No easy solution exists precisely because defining the borders between intellectual freedom and intellectual dishonesty is so hard. Where does intent factor in to drawing “the line?” What about faith? In the South, we say “you can’t fix stupid,” but intellectual freedom includes the freedom to go down many paths, right?
Librarians are crucial to ensuring intellectual freedom because we build relationships with learners and we help foster curiosity and creativity through daily interaction. We get to know people. We talk with them and we become trusted colleagues, mentors, and educators, yet this element of our profession often gets left out in our marketing and advertising.
Recent book challenges in the news have involved permission slips sent home by classroom teachers when students would be reading a potentially controversial book, and I’d like to take some time to review the bigger picture surrounding classroom text selection, parent communication, and the sticky question of “permission.”
What is more American than protecting the first Amendment? Whether it be free speech or hate speech, differing opinions will exist in the room. In educational settings, educators are preparing students for life where there are rooms filled with all forms of conflicting ideas and practices.
With my college students, I wanted to acknowledge challenging discussions that arise when we talk about books, and explain why I choose books that focus on social and cultural issues, and I want them to think about how they might address these issues in their own classrooms when they become teachers.
As information communities, as librarians, and educators, information literacy principles and first amendment freedoms are at the core to motivating students in college. Confronting self-censorship, academic development, and the ability to practice intellectual freedom is what Xicana/Latina students encounter in higher education.
The Herald Journal reported last week that Jeni Buist, principal of Lincoln Elementary School in Hyrum, Utah, shredded several postcard reproductions of artwork from the library’s copy of The Art Box, a collection published by Phaidon.
Intellectual freedom advocates need to do our part to reject the sensationalization of censorship. It’s not enough to lament the restriction of a book on social media or grumble about schools’ decisions. We need to discuss the central issue: teaching students to talk about controversial issues in and through literature.
Intellectual freedom advocates have many reasons to be excited about the National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries that will be released at the AASL National Conference November 9-11. School librarians champion access to information and opportunities for all learners, and it’s never been clearer than in this iteration of our professional standards.
The work of advocating, facilitating and protecting intellectual freedoms is important activity, and is often carried out by everyday people. I thought it would be useful to speak with those whose work is dependent on intellectual freedom, and how libraries impact who they are and what they do.