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From the NYT:
The College of Charleston, a public university, provided copies of Ms. Bechdel’s memoir to incoming students for the 2013-14 academic year, as part of its annual College Reads! program that tries to encourage campus-wide discussion around a single book each year. The books are not required reading.
But one state representative, Garry Smith, told South Carolina newspapers this winter that he had received a complaint about “Fun Home” from a constituent whose daughter was a freshman at the college. Mr. Smith contacted the college to ask about other options for College Reads!, and said he was told there were none. Mr. Smith then proposed cutting $52,000 – roughly equivalent to the cost of the reading program, he said – from the college’s $20 million appropriation from the state. The budget cut is now moving through the legislature; South Carolina news media coverage indicates some sizable political support for the cut.
Fauquier County Public Schools has received a request from a parent to withdraw from student use the book “Two Boys Kissing” by David Levithan which is a part of the high schools’ library collections. A school committee at Fauquier High School decided to retain the book in its library collection, and the parent is appealing the decision to the superintendent.
Fauquier County Public Schools website
Fauquier.com: Venue changes for public hearing on ‘Two Boys Kissing’
Advocate.com: Op-ed: Banning Books, Risking Lives
From the Guardian:
Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group, violence
The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
Fifty Shades of Grey, by EL James
Reasons: Nudity, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group
A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl, by Tanya Lee Stone
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit
Looking for Alaska, by John Green
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
Bless Me Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
Reasons: Occult/Satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit
Bone (series), by Jeff Smith
Reasons: Political viewpoint, racism, violence
From the Huffington Post:
Grown-ups tend to think their problems are bigger and more important than the trials kids experience, but guess what? They're not. We're all traveling through life together--and not only that, but every adult was once a child. Too many adults forget that, I think. Too many adults forget what it feels like to be that awkward middle schooler worrying about which table to sit at during lunch. They forget that dealing with changing bodies, ever-shifting friendships, and maybe-getting-divorced parents is hard. So hard. I write about all that stuff (and more), but I don't write with the goal of corrupting my readers. I write with the hope of handing my readers a mirror in which they can see themselves as well as a window through which they can see the pains and joys of others.
Relatedly: Her 2013 AMA at reddit.
Join EFF on April 4th for 404 Day, a nation-wide day of action to call attention to the long-standing problem of Internet censorship in public libraries and public schools. In collaboration with the MIT Center for Civic Media and the National Coalition Against Censorship, we are hosting a digital teach-in with some of the top researchers and librarians working to analyze and push back against the use of Internet filters on library computers.
This is why EFF is calling on librarians, students, and concerned library patrons across the country to take action on 404 Day to raise awareness and call attention to banned websites and Internet censorship in libraries. Please join us at 12:00pm PST/ 3:00pm EST for a digital teach-in featuring Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Director of Intellectual Freedom at the American Library Association, Chris Peterson from MIT's Center for Civic Media and the National Coalition Against Censorship, and Sarah Houghton, blogger and Director of the San Rafael Public Library in Northern California for an in-depth discussion about banned websites in public schools and libraries.
From the Idaho Statesman:
Meridian trustees voted 2 to 1 to keep in place a hold on “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” by Sherman Alexie. The hold was put in place a few weeks ago after some parents objected to the book.
Board members rejected a recommendation from an earlier committee that said the book should stay on the 10th grade English supplemental reading list, with parental permission required for children to read it.
From John Green's Tumblr:
Earlier today I received an email from a high school English teacher in Strasburg, Colorado who plans to teach an elective Young Adult literature course. A group of parents created a petition to “cleanse” the book list, claiming that the majority of the books on the curriculum, “are profane, pornographic, violent, criminal, crass, crude, vile, and will result in the irreparable erosion of my students’ moral character.”
Paper Towns and Looking for Alaska have been targeted in particular, and the press attended the most recent school board meeting. The motion has been tabled for the next meeting at 7:00 pm on April 16th at Strasburg High School: 56729 e. Colorado Ave, Strasburg, CO 80136.
Click through for more info, as well as a full list of books on the proposed syllubus.
Yes, Adam Kuperstein of NBC Miami, the students are required to read lists of swear words. Not, like, a book that CONTAINS profane language used WITHIN CONTEXT of a LARGER STORY.
Good job on reporting both ACCURATELY and WITHOUT BIAS.
Man, I despise television news.
ANYWAY, as you may have gathered, Sherman Alexie's Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian has been challenged again, and it looks like in this case, the children of the objecting parents were given a different assignment and—for now, anyway—the book won't be taught again during this school year.
No challenge committee or anything like that, just, YOINK:
The school board says the principal worked it out so that the students, whose parents didn't want them to appear on TV, can now read another book to finish their assignment. The board says this assignment for the other students is over and no other kids will be given this book during this school year. The parents are happy about that and the board says it always wants participation from parents.
But, who knows. Maybe the school is planning on revisiting the issue over the summer, on coming up with an official challenge process, and on coming up with a plan for parental permission & alternate reads for potentially problematic books?
I hope so.
More than anything else about the story, though, my issue is with the way that NBC Miami reported it. I mean, SCARE QUOTES MUCH? They're so obvious that you can HEAR THEM in the reporter's inflection. And the whole situation had already been resolved, so the only possible reason I can come up with for the A Current Affair*-style treatment of the story is that NBC Miami, like, wanted to whip its viewers up into a frothy frenzy of righteous fury?
I know that at this point, most people probably have no expectations in regards to the objectivity of television "journalists", but GOOD LORD IT IS OCCASIONALLY MADDENING.
*Known throughout my childhood as "The Triangle Show".
The Brunswick County school board voted Friday to keep Alice Walker's novel "The Color Purple" in district classrooms and libraries but plans to consider placing restrictions on it at an upcoming meeting.
The decision was a reversal of a vote minutes earlier to remove the book. The votes followed a hearing that drew a crowd of people and speakers for and against removing the book.
Here's a bit more about that whole "reversal of a vote minutes earlier" part:
Board member Charlie Miller made a motion the book “remain in the AP classes and that this is an agenda item at our next curriculum meeting on Jan. 21, at which time we will look at the policy that is currently in place and make any revisions that we see fit.”
Board of education members John Thompson and Shirley Babson agreed, while Catherine Cooke and Bud Thorsen opposed the vote. Thorsen made the first of three motions Friday to uphold Superintendent Edward Pruden’s decision to keep the book on the curriculum, which failed 3 votes to 2 votes–removing the book from the curriculum for about 10 minutes before again voting on the issue.
It'll be interesting to see how/if they end up revising the standing policies & how they compare.
From Star News Online:
A second attempt to get "The Color Purple" removed from Brunswick County Schools has been denied, and a third challenge is already on its way, the school district announced Tuesday.
In her complaint, [Brunswick County Commissioner Pat] Sykes said she objected to "the immorality, the filth, the F word and the N word." The complaint says she only read parts of the book, through "pages attached, plus summary and CliffNotes."
The book is on 11th-grade advanced placement English reading lists, but the district has a policy allowing students or parents who don't agree with a book's content to request alternate reading material.
Yeesh, it probably would have been less reading if she'd just read the whole book. It's, what, like 250 pages long? And then, GOSH. All of those "filthy" excerpts she read would have, you know, CONTEXT.
I mean, sure, she very well might still not like it, but at least then she'd be challenging something that she was well-versed in. I'm always a little bit surprised when challenge policies don't require the challenger to have read the entire work in question.
From Teton Valley News:
The evening culminated in an emotional and convicted apology from Woolstenhulme, who admitted to acting hastily in suspending “Bless Me, Ultima” from the curriculum without following the proper procedures dictated by district policy 4120. He said he breeched the trust of the high school staff and the administration under his supervision.
“It’s very important to build trust in our community and in our school district, and I take responsibility for times this year when either my actions or decisions I think have broken down that trust,” said Woolstenhulme in his final recommendation and closing statement to those in attendance. “I recognize that I acted hastily on this, and I see the concern and the issue that the teachers have…[Policy 4120] is the guide that I recognize, I admit and I apologize, I should have been following very specifically. The teachers were working through it, Mr. Mello was working through it and I’m the one that failed and did not follow this policy. That being said, I would recommend that we do allow the English department to use this book. We can go through this grievance policy with those people that have these concerns.”
From Publishing Perspectives:
It’s not just the fact of censorship — it’s more the way the censorship works. Speak to any bookseller – and, sadly, there aren’t many in Doha – and they all tell you the same story. At the moment, retailers have to submit one copy of every title they receive to the Ministry of Culture for approval, even if the same book has already been approved for another retailer. It’s an Orwellian situation that is not without a comic side. “We’re still waiting for clearance for The Gruffalo even though it’s for sale elsewhere,” said Richard Peers-Weaver, Purchasing Manager of WHSmith, with a weary smile. “We have around 70% of our stock still tied up at the Ministry awaiting approval. It’s very frustrating, particularly when we have customers coming in and expecting to see certain things.”
If nothing else, click through to see the picture of the Doha skyline: it's VERY cool.
Johnson City, NY (WBNG Binghamton) When Johnson City parent Jeannette Farr saw what her eight-year-old daughter was reading, she was shocked.
Illustrations of soldiers bombing villages, and terrorists kidnapping a girls father were just a few of the details Farr couldn't believe her third-grader was reading.
"It's scary. We don't have guns in our house, my kids don't see guns, my kids don't watch the news," Farr said.
Although each story has a positive message, Farr says the illustrations are too much.
"I was surprised at how graphic the photos were," she said.
She even suggested banning the books, at least for elementary school students.
Not that anyone is infallible, but SLJ suggests both books for grades 2-4 and Booklist suggests Nasreen for grades 2-4 and Basra for grades 3-5. Anyway. Yes, fine: if a parent chooses to not have guns in the house and to avoid the news, that's her choice, etc., etc. But to expect an entire classroom—an entire SCHOOL—to conform to one's own personal worldview is just ridiculous.
No one person is the center of the universe, and in the Heat of the Moment, I think we all tend to occasionally forget that.
From The Journal:
Jefferson County Schools has discontinued the use of a controversial book being read by about 120 students at Harpers Ferry Middle School, said Pat Blanc, an assistant superintendent who oversees curriculum and instruction.
As a result, students are no longer reading "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" by Native American author Sherman Alexie.
"We checked and it was not on the state-approved list of books, so it should have gone through the process for approval in the county. But that didn't happen," Blanc said.
This sounds a lot like the recent story about Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close in Iowa: book is challenged mid-way through an assignment, school realizes that the book hasn't gone through whatever administrative rigmarole it should have gone through, they pull the book, multiple classes have to stop reading a book halfway through and start the unit all over again with a different book.
I understand that it's important for the teachers to follow the guidelines for getting books cleared in the first place—that way, for one thing, there'd (hopefully) be a more clear path when challenges happen—but it seems like it would be far less disruptive to have allowed the challenger's son to switch assignments, have everyone else finish the Alexie, AND THEN send the book off to get cleared or whatever. It just seems like they chose the path that was the most fraught with confusion and the least conducive to learning.
But, who knows, maybe there are legal ramifications that I'm unaware of.
From the Index on Censorship:
Last Tuesday (26 Nov) representatives from the country’s Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice — the Haya’a — raided several bookshops selling the novel H W J N by Ibraheem Abbas and Yasser Bahjatt’s, demanding it’d be taken off the shelves. H W J N is a “fantasy, sci-fi and romance” novel about a genie who falls in love with a human, and is a best-seller in Saudi Arabia.
Our source, who wishes to remain anonymous, says the book is charged with “blasphemy and devil-worshiping”. They add that the ban appears to stem from a Facebook post accusing the novel of “referencing jinn [genies] and leading teenage girls to experiment with Ouija boards”.
Jinn and Ouija boards? Well, heck. Now *I* want to read it.
From the Des Moines Register:
Classroom copies of a novel about a 9-year-old boy whose father died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were removed last week from an Ankeny school following questions from a parent about the book’s content.
Assistant Superintendent Jill Urich said the novel was removed from ninth-grade classrooms at Northview Middle School because the title had not received school board approval for use in the district’s English curriculum.
“Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” published in 2005, continues to be available in the school library, she noted.
“It was not pulled for the content; it was pulled because it had not yet been board approved,” Urich said.
The district is in the process of developing a new curriculum approval process, she said. The earliest the book could go before the board for consideration would be in two months.
While the Assistant Superintendent made a point of stating that the book wasn't pulled for content, I do think it's interesting that it A) was pulled immediately after there was a complaint about content, B) was pulled in the middle of an assignment, forcing 60 students (not to mention their teacher/s) to pull up stakes and switch assignments mid-stream C) was pulled before a decision was made about whether or not it was deemed 'appropriate', which falls into 'guilty-until-proven-innocent' territory, D) was used in classrooms last year, presumably without any issue, despite the lack of board approval.
I hope every other book being used in classrooms at Northview Middle School has board approval, and I hope that they have a decent challenge policy in place after this. Otherwise, it could be a long, annoying ride for the students, the teachers, and the administration.
From the Star Tribune:
Anoka High Principal Mike Farley selected and chaired the book review committee, per district policy. Farley announced their decision Friday.
“The group liked the book. They felt the writing was skillful. We talked a lot about the key themes in the book: bullying, poverty, abuse, love, body image and the power of language,” Farley said. “They felt the high school students would relate to the themes and be familiar with the language.
“We did acknowledge some of the language is rough, but it fits the situation and the characters,” he said. “If you did remove that, it wouldn’t be the same.”
File this one under IT WAS ONLY A MATTER OF TIME.
"If my child picked up the book out of the library, then your child has the ability to do it too," said Bennet. I Hunt Killers was on the Henry Clay High School reading list, along with dozens of other books. Bennett's son chose it from the school library, but she wants to know why it was even an option.
Now Bennett said the book needs to go, and parents need to be kept in the loop. Therefore, school officials are taking a closer look at the list, but want everyone to remember one thing. "You never can judge a book by its cover," said Quenon.
Fayette County Schools said no student is required to read I Hunt Killers, it is simply a book they can choose.
Which reminds me, I really need to read the sequel.
...after a TWELVE-YEAR ABSENCE:
On Tuesday the Plaquemines Parish School Board lifted a 12-year ban on the novel "To Kill A Mockingbird."
The controversy resurfaced in early October after teachers were discovered reading the book to students.
Now the school board says it will review its policies regarding textbooks and other reading materials.
The novel by Harper Lee has been a staple in American literature classes for decades.
Yeesh, I realize I've been behind in my news reading, but I hadn't realized I was THAT behind.
A few other related links:
Classic book's ban reinforced by school board
To Kill a Mockingbird Re-banned in Louisiana School District (<--This one is especially good, as they did some research into the original situation that resulted in the ban.)
ACLU asks Plaquemines Parish to lift 'To Kill a Mockingbird' ban
Open letter on the Plaquemines Parish School Board's ban of 'To Kill a Mockingbird' (<--Open letter from the Louisiana ACLU)
Set 'To Kill A Mockingbird Free' in Plaquemines Parish Schools (<--Open letter from the NCAC)
From the Scranton Times-Tribune:
At a school board meeting in October, Gary Butler spoke on behalf of a sophomore at Riverside Junior Senior High School, challenging the inclusion of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" by Mark Haddon on summer reading lists. He requested the book be removed because of instances of profanity within the text.
"We're going to keep the book," Superintendent Paul Brennan said in a meeting with English teachers and principals Friday afternoon. "We had safeguards in place where the child did not have to pick that book."
From the Billings Gazette:
A mother upset by the selection of a young-adult novel that deals frankly with life on an American Indian reservation is asking School District 2 for a second time to remove the novel from its required reading list.
The book, Sherman Alexie’s “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” winner of the 2007 National Book Award, is on the list of required reading for sophomore English classes in SD2 and is taught in some classrooms.
A committee of SD2 trustees will discuss the book and its place in the classroom during a special meeting at 6 p.m. on Monday in the Lincoln Center board room.
This is one of the few articles about challenges that actually includes a copy of the Request For Reconsideration form, so it's worth clicking through to see it.
Other than that, it's pretty much same old, same old.
From the State Port Pilot:
Others who spoke on the issue included county commissioners Marty Cooke and Pat Sykes, both of whom expressed a desire to see the book removed. Sykes said the county did not need to be like UNC-Wilmington or the schools in Wilmington.
“As you see in Wilmington, with UNC-Wilmington, and all the crime, the shooting and everything going on over there, everybody worries about them coming over here to Brunswick County. Well, I can tell you, if you continue with the sex and the profanity, the gangs will come, and they will come and there will be no stopping it. There will be shootings, because violence brings violence,” Sykes said.
From Indian Country Today:
Student Bryce Curry—a friend of Chad’s—said although he’s white, the story provided a window to him into the lives of Native Americans as it cleared up misconceptions and prejudices locals have.
“You know the parts that are ‘controversial’ and ‘offensive’? They’re meant to be offensive for a reason: to show that yes, prejudices do happen. The racism and prejudices Natives face is real. It’s not in the past, it’s in the present, and will remain in the future unless we openly discuss it in classrooms and show why it is wrong.”
The school board voted unanimously to keep Part-time Indian in the curriculum.
From the Teton Valley News:
The English department unanimously selected to include this piece on the sophomores’ required reading list, a decision endorsed by High School Principal Frank Mello. Since Sunday, Nov. 3, fierce debate has enshrouded this decision that began with a Facebook post by Shaylee Kearsley.
Kearsley’s post read, “Those parents that have sophomores in Mrs. Pence’s class, they are reading a terrible book called Bless Me, Ultima. Please scan through the book, ask your child. It is a terrible book and my son will not read another page of it. This is a mandatory read. They are half way done with it. We will be talking to the principal and Mrs. Pence tomorrow about banning the book.(ed.)”
In case you're wondering, yes, the school DID offer an alternative read: Wuthering Heights.
Heh. I love that Wuthering Heights passes as "non-objectionable".
Anyway, in case you'd forgotten, we've been on this ride before: seven years ago, in Colorado. THAT one was fun (<--To watch from afar. I doubt very much that it was remotely fun for the teachers.), as it resulted in a LOT of protesting by students, including a sit-in.
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At School Library Journal:
Last week, several of Watauga County’s commissioners even stepped into the fray. Commissioner David Blust, called for a book rating system and argued that the book offered no life lessons. “It’s filth…. Honestly, what normal family is like this book? The Manson family, maybe, Ted Bundy? I think this is just so wrong,” he told the local Watauga Democrat.
Another, Chairman Nathan Miller, said the book’s inclusion in the curriculum was such an “egregious violation” that he recommended the district dispense with its usual book review policy. And Commissioner Perry Yates called the book “despicable.”
THE MANSONS? TED BUNDY? SERIOUSLY?
ALSO. WHAT'S THE POINT OF HAVING A CHALLENGE POLICY IF DUDES JUST WANT TO THROW IT UNDER THE BUS WHENEVER THEY, PERSONALLY, DON'T LIKE THE BOOK? BAH.
Anyway. So, you know: the conversation has apparently gotten a tad heated.
From Allende's letter (which is reprinted in its entirety at SLJ:
As you know, it takes just one parent who disapproves of a book to pressure the school and eventually the Board of Education. In this case one person has circulated fragments of the novel—taken out of context—among parents who probably have not read the book. The fragments refer mostly to sexual content. The plan is to gather support to ban the book completely, even as optional reading. Since today TV series, movies, videogames and comics exploit sex and violence, including torture and rape, as forms of entertainment, I don’t think that young adults will be particularly offended by the strong scenes from The House of the Spirits, which are always part of the historical and political content of the novel.