And for what it's worth, I have championed filmmakers like Morgan Sperlock, who cut a slightly less-profane version of his Super Size Me, which allowed the documentary to be shown in schools as an educational tool. And I specifically chastised Michael Moore for allowing Capitalism: A Love Story to snag an R-rating based purely on three gratuitous uses of the word 'fuck'. Say what you will about the film, and the likelihood that political lightning rod Michael Moore could be used as an apolitical teaching tool, but the film would theoretically serve as an educational viewing experience, and that was certainly worth cutting two of the offending profanities, just as it would have been for The Tillman Story late last year. Yes, we're dealing with a secondary publisher altering the words of a long-dead author, but the intent would be the same. Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a pioneering novel and a genuine abolitionist screed in the guise of an adventure story. If cutting the 'n-word' from a particular version of the novel and replacing it with 'slave', even if said slur is used to highlight the racism of the era, is a way to allow even more young impressionable minds to learn the lessons contained therein without controversy or public outcry, then perhaps it is a pill worth swallowing.
Allowing an edited version of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to exist will not harm the original novel in any way, just as having various abridged or more-kid friendly editions of various classic books does not impair your ability to purchase an unedited version. The unaltered text will remain openly available for purchase and library checkout. I bemoan those who cannot separate the offending racial slur from the anti-racism narrative in which it is used, but the ability to deal with context is something that has been largely lost over the years in popular culture. Perhaps it is a trick along the lines of painting Tom Sawyer's fence for him, a slyly subversive way to allow the book to be read by even more students. But even if it is merely a concession to sensitivity or political correctness, it's no different than the compromise we make every day in film and stage. It is no victory, but time will tell whether or not it was a defeat.