Commentary: Pedagogy and the N-Word

John Warner
Inside Higher Ed

Excerpt: When I read the op-ed by Claremont McKenna professor Christopher Nadon in The Wall Street Journal discussing what he believes are sanctions he’s received for using the full utterance of the N-word in a class when illustrating a point about censorship and Huck Finn, I thought two things.

First, I thought that if Nadon’s self-account was accurate, he did not merit sanction. I accept the use/mention distinction on slurs like the N-word as meaningful. While there may be some professors out there who get a little psychic zing when they can contrive a way to use the word while being protected by the use/mention shield, my hope is they are extremely limited in number, it would be very difficult to discern someone’s motive for use and hopefully those who are doing it to experience that little zing will reveal themselves as problematic in other ways.