The Freedom Writers Diary (Erin Gruwell) is the book that inspired a film, which in turn inspired young people and teachers across the globe to look at how writing can help cope with life, love, dreams, and fear of the future. This same book that was so inspirational, has also been challenged and banned in the United States because of the stories therein. Each account comes from a student of Erin Gruwell and tells a story that is meant to express the writer's angst, confusion, passion, and path to understanding. How is it that censoring these stories is helpful? To censor a personal life story is to censor life, and that is just not possible.
While I am disappointed in Perry Meridian High School for removing the book without a formal complain process, I am even more disturbed by the challenges to this and a number of other books in Michigan. The Livingston Organization for Values in Education (LOVE) and the American Family Association challenged these texts in a local High School and failed to present a valid case. They then moved up and, in my opinion, grasped at straws by "filing a complaint with the State Attorney General and the U.S. Department of Justice, claiming that the books violate laws against child pornography and sexual abuse" (KRRP).
I can understand if someone wants to challenge a text, but if they are voted down or if the challenge fails to present a valid case, then the group or individual should understand that it is time to move on. Presenting gross and unjust representations of texts (i.e. child pornography and sexual abuse) is just an act of desperation. But enough of my ranting. Share your opinions. Let me know what you think about these sorts of challenges.
Here's the source material that I discussed above:
Title: The Freedom Writers Diary
Author: Erin Gruwell
Publisher: Random House
Banned in Indianapolis, Indiana, February 2008
The Freedom Writers Diary was removed from English 11 classes at Perry Meridian High School in February 2008 while students were in the process of reading it. No formal complaint process against the book was initiated, students’ parents had signed permission slips indicating their approval of the book’s use, and the book is freely available in the high school library. ABFFE and NCAC were joined by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) in sending a letter to the school board opposing the book’s removal.
Challenged in Howell, Michigan, February 2007
The Freedom Writers Diary by Erin Gruwell, Black Boy by Richard Wright (Harper), The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (Random House), Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs (Macmillan), and Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut (Random House) were challenged in Howell High School in February 2007 for sexual themes and profanity by members of the Livingston Organization for Values in Education (LOVE) with assistance from the Michigan chapter of the American Family Association. ABFFE and NCAC organized a coalition of nine free expression groups who sent a letter to the school board urging them to keep the books. The school board voted 5-2 to retain all of them. Dissatisfied with this result, the AFA also assisted LOVE in filing a complaint with the State Attorney General and the U.S. Department of Justice, claiming that the books violate laws against child pornography and sexual abuse. ABFFE and NCAC issued a press release condemning the decision. The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan referred the matter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. However, federal, state, and local prosecutors alike declared the complaints to be without merit. ABFFE and NCAC issued a press release applauding the decision.
Source: The Kids' Right To Read Project