ISSUE | 'HUCK FINN'

Classes on racism

I was surprised that Friends' Central School removed The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from its 11th grade American literature course (" 'Huckleberry Finn' still a school target," Dec. 11). The Cherry Hill School District confronted the same issues as Friends' Central but reached a different resolution. The district continued to use the book as great literature, but it also developed a curriculum to address racism in America as part of the study of the novel. To read how Cherry Hill worked with the community, teachers, and consultants from Villanova University to develop the curriculum, go to the Public Broadcasting System web site: www.pbs.org/wgbh/cultureshock/teachers/huck.

|Richard D. Levy, former assistant superintendent, Cherry Hill, rdlevy@hotmail.com

Twain witnessed bias

A letter writer criticized her schools' use of Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn ("Students, school correct to make a change," Dec. 17), wondering why she had been required to "read a book about the experience of racism written by someone who didn't experience it."

Mark Twain lived in the South when racism was an accepted attitude, and so did Huckleberry Finn. The book is not about the African American victims of racism; it's about Huckleberry's experiences.

Twain wrote about the experiences that helped the white boy overcome his cultural racism, at least with respect to Jim, a runaway slave. It is clear in this and other writings that Twain did not approve of slavery.

Much of the criticism of this book stems from the frequent use of the N-word. Many other offensive words and concepts can be found in the writings of Shakespeare and Faulkner, Dickens and Salinger.

|Virginia Klipstein, Glenside

ISSUE | PA. GRANT

Bad money move

Commonwealth Court recently threw out a suit by the Save Ardmore Coalition to block a state grant for the construction of an eight-story, luxury apartment complex on the Cricket Lot in Lower Merion Township, Montgomery County. ("Dranoff's Ardmore project gets OK," Dec. 16).

Putting aside the incompatibility of an eight-story structure in this suburban community, for the commonwealth to give

$10.5 million to a developer for the construction of luxury apartments in one of the most affluent municipalities in the state when it can't even adequately maintain its public school infrastructure is indefensible.

Gov Wolf should block this grant.

|State Rep. Greg Vitali (D., Delaware and Montgomery Counties), GVitali@pahouse.net

ISSUE | HOLIDAYS

Give gifts of time, effort, and charity

In the spirit of the holiday season, I suggest we all take time to give back to our community.

With compassion and gratitude, there are many ways we can help others during this season of giving and throughout the year. Volunteering at homeless shelters and soup kitchens or donating food or lightly used clothing and toys can make a difference. Distributing hand warmers to the homeless in the winter and sending cards of appreciation and admiration to those in the military and emergency services (police, firefighters, and rescue squads) can boost their spirit.

Giving back to our community will strengthen it and you. A community with a high quality of life is safer and healthier for us all.

|Brianna Barber, Upper Darby, briannabarber03@gmail.com

Consider a global view of the season

The letter, "The Spirit of kindness" (Dec. 18) is an example of a well-meaning person taking a position that is narrow and perhaps xenophobic. It presents the Christmas season as a universal emblem of kindness: "Even those who don't celebrate Christmas can appreciate the beauty of this season of peace and giving."

Most of the world doesn't recognize this season as anything but the passing of time as the Earth travels around the sun. It is only as Christians experience it that the season has significance. The world's most populous countries are non-Christian, including China, India, and Indonesia, and this time of year has little, if any, spiritual meaning.

Perhaps if we in America begin perceiving the world with open-minded inclusiveness rather than through a purely Christian lens, our ability to engage most of the people of the world would improve dramatically. And maybe that perspective would help our country obtain the goals of our foreign policy.

|Ken Lefkowitz, Medford

Simply a season's greeting

Am I the only person in America who thinks "Happy Holidays" is simply a shorter way to deliver good wishes for the holiday season - Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year's - and not an attack on the Christian holy day of Christmas?

It's not an insult - it's just easier.

|Maureen Wellner, Philadelphia, maureenwellner@gmail.com

ISSUE | SUPREME COURT

Precedent for Scalia

The Inquirer, in criticizing Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia for saying that blacks are better off in universities of lesser rank ("Inspiring mediocrity," Dec. 17), failed to note that Justice Clarence Thomas said the same thing in the 2003 affirmative action case involving the University of Michigan Law School. In Grutter v. Bollinger, Thomas questioned whether beneficiaries of affirmative action based on race were better off "than if they had gone to a less 'elite' law school for which they were better prepared."

Thomas quoted Frederick Douglass: "All I ask is, give [a black man] a chance to stand on his own legs. . . . [Y]our interference is doing him positive injury."

|Burton Caine, professor, Temple Law School, bcaine@temple.edu