3.26.2008

Book banning in schools


It seems as if one school decided to hide behind rules and regulations to suspend a teacher who taught a "banned book" to her class.

Suspended, not fired, for a year and a half. No pay. Oh, thank you merciful School Board! (I think the teacher eventually resigned with a settlement.)

The banned book in question? The Freedom Writers' Diary.

The administrators reportedly objected to use of "racial slurs and sexually explicit content." While I understand teachers have to follow some rules and need to be mindful of many social issues, doesn't the positive of the book outweigh the liabilities? The students in question are high schoolars, and are probably painfully aware of violence, racism, and other social ills the book is trying to expose and challenge.

I really think our K-12 teachers are too impeded by rules and regulations. Are we dumbing down education, failing to challenge our students, and cheating them of the benefits of a true education: learning to think for oneself?

Any thoughts? Other than, like me, you'll keep your eye peeled for a copy of this book in the bargain bins.

16 comments:

snackywombat said...

It's that kind of fascist administration in education that will be the cause of creationism being taught in science class--so that all voices may be heard. It's a bunch of malarkey with an agenda behind it. I mean, do we stop teaching history because it contains violence, racism , rape and denigration?

j.c. montgomery said...

Wow, I am still in shock over discovering that this woman has lost a job because she stood up for herself and her belief that she was offering her students the opportunity to learn the meaning, and cost of, having the freedom to express oneself.

But then again, perhaps this horribly unfair outcome has done just that. It is the only bit of silver lining, and a very tiny one at that, I see in this whole sickening event.

I used to believe that it was only the work which was challenged or banned, but then I remembered what happened to Lawrence Ferlinghetti and his attempts to publish 'Howl'. I truly hope that what has happened to this teacher, does not set a precedent for parent groups or school boards when seeking to censor other books they perceive as unacceptable or inappropriate.

I recently blogged about my feelings regarding banned books. Within that post are two links to sites which promote ones 'freedom to read'. To make it more convenient, I will offer them here. And here

I am absolutely appalled that this was taken so far as to cost a woman a job she has held for 27 years. Absolutely. Appalled.

Andi said...

Amen and right on to EVERYTHING you said. K-12 teachers are definitely oppressed in the way that they have to be so skittish of the rules that they "dumb down" their material. Certainly, there are still a gazillion great teachers out there, but oftentimes it's necessary to be really creative in the way you present material and which material you choose for students.

Andi said...

The irony that she was suspended for this book (the film version is very good, as well, if you can't find the book) is massive because the book is all about encouraging a wildly passionate education for people who can't often get it. Appalling.

stefanie said...

I think those who want to ban books in schools are trying to "protect" (or so they claim) the kids. But in reality I think it only serves to keep kids from thinking about and discussing important issues in a safe and structured environment. Kids know about the issues already and I believe they would love to be able to talk about them, to try and make some sense of the world.

Bridget said...

This is appalling, but unfortunately very common. The kids know what's what - it's the "adults" who are the ones afraid of facing actual discussions of issues.

bookfraud said...

supremely ironic that the banned book is about inspiring students to read and write.

is anyone really surprised? glad the school board decided to protect these children from racial slurs and sexually explicit content. they certainly don't have exposure to those things outside the classroom.

is there any kind of legal fund for this teacher, who should sue? if so, i'd like to make a contribution.

d. chedwick bryant said...

When I was a kid we had a tiny library in our elementary school run by a weird librarian. She refused to allow me to check out a biography of Jackie Bouvier (a book basically J.B's life up until she became Mrs. Kennedy)

By wanting to read this I found out two things:

1. The narrow minded librarian thought the book was "too racy"
2. The Librarian thought a 4th grader should stick to Children's books that she approved of, and not try to check out 6th grade level books like some smart ass.

She never encouraged any kids to read. Maybe she just wanted to keep her little library neat and organized.

Of course the "ban" just made me want to read the book even more. Now I HAD to read it!

so I got a 6th grader to check it out for me. easily done.

I remember enjoying the book, but the 'raciest' thing Jackie did was jumping over hedges on her horse. It was clearly a bio written for kids.

Of course in NYC we kids used the public libraries, there was no censorship at all, and I became a total readaholic because the librarians were all freaking geniuses! (my main library was just a few blocks from our apt--The Brooklyn Library at Grand Army Plaza) It is still an amazing place!

d. chedwick bryant said...

ps i just followed your link to read about the book--It looks like a valuable book.

I wonder about towns where book banning is considered necessary to "protect" kids.

LK said...

Hmmm...I find the opinions everyone expresses interesting, and of course, they support my opinions! I was hoping some teachers out there might chime in...hint, hint. Or someone who supports the School Board's decision to explain that viewpoint. Maybe the teacher should have gone through "proper channels" to get permission to teach the book...?

But I agree essentially with the irony that the effort behind teaching this book was to promote and engage kids in writing...and the teacher was cut off at the blackboard.


Any more thoughts? Is there ever a right reason to ban books in schools? Wouldn't it be better to fire a teacher for promoting negative ideology such as racism instead of banning books?

Dorothy W. said...

I agree with you LK - we shouldn't be so afraid of dealing with difficult issues openly. We are such a cowardly culture in a lot of ways.

d. chedwick bryant said...

Is there ever a reason to ban books in schools?

I had to do a report on Hitler in 8th grade and so attempted to read Hitler's book, (My War-- not sure how it is spelled in German, Mein Kampft or something, anyway, I slogged through it, forced myself to finish it, and asked two History teachers questions about it, no one in my family or school told me not to read it. Hitler was very into banning things after all.

There would certainly be no reason to ban it or any other book.



Good grief.

d. chedwick bryant said...

wow--you can read Mein Kampf online here:

http://www.hitler.org/writings/Mein_Kampf/mkv1ch01.html


I have to add that I think parents should take the time to read any book that is banned in their kid's school. Much of my education came directly from my parents--I have them to thank for my study habits and any smarts I may have. They were very involved with my education even though they worked long hours and had a house filled with kids-- they simply found the time to teach us.

d. chedwick bryant said...

sorry Lit Kit, that I am here again-- My error on Mein Kampf (My Struggle) the spelling etc...

I just wanted to add, that you never hear anyone quoting Hitler--even though he gave a lot of speeches. And when I was walking around with the book in NYC no adult said anything about my reading that evil nutjob's book except that it was a difficult read or poorly written --something along those lines.

A few years ago my college age nephew was reading "The Rise and the Fall of the Third Reich" and this offended one of his professors (who knew my nephew is the kindest, gentlest little vegan on the planet)

Why should we be offended by what others are reading? I don't get that. Esp. if they are readaholics--they are going to read a wide variety of books!

Litlove said...

I think you said it all in your sentence about children learning to think for themselves. Governments can't bear it (makes for an unruly populace) and yet educators are all kinds of wrong to bow under that pressure. Handled sensitively, this kind of material would provide just fantastic stuff for proper pedagogic discussion. Children hate to be patronised too, and respond very well when they sense a real issue to which they can address their thoughts.

Alison Boon said...

It is terrible that in this day and age people still get treated badly for standing up for what they believe in.