By: guest contributor Julia A. Nephew. “To me this has been a reminder of how invisible LGBTQ people in history still are in many school curriculum,” author Robin Stevenson said of District 200 canceling her Oct. 2 talk. “And it does make me feel like it’s important that all kids are aware of the really significant contributions of LGBTQ people throughout history, and it’s important that LGBTQ kids and teens in particular see their own lives and identities reflected in the books they read.”
Outrage tends to oversimplify. Outrage over outrage tends exacerbate this, and shift focus away from the situation at hand. In a recent emblematic example, the author of an editorial who is fatigued by “ban worries” over school library books strives to differentiate between omission and censorship. This side-debate, albeit valuable, misdirects from actual censorship occurring within the confines of the original controversy. Go figure.
As we were selecting the book, I came across a news article sent to me by Kristin Pekoll, Assistant Director of OIF about a school in Oregon that had banned the book along with nine other titles, including the dictionary, during the 2015-2016 school year https://theroguenews.com/19251/arts-enter/banned-books-at-ashland-high-school/
The reason listed next to Hawkins’ A Brief History of Time was “unethical context.”
Students do not necessarily jump for joy if you tell them they will be learning about intellectual freedom and the First Amendment. However, many of these concepts are included in national and state-level learning and library standards and are important for them to learn about as citizens and future voters. Read more for ideas on how school librarians and teachers can actively engage teen learners in the critical thinking necessary to reach these learning goals.
Dwindling local school budgets, increasing technology, and conflicting values can all contribute to the elimination of public and school librarian positions. However, these positions are critical to maintain in order to preserve principles of intellectual freedom in schools and in society.
Living in a post-truth political climate can make it difficult for teachers and school librarians to select reading materials while also appearing neutral. Read excerpts of an interview with Martha Brockenbrough, author of Unpresidented: a Biography of Donald Trump, to learn more about how she approached writing a biography on the 45th president for young readers, challenges to herself and the book, and what she hopes young readers will take away after reading.
To Kill a Mockingbird remains one of America’s most divisive novels, particularly in classrooms as required reading. Get a glimpse into the recent decision to remove it from the curriculum in Duluth Public Schools district’s two high schools, its replacement novel, and who makes such decisions in the public school system.
Books are most often challenged for language, sexual content, and violence, but what about for political reasons? A perfect storm ensues when political ideologies, race-based fears, and those seeking political gain exert influence over a school’s curriculum.
Parents in Mahwah, NJ are expressing distress that the school district has, in their view, reduced student access to books in the school libraries.
Part of the reason that the novel is so well loved, I think, is because it challenged so many of us to think about difficult issues. Whether we continue to teach Mockingbird or choose to move on to another, more modern book, one important lesson from Mockingbird will live on – we will continue to read, and love, our banned books.