No policy can be written to prevent all challenges and all selection mistakes. But we can improve how we talk to each other and how we talk about our policies. Included here are three steps school librarians can take to lay the groundwork for improved conversations between parents, teachers, and administrators.
If you’re looking for a good overview of free speech on college campuses, I highly recommend Speak Freely by Keith Whittington published by Princeton University Press this month. The book is 232 pages and distributed in print and e for $24.95. It offers a timely and very sophisticated treatment of free speech and academic freedom on American college and university campuses.
Perhaps the most important thing librarians can do is to continue to be a part of the dialogue on how we manage these issues and balance competing interests to ensure intellectual freedom and inclusion, and to be mindful of these issues in program scheduling, meeting space usage, and collection development choices.
They are saying that politics do not belong in schools; students are there to learn, not make political statements. A Houston-area school went so far as to threaten discipline for students who participated in any walkout or political protesting on campus. And it got me thinking: do these minors have a right to free speech? Are their actions protected by the First Amendment? I decided to find out.
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.