other words, he damn well would have. We (as in the educated people of the world) have read "1984." How is this different than Winston sitting in his office rewriting books to meet Big Brother's demands? To be fair, the original isn't being burned, but isn't this more or less the same thing, especially if this becomes the only book given to students?
This leads to my next concern. The point of the use of those words in the book is to point out the racism of the time. We can't make it not have happened by pretending it didn't. Erasing those words is akin to attempting to erase history. Students SHOULD know what was said, or else how will we as a society ever learn from those mistakes. A good teacher will point this out - that the words used are unacceptable because of the intent behind them in most cases. Huckleberry Finn is one of the strongest anti-racist books ever written - how DARE someone water that down?
Instead, why don't we turn our attention to rap/hip-hop artists who use these words on a regular basis with the claim that it's not racist because they themselves are that race? You want to stop kids from racism - how about pop culture (that kids ACTUALLY emulate) rather than attacking an educational tool and what is universally acclaimed as a pillar of literature?