Monday, August 30, 2010
How did we end up at this place where ambiguity is such an awful thing? If anything, ambiguity allows the readers (and the characters even) to explore and discover personal ways of understanding God, spirituality, the afterlife, etc. These books aren't simply propaganda or ways of proselytizing to turn readers to a specific religious way of thought. I say, bring on the ambiguity, 'cause otherwise, life's just not as interesting.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Craig Spence, president of the Federation of British Columbia Writers, called the ban "an overreaction to a photo that's artistic ... are you going to stop kids from seeing Michelangelo's David? The kinds of graphic material that kids are exposed to, through advertising and other media all the time, go much farther than that, and they're not in a context that would give it the justification."
Seriously, what is this world coming to?
Friday, August 27, 2010
Do you have any experiences with book challenges based on witchcraft? If so, what are your thoughts?
Rowling, J. K.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
The Gwinnett County, Ga. school board (2006) rejected a parent's pleas to take Harry Potter books out of school libraries, based on the claim they promote witchcraft. The Georgia Board of Education ruled December 14 that the parent had failed to prove her contention that the series "promote[s] the Wicca religion," and therefore that the book's availability in public schools does not constitute advocacy of a religion. On May 29, 2007, Superior Court judge Ronnie Batchelor upheld the Georgia Board of Education's decision to support local school officials. County school board members have said the books are good tools to encourage children to read and to spark creativity and imagination. Removed from the St. Joseph School in Wakefield, Mass. (2007) because the themes of witchcraft and sorcery were inappropriate for a Catholic school.
Source: Books Banned and Challenged 2008 by Robert P. Doyle
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Monday, August 23, 2010
King & King
Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland
Parents of a Lexington, Mass. (2006) second-grader protested that their son’s teacher read the fairy tale about gay marriage to the class without warning parents first. The book was used as part of a lesson about different types of weddings. “By presenting this kind of issue at such a young age, they’re trying to indoctrinate our children,” stated the parent. The incident renewed the efforts of Waltham-based Parents’ Rights Coalition to rid the state’s schools of books and lessons that advance the “homosexual agenda” in public schools. U.S. District Court Judge Mark Wolf ruled February 23, 2007, that public schools are “entitled to teach anything that is reasonably related to the goals of preparing students to become engaged and productive citizens in our democracy.” Wolf said the courts had decided in other cases that parents’ rights to exercise their religious beliefs were not violated when their children were exposed to contrary ideas in school. The parents appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, which dismissed the case on January 31, 2008. The courts said, “There is no evidence of systemic indoctrination. There is no allegation that the student was asked to affirm gay marriage. Requiring a student to read a particular book is generally not coercive of free exercise rights. Public schools are not obligated to shield individual students from ideas which potentially are religiously offensive, particularly when the school imposes no requirement that the student agree with or affirm those ideas, or even participate in discussions about them.” The parents plan to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court claiming the curriculum violated their right to religious freedom. Withdrawn from two Bristol, England, U.K., primary schools (2008) following objections from parents who claimed the book was unsuitable for children and that they had not been consulted on their opinions.
Source: Books Challenged and Banned 2009 by Robert P. Doyle
Newsletter on Intellectual FreedomJuly 2006, pp. 186-87
May 2007, pp. 105-6
July 2008, pp. 146, 166
Sept. 2008, pp. 194-95
Related Story: Democratic Candidates Say They're OK With Second-Grade Teacher Reading Gay Prince Fairy Tale
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Friday, August 20, 2010
Blogs, Twitter, and Facebook have been abuzz in the last 24 hours with news that four YA authors have pulled out of the annual Teen Lit Fest in Humble, Tex., a Houston suburb. The authors withdrew in support of writer Ellen Hopkins, who announced in a blog post last week that she had been disinvited from the festival, which is organized by the Humble Independent School District, and is scheduled for January 2011. In the post, entitled “Censorship Bites,” Hopkins announced that her invitation had been revoked after a middle-school librarian and parents approached a superintendent and the school board about her participation. Hopkins’s novels in verse deal with gritty subject matter: her Crank series, which concludes next month with Fallout, centers on meth addiction, while her 2009 novel, Tricks, was about teen prostitution. “We all feel badly that we’re making this stand,” Hopkins told School Library Journal. “We don’t want our readers to feel like we’re punishing them. But this is about having the right to read our books, and these people don’t have the right to say you can’t.”
In the last few days, four authors who were also scheduled to appear at the festival—Pete Hautman, Melissa de la Cruz, Matt de la Peña, and Tera Lynn Childs—announced in quick succession that they were also withdrawing. “What is important is that a handful of people – the superintendent, the one (one!) librarian, and “several” (three? five?) parents – took it upon themselves to overrule the vast majority of teachers and librarians and students who had chosen one of the most popular YA authors in America to be their headliner,” wrote Hautman in a blog post. “That is a form of censorship as damaging and inexcusable as setting fire to a library.” And on her blog, de la Cruz wrote, “I believe that as a writer, we have to stick up for each other, and against censorship, and against people who want to tell everyone else what to think, what to read, what to watch.” Other authors scheduled to appear at the festival are Sharon Flake, Brian Meehl, and Todd Strasser.
Thank goodness for the support of other authors that are willing to take a stand against the stupidity of censorship in such a harmful and disturbing way. To have the views of three or possibly five parents take over an entire festival because of what they believe teens should be reading is despicable (and I don't use the word lightly.) This situation has me typing with pure disdain at the idea that elegant and prolific authors can be besmirched by the closed-mindedness of only a few members of the public.
Please feel free to comment if you think I'm overstepping my bounds as a blogger here, but also feel free to comment if you agree or have anything to say about this injustice. Thanks.
Please read these books! They're important and deserve attention.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Source: Certifiably Random
“Censorship ends in logical completeness when nobody is allowed to read any books except the books that nobody reads.” – George Bernard Shaw
“Censorship is telling a man he can’t have a steak just because a baby can’t chew it.” – Mark Twain
“An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.” – Oscar Wilde
“All these people talk so eloquently about getting back to good old-fashioned values. Well, as an old poop I can remember back to when we had those old-fashioned values, and I say let’s get back to the good old-fashioned First Amendment of the good old-fashioned Constitution of the United States — and to hell with the censors! Give me knowledge or give me death!”
– Kurt Vonnegut, author
“Everyone is in favor of free speech. Hardly a day passes without its being extolled, but some people’s idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone else says anything back, that is an outrage.”
“Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.”
– Harry S. Truman, message to Congress, August 8, 1950
“We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasent facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.”
– John F. Kennedy. Remarks made on the 20th anniversary of the Voice of America at H.E.W. Auditorium, February 26, 1962
“Don’t join the book burners. Don’t think you are going to conceal thoughts by concealing evidence that they ever existed.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower, speech at Dartmouth College, June 14, 1953
“The dirtiest book of all is the expurgated book.” – Walt Whitman
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
In a comment I read from another censorship story, a parent had this to say: "Aside from the moral issues presented with this matter, it is not right to use taxpayer funds to pay for improper materials that some may find morally offensive." First of all, who is this person to decide what matter is morally offensive and improper for the public? Secondly, a library is a publicly funded institution whose responsibility is to appeal to ALL members of the community, and so why would the funding from ALL members of the community not be reflected in the wide assortment of texts on the shelves?
I'm sorry to you all for the rant, but I have trouble understanding why one person's moral judgment is suddenly the final word in situations where a wide range of interests and concerns is presented, such as at the Teen Lit Festival. If one person can get a widely read author uninvited from an event that is supposed to reach out to a very large audience, then where are we headed? This sort of thing baffles me and makes me upset, therefore I will end this post before I go on for pages and pages.
Please comment and let me know what you think about this sort of situation. What are your views on the role of the library as a publicly funded institution?
P.S. At least 4 authors have turned down the invitations to speak at the Teen Lit Festival since Hopkins' invitation was rescinded.
Monday, August 16, 2010
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Saturday, August 14, 2010
Here's what I understand to be your concern, based on your writings. First, you believe that “the book is specifically designed to normalize gay marriage and is targeted toward the 2-7 year old age group.” Your second key concern is that you “find it inappropriate that this type of literature is available to this age group.” You cite your discussion with your daughter, and commented, “This was not the type of conversation I thought I would be having with my seven year old in the nightly bedtime routine.”
First, I think you're right that the purpose of the book is to show a central event, the wedding of two male characters, as no big thing. The emotional center of the story, of course, is Chloe's fear that she's losing a favorite uncle to another relationship. That fear, I think, is real enough to be an issue for a lot of young children. But yes, Sarah Brannen clearly was trying to portray gay marriage as normal, as not nearly so important as the changing relationship between a young person and her favorite uncle.
You feel that a book about gay marriage is inappropriate for young children. But another book in our collection, “Daddy's Roommate,” was requested by a mother whose husband left her, and their young son, for another man. She was looking for a way to begin talking about this with son. Another book, “Alfie's Home,” was purchased at the request of another mother looking for a way to talk about the suspected homosexuality of her young son from a Christian perspective. There are gay parents in Douglas County, right now, who also pay taxes, and also look for materials to support their views. We don't have very many books on this topic, but we do have a handful.
In short, most of the books we have are designed not to interfere with parents' notions of how to raise their children, but to support them. But not every parent is looking for the same thing.
Your third point, about the founders' vision of America, is something that has been a matter of keen interest to me most of my adult life. In fact, I even wrote a book about it, where I went back and read the founders' early writings about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. What a fascinating time to be alive! What astonishing minds! Here's what I learned: our whole system of government was based on the idea that the purpose of the state was to preserve individual liberties, not to dictate them. The founders uniformly despised many practices in England that compromised matters of individual conscience by restricting freedom of speech. Freedom of speech – the right to talk, write, publish, discuss – was so important to the founders that it was the first amendment to the Constitution – and without it, the Constitution never would have been ratified.
How then, can we claim that the founders would support the restriction of access to a book that really is just about an idea, to be accepted or rejected as you choose? What harm has this book done to anyone? Your seven year old told you, “Boys are not supposed to marry.” In other words, you have taught her your values, and those values have taken hold. That's what parents are supposed to do, and clearly, exposure to this book, or several, doesn't just overthrow that parental influence. It does, of course, provide evidence that not everybody agrees with each other; but that's true, isn't it?
Finally, then, I conclude that “Uncle Bobby's Wedding” is a children's book, appropriately categorized and shelved in our children's picture book area. I fully appreciate that you, and some of your friends, strongly disagree with its viewpoint. But if the library is doing its job, there are lots of books in our collection that people won't agree with; there are certainly many that I object to. Library collections don't imply endorsement; they imply access to the many different ideas of our culture, which is precisely our purpose in public life.
If you wish to read the entire letter, you can find it here.
What do you think of his response? Do you agree with the way he handled the complaint?
Friday, August 13, 2010
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Author: Hartinger, Brent
Title: Geography Club
Challenged at the West Bend, Wis. Community Memorial Library (2009) as being “obscene or child pornography” in a section designated “Young Adults.” The library board unanimously voted 9–0 to maintain, “without removing, relocating, labeling, or otherwise restricting access,” the books in the young adult category at the West Bend Community Memorial Library. The vote was a rejection of a four-month campaign conducted by the citizen’s group West Bend Citizens for Safe Libraries to move fiction and nonfiction books with sexually explicit passages from the young adult section to the adult section and label them as containing sexual material.
Source: Books Banned or Challenged in 2009-2010, Robert P. Doyle
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
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
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
From the banning of Molière in seventeenth-century Quebec to the challenges faced by Margaret Laurence for her novel The Diviners beginning in the 1970s, censorship has been a thorn in the side of Canada’s literary and publishing history. Government officials, customs agents, the church, the religious right, and arbiters of “social correctness” have played a major role in enforcing and influencing regulations regarding censorship. Their actions have led to the establishment, by authors, publishers, librarians, and citizens, of numerous groups and events designed to highlight the democratic rights of Canadians to buy and read books and magazines of their choice... [continue reading the article]
Monday, August 9, 2010
Pretty much everyone knows that when something gets censored or banned, it only increases popularity. The film "Deep Throat" was not popular at all upon its release, but audiences increases exponentially the moment the government began banning it from theatres across North America. The same goes for young adult literature. When a book gets challenged, it only seems to make the situation worse. Suddenly groups are reading the book out loud to promote it, rather that it simply sitting on the shelf with minimal exposure. By challenging a novel, institutions and individuals, in reality, only make the text more visible and enticing to young people. Novels never before seen as interesting are suddenly exposed as containing something "restricted" which makes teens want to read all the more readily. Dave Iseman on New-Leader.com believes that Stockton schools have discovered this route to exposure and are using it to their advantage. By challenging The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Sherman Alexie), they have successfully caused an increase in readership. Bookstores even began to bring in extra copies of the book because of the newly piqued interest by community members. Is this the beginning of a whole new marketing strategy?
Sunday, August 8, 2010
Forever [teenage sex, love, and loss]
Blubber [bullying and body image]
Deenie [masturbation and sexuality]
Tiger Eyes [masturbation and sexuality]
Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret [sexuality and religion]
Each of these books is censored and challenged for dealing with issues that young adults have to deal with on a daily basis. And they don't always end happily (or at all in some cases.) Some people believe they can protect teens from these issues by removing books, but seem to forget about the reality on which the texts are based. Judy Blume is now part of the National Coalition Against Censorship and is constantly battling challenges to her books. All I can say is, "Way to go Judy Blume! Keep up the good work." What about you? Have you read any of Judy's books? What do you think about them? What sort of reception have you seen or heard toward her novels?
Saturday, August 7, 2010
Authors: Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
Title: And Tango Makes Three
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
And Tango Makes Three was placed on restricted access in all elementary school libraries throughout Loudoun County in February 2008. The book was challenged by one parent who objected to the story of two male penguins who parent a chick as an attack on families headed by heterosexuals. The book was reviewed by two committees of librarians, teachers, principals, parents, and administrators at the school and district levels. Both committees recommended against any restrictions on the book. Despite these recommendations, the Superintendent decided to restrict student access to the book, which was made available only to teachers or parents. ABFFE and NCAC sent a letter to the Superintendent urging him to reverse his decision, and our comments on the issue were printed in the Loudoun Times-Mirror. We also provided resources on book challenge policies and the First Amendment in schools to members of the school board. The Superintendent later returned the book to circulation based on “procedural errors” in the review process.
Two parents challenged And Tango Makes Three for use in elementary school libraries in Ankeny, Iowa. The parents objected to the story of two male penguins who parent a chick because they say the book is not “age-appropriate.” ABFFE and NCAC sent a letter to the Ankeny School Board opposing the challenges in November 2008. We also provided information on the First Amendment in schools to school officials. The board voted 6-1 in December 2008 to keep the book on library shelves.
Source: The Kids' Right to Read Project
Thursday, August 5, 2010
"Censorship and Young Adult Literature" by Jennifer Kemper
"Free Speech Groups Fight Gay Book Ban" by TorontoSun.com
"Gay-Anthology Ban Engulfs Burlington County Public Library" by Beverly Goldberg
"Hideous Book Remains in Fond du Lac School Library" by Beverly Goldberg
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
If religious institutions want to remain separate from government and secular politics, they have to expect that there will be some anti-religious views. So libraries, keep those views safe! We can't expect people to think for themselves with books that have only one view.
Title: The Golden Compass, [The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass]
Removed, but later returned to the library shelves at dozens of schools in the publicly funded Halton, Ontario, Canada, Catholic School District (2007) despite that the books were challenged as being "written by an atheist where the characters and text are anti-God, anti-Catholic, and anti-religion." The book and two other Pullman titles from the Dark Materials trilogy were pulled from public display for review, but are available to students upon request. The publicly funded Calgary, Alberta, Canada, Catholic School District (2007) returned the book to its library shelves two months after ordering its removal. Detractors accused the book of having antireligious content. Similar concerns prompted the Catholic League, a Roman-Catholic anti-defamation organization in the U.S., to urge parents to boycott a movie version of the book that was released in December 2007. Challenged at the Conkwright Middle School in Winchester, Ky. (2007) because the main character drinks wine and ingests poppy with her meals, and the book presents an anti-Christian doctrine. Pulled from the St. John Neumann Middle School and Lourdes High School in Oshkosh, Wis. (2007) because of concerns about what critics call its "anti-Christian message." Challenged at the Shallowater Middle School in Lubbock, Tex. (2007) because of the book's "anti-religious messages." Pulled from the library shelves at Ortega Middle School in Alamosa, Colo. (2007) for what critics regard as the book's anti-religious views. District officials later returned the book to circulation. Retained by the publicly funded Dufferin-Peel Catholic School District in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada (2008) with a sticker on the inside cover telling readers "representations of the church in this novel are purely fictional," and are not reflective of the real Roman Catholic Church or the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Source: Books Challenged or Banned in 2007-2008, Robert P. Doyle
Monday, August 2, 2010
Author: Burroughs, Augusten
Title: Running with Scissors
Publisher: St. Martin
Challenged as a suggested reading in a class where juniors and seniors earn college credit in Hillsborough County, Fla. (2010). Four high schools — Plant, Middleton, Hillsborough, and Bloomingdale — voted to keep the book and place a “Mature Reader” label on the front cover. Three high schools — Sickles, Robinson, and Lennard — will require parental consent. Gaither High School and Riverview High School voted to ban the book. The book was banned at Riverview because, “This book has extremely inappropriate content for a high school media center collection. The book contained explicit homosexual and heterosexual situations, profanity, underage drinking and smoking, extreme moral shortcomings, child molesters, graphic pedophile situations and total lack of negative consequences throughout the book.”
Source: Robert P. Doyle, Books Challenged or Banned in 2009–2010