Friday, October 01, 2010

Book Banning for Profit

In a the media frenzy of book banning, important stakeholders in this conversation were forgotten. Who were the teachers actually involved in this ban? For months prior to Wesley Scroggins' blog posts, a parent in the city of Republic, the issue of taking 20 Boy Summer and Slaughterhouse Five was discussed. In Scroggins' blog post, he mentioned three books, the two previous, and Speak. But, Speak was never "banned" at this school, merely mentioned in Scroggins post. A teacher in this district immediately stepped forward and said that they would not stop teaching Speak. Actually, this is a minor detail compared to the true story.

While #speakloudly, a hashtag begun by Paul Hankins, has now become a web page and a rallying cry for young adult readers and authors, no one seems to have cared to ask the teachers of this school how they are feeling. While Twitter sometimes feels like a backchannel for talk about potentially subversive, or maybe only "hot" topics, the true conversation about what it's like to be a teacher in a school that is asked to take books off the shelf, occurred on Facebook.

It's funny to me that articles about the banning of these books include comments from Paul Hankins, Sara Ochler, and Laurie Halse Anderson, but has anyone talked to the teachers of this school? How did that happen? So, to me, this whole firestorm of #speakloudly feels a bit dirty to me. It reminds me of #educationnation and NBC talking about school reform. What do they really know and who do they handpick to discuss teaching with? NOT the people who seem to be impacted.

Book banning is an opportunity to begin conversations about books. It's an opportunity to invite the community to read and discuss books. Ultimately, parents want to protect their children. We each have different things that we want to protect them from. I'm not sure Wesley Scroggins is THE "bad" guy in this situation. He contacted the school and wrote an editorial describing his feelings about the books. He does have the right to do that whether we agree or not. The result of his editorial is that a group of teachers in that district an opportunity to talk about why these books were important. Another result--he might as well have written a check to those authors.

I can't help but wonder why this book banning in Republic held more interest for YA authors and readers than the book banning--the actual banning--of Sherman Alexie's book in Stockton, Missouri. Well, whatever the reason, I'm still disappointed that censorship in one school became appropriated with parties who did not understand the whole story behind the school and didn't feel it necessary to include the actual teachers in the school in the conversation. They sidestepped them. The result? Money for a beautiful webpage called "Speak Loudly." Moving up 2,000 spots on the Amazon seller list. Frankly, shouldn't some of those who have co-opted this issue for their own profit write a thank you note to Mr. Scroggins and to the teachers of Republic. I think they can do better than send 20 books. Why not tell the New York Times and Huffington Post who they should really talk to?

These authors and supporters of YA lit do believe in protecting our right to read, but let's not overlook the profit to be made from being a part of this conversation.

25 comments:

David Macinnis Gill said...

Many thanks for the compliment about the Speak Loudly website. As the founder, designer, and host of the site, I'm glad to know that you found it attractive. Let me correct you, however, on your suggestion that money from the sales of banned books pays for it. You couldn't be more wrong.

All of the money to pay for hosting, software, and bandwidth comes out of my pocket. I'm not hosting SpeakLoudly.org to make money. I'm doing it because I care about teen readers and the people who bring them books.

The next time you want to question the motives of others, make sure you get your facts straight first.

Sarah Ockler said...

Hi Keri,

Thanks for posting about this. I agree that the teachers of Republic have an important voice in this debate, and they're absolutely encouraged to share their experiences in the Speak Loudly forums and Twitter conversations. I know that I've been trying to respond to anyone whose addressed this issue, including readers, parents, librarians, and Wesley Scroggins, who started the firestorm with his op-ed piece, as best I can. I do not, however, have the power to direct media sources to teachers and would hope they would do that as part of their research in covering the events. I also hope that the teachers you mention would stand up and share their experiences so we can engage them further in this important discussion.

I take extreme issue with your stance on those who profit from this, however. As far as I know, no one is profiting from this controversy, especially not the challenged authors or those dedicated folks who've taken a stand by creating the #speakloudly campaign and Speak Loudly web site, a true labor of love. My full response on the profit issue is here:

http://sarahockler.com/2010/10/01/think-authors-profit-from-book-banning/

David Macinnis Gill said...

I meant to type that I'm "a" founder and host of SpeakLoudly.org. Paul Hankins is my co-founder and co-host.

Margaret Hart said...

So, Keri, how many Republic teachers did you contact for your blog? How many parents?

I am a parent affected by Dr. Scroggins' challenge to the curricula in Republic HS. For me, this is not an "opportunity" to converse because parents are locked out of the process. Not only are parents locked out, the administration has not even revealed the process they use to "review" the curricula or who is involved.

Additionally, teachers HAVE commented on this issue, but if you knew the toxic nature of the district, you would know that teachers are afraid to speak out publicly. They have commented anonymously. Contrary to your statement, to my knowledge, no ONE teacher has the authority to have "immediately stepped forward and said that they would not stop teaching Speak." The Superintendent, however, did make that statement to me after a board meeting when he also said that Slaughterhouse Five was not coming back. Great opportunity for dialog when this was BEFORE the alleged review process took place.

So, Keri, how about you do as you suggest others do and cite some sources? Got any teachers willing to step forward? Here's a parent. I don't like the process, I am locked out of the process, and I don't like selling my kids' abiltiy to think and reason short. I don't like basing the content of my kids PUBLIC school curricula on any particular religion.

I didn't like what Stockton school did, but, I daresay, the reaction was different not because of profit margin, but because of following. Speak has been in print more than a decade and has a devoted following of people who were helped by reading it. Sherman Alexie's book has not been in print as long, and he likely does not have as large of a following or a website that is as active.

I think your attitude is rather smug and that you ought to get out of the ivory halls and speak with the folks involved.

Your column, frankly, sounds like sour grapes.

Keri said...

David,
I apologize. I didn't mean to infer that the sale of the books paid for your website. Didn't mean that at all, and did not think that.

Good luck. Do you think some book companies might begin helping you to finance the web page? I hope so. That will help you continue it in the future, so you won't have to pay for it yourself.

Your last line is funny. You should tell that to everyone who comments on this page. Why wouldn't you ask me about my motives? (one being because I care about the people involved in this situation).

Thank you for taking the time to post, and thank you for being supportive of authors and schools.

Keri said...

Dear Sarah,

It's great you are in this conversation, and I appreciate you engaging me in this conversation. I'm not trying to pick a fight. I am trying to highlight some issues. You mention "willing to respond." I guess that I would wish that you, Paul, Laurie and others would do more than that. If you feel like these teachers are fearful, why not call them. Leave a message at school? Send an email of support to their department.

A student in the NewsLeader wrote something like, "this makes teachers feel disenfranchised." After talking to teachers at Republic, I started feeling like the teachers were beginning to feel disenfranchised again by this national response that did not include them. And, yes, I know that it passes through their minds that they could lose their jobs.

The reason why this entire post for me came up was because Republic teachers told me that the Twitter posts weren't accurate to the actual situation. I couldn't understand why you and the others involved in YA Lit would not have contacted them to really keep your pulse on this issue. By not contacting them, it felt like keeping this issue alive was more important than actually working to support the teachers involved. I know one teacher has actively tried to engage you in this conversation. I also know that one teacher tried to engage in a Twitter chat and no one responded to her tweets. I don't understand how that could happen.

Sarah, I also disagree that you don't "have the power to direct media sources." You are a media source. You don't have to be NBC or KSPR these days to do that. Whatever you may think, by tweeting, posting, and using the #speakloudly hashtag you are covering this event. Your followers perceive you as covering the event, and I think you have a responsibility to be accurate and talk to the parties involved.

As for the last line of your comment, I'm not sure it's fair to ask teachers to "stand up and share." You are putting the onus on them. They are standing up in their school. You are bringing this to the nation. Have you, Laurie, and Paul invited them into your conversation--personally, through phone calls, email or by other means. It seems like all of you should have talked to them since you've been writing and talking about this so much.

These teachers are actually working through and affected by this, but it seems like the "glory," so to speak, is going to the people talking about the issue, not the ones who are actively involved and fighting about it. I want to support the teachers involved.

Sarah, you won't get rich off sales, I'm sure, but have you sold more books? Do you have more followers? Have you been quoted in newspapers in the last week? Whether it's money or not, you have profited from this conversation. That's okay. You have to publicize your work, and I'm really happy that you have gained a national voice in this. It's a good thing, and I appreciate your support of books.

I'm just trying to highlight an issue of concern that was highlighted for me by teachers I work with in that school.

Thanks for your time posting. I do really appreciate it.

Keri

Keri said...
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Keri said...
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Mr. Paul W. Hankins said...

Hello, Keri:

I've read this post some ten times and am still trying to figure out what is being said within. I hope that you get why I might be a little confused by the intent of this blog. I see pieces of concern for the teachers in your post. . .I see them.

I would like to offer that I had been in contact with the teachers you reference the VERY DAY that Twenty Boy Summer was challenged. I was asked via Direct Message if I had read the book. That evening, I read Sarah Ockler's book so that I could have a working knowledge of of the title as it seemed that I was being asked for an opinion that might be part of a meeting that was to happen that week with the teacher and the administration. I am simply trying to say here that I have been a part of the MO conversation, even if from outside of the fishbowl, from the very beginnings of this.

#SpeakLoudly is not about Republic. If it were, it couldn't be as "loud" as it is right now. It was not/is not the goal of this hashtag and site to take up the fight of any particular school, but to provide a forum for discussion on issues of censorship and the banning of books. I think that we have maintained this quite well.

I note, after reading through the SpeakLoudly thread over the past two weeks that there are times when Scroggins comes under fire more than Speak gets lifted, but the web will be what the web will be.

In an hour-long conversation with one of the Republic teachers, I was heartened by the administration's willingness to come to the table to discuss these books. The impression that I get from this conversation is that the teachers involved in this situation have had an opportunity to talk about the books being considered.

I just wanted to clarify that I HAVE been part of this conversation, inside and outside of the fishbowl.

I celebrate what the #SpeakLoudly campaign is doing to create awareness for books and to build bridges between between authors and readers. How many times in the last couple of weeks have we seen messages back and forth from Laurie Halse Anderson, Sarah Ockler, and the teachers in the campaign? Bridges that might not have existed, audiences that might not have been entertained without a focused forum within to have these exchanges.

There is no equity being made from #SpeakLoudly or the site. I am proud of what David and I have created at SpeakLoudly.org.

And my message to you, Keri, is that we haven't seen each other in a while. I hope we see each other again in Orlando. Please bring Tom with you. You are absolutely delightful. And tough. My eye socket still hurts a little where you kicked me (grin).

We missed each other here somehow. I hope that we have found each other, within our intentions, in this conversation.

Mr. Paul W. Hankins said...

Hello, Keri:

I've read this post some ten times and am still trying to figure out what is being said within. I hope that you get why I might be a little confused by the intent of this blog. I see pieces of concern for the teachers in your post. . .I see them.

I would like to offer that I had been in contact with the teachers you reference the VERY DAY that Twenty Boy Summer was challenged. I was asked via Direct Message if I had read the book. That evening, I read Sarah Ockler's book so that I could have a working knowledge of of the title as it seemed that I was being asked for an opinion that might be part of a meeting that was to happen that week with the teacher and the administration. I am simply trying to say here that I have been a part of the MO conversation, even if from outside of the fishbowl, from the very beginnings of this.

#SpeakLoudly is not about Republic. If it were, it couldn't be as "loud" as it is right now. It was not/is not the goal of this hashtag and site to take up the fight of any particular school, but to provide a forum for discussion on issues of censorship and the banning of books. I think that we have maintained this quite well.

I note, after reading through the SpeakLoudly thread over the past two weeks that there are times when Scroggins comes under fire more than Speak gets lifted, but the web will be what the web will be.

In an hour-long conversation with one of the Republic teachers, I was heartened by the administration's willingness to come to the table to discuss these books. The impression that I get from this conversation is that the teachers involved in this situation have had an opportunity to talk about the books being considered.

I just wanted to clarify that I HAVE been part of this conversation, inside and outside of the fishbowl.

I celebrate what the #SpeakLoudly campaign is doing to create awareness for books and to build bridges between between authors and readers. How many times in the last couple of weeks have we seen messages back and forth from Laurie Halse Anderson, Sarah Ockler, and the teachers in the campaign? Bridges that might not have existed, audiences that might not have been entertained without a focused forum within to have these exchanges.

There is no equity being made from #SpeakLoudly or the site. I am proud of what David and I have created at SpeakLoudly.org.

And my message to you, Keri, is that we haven't seen each other in a while. I hope we see each other again in Orlando. Please bring Tom with you. You are absolutely delightful. And tough. My eye socket still hurts a little where you kicked me (grin).

We missed each other here somehow. I hope that we have found each other, within our intentions, in this conversation.

David Macinnis Gill said...

Thanks, Keri. There have been several kind and generous offers of support for SpeakLoudly.org, and we've declined them. It doesn't seem right to accept funds from commercial sources because the site was created by teachers to help others, not to make money.

Mr. Paul W. Hankins said...

Hello, Keri:

I would like to offer that I had been in contact with the teachers you reference the VERY DAY that Twenty Boy Summer was challenged. I was asked via Direct Message if I had read the book. That evening, I read Sarah Ockler's book so that I could have a working knowledge of of the title as it seemed that I was being asked for an opinion that might be part of a meeting that was to happen that week with the teacher and the administration. I am simply trying to say here that I have been a part of the MO conversation, even if from outside of the fishbowl, from the very beginnings of this.

#SpeakLoudly is not about Republic. If it were, it couldn't be as "loud" as it is right now. It was not/is not the goal of this hashtag and site to take up the fight of any particular school, but to provide a forum for discussion on issues of censorship and the banning of books. I think that we have maintained this quite well.

I note, after reading through the SpeakLoudly thread over the past two weeks that there are times when Scroggins comes under fire more than Speak gets lifted, but the web will be what the web will be.

In an hour-long conversation with one of the Republic teachers, I was heartened by the administration's willingness to come to the table to discuss these books. The impression that I get from this conversation is that the teachers involved in this situation have had an opportunity to talk about the books being considered.


I celebrate what the #SpeakLoudly campaign is doing to create awareness for books and to build bridges between between authors and readers. How many times in the last couple of weeks have we seen messages back and forth from Laurie Halse Anderson, Sarah Ockler, and the teachers in the campaign? Bridges that might not have existed, audiences that might not have been entertained without a focused forum within to have these exchanges.

There is no equity being made from #SpeakLoudly or the site. I am proud of what David and I have created at SpeakLoudly.org.

And my message to you, Keri, is that we haven't seen each other in a while. I hope we see each other again in Orlando. Please bring Tom with you. You are absolutely delightful. And tough. My eye socket still hurts a little where you kicked me (grin).

We missed each other here somehow. I hope that we have found each other, within our intentions, in this conversation.

Keri said...

Margaret,

Well, I've talked to four teachers and no parents from Republic--except you. Glad to hear your thoughts, and I'm glad to hear that you were at the meetings with the school.

I support your school, and I support the teachers at Republic. That's why I posted. No sour grapes. Teachers have expressed concerns to me, and in this post, I was attempting to hold up for them.

Definitely no ivory tower. I guess that's the common slam for people at universities. I'm not like that.

We're in the same community. Please don't be mad at me. We want the same things, and I'm trying to support teachers at that school.

Thanks again for your post.

Keri

Mr. Paul W. Hankins said...

Hello, Keri:

I would like to offer that I had been in contact with the teachers you reference the VERY DAY that Twenty Boy Summer was challenged. I was asked via Direct Message if I had read the book. That evening, I read Sarah Ockler's book so that I could have a working knowledge of of the title as it seemed that I was being asked for an opinion that might be part of a meeting that was to happen that week with the teacher and the administration. I am simply trying to say here that I have been a part of the MO conversation, even if from outside of the fishbowl, from the very beginnings of this.

#SpeakLoudly is not about Republic. If it were, it couldn't be as "loud" as it is right now. It was not/is not the goal of this hashtag and site to take up the fight of any particular school, but to provide a forum for discussion on issues of censorship and the banning of books. I think that we have maintained this quite well.


In an hour-long conversation with one of the Republic teachers, I was heartened by the administration's willingness to come to the table to discuss these books. The impression that I get from this conversation is that the teachers involved in this situation have had an opportunity to talk about the books being considered.


I celebrate what the #SpeakLoudly campaign is doing to create awareness for books and to build bridges between between authors and readers. How many times in the last couple of weeks have we seen messages back and forth from Laurie Halse Anderson, Sarah Ockler, and the teachers in the campaign? Bridges that might not have existed, audiences that might not have been entertained without a focused forum within to have these exchanges.

There is no equity being made from #SpeakLoudly or the site. I am proud of what David and I have created at SpeakLoudly.org.

And my message to you, Keri, is that we haven't seen each other in a while. I hope we see each other again in Orlando. Please bring Tom with you. You are absolutely delightful. And tough. My eye socket still hurts a little where you kicked me (grin).

We missed each other here somehow. I hope that we have found each other, within our intentions, in this conversation.

Keri said...

David,
I'm really happy about that. I think it's a good decision to not receive support from commercial sources. (It's a hard decision too. We all need money.) I DO wish you all the luck in the world on the web page. I believe in what you are doing, and I'm glad that you have the passion, and a great group of people, to work with to make this happen. It's necessary and important.

Keri

Mr. Paul W. Hankins said...

oooh. Sorry about multiple posts to your blog. Google says, "Too large" and then posts them anyway. Maybe you could delete one or two.

I can explain how the teacher's responses could be missed. People are RTing from their profiles/feeds and not the thread. When we went live on #SpeakLoudly, early on, it was a "hot mess" of trying to interact with the feed with comments buried under RTs. September 19th was most chaotic.

I have a relationship with only one of the teachers at Republic. I am glad that you know the department. They need your support. We will continue to #SpeakLoudly for books when they come into question.

Keri said...

Paul,
I'm getting tired. You are the last comment. Sorry I didn't get to you sooner, because you are the one that I know and the one most important to me actually.

I want to start by saying that I think a lot of you--as do thousands of Twitter followers. :) You are a terrific person--so funny; a terrific writer; a terrific speaker; and a terrific teacher. I've benefited tremendously from knowing you, as do so many others.

I'm sure I felt more free to post this because I know you (and because it was late). I have high regard and high expectations for NWP people. I know you've talked to teachers in the school. You should talk to them again.

You are exactly right--Speak Loudly isn't about Republic, you are right.

This post came about because there were tweets still coming out about the Republic issue that weren't accurate. Then, as I spoke to Republic teachers, we discussed why this would still be happening.

You have to admit, Paul, Speak Loudly isn't about Republic, but Republic was the launching point for it.

Maybe this is what I'm trying to say: it seems like Sarah is saying, in a way, "These teachers can post or join this conversation if they want." I feel like they should be personally invited because through their personal experience at this school, a conversation, and now a web page, was begun.

I'm getting tired, and I would love to talk to you face-to-face about this.

One more thing--as hard as these conversations are, if people don't feel free to say what they think, whether it's Dr. Scroggins or me, then good things don't happen (like hard conversations and web pages supporting books and more books in schools). I think we should all encourage people to say what they think, and not try to get them to stop but to understand and listen to each other for the kernel that we can connect to. (Thank you, Margaret Wheatley).

I know I'll be talking to you soon. I haven't been doing laps, but I may have to start now. You know, get prepared for Orlando swimfest. Thanks for your post. Looking forward to seeing you.

Keri

Casey said...

Keri,

Thanks for posting this. I don't have time to fully respond right because I keep getting kicked off of the Internet in these Ozark Mountains.

I know this came from conversations you've had with several of us and it felt good to talk about the issue and how we have tried to handle it with our students. It also felt good to discuss how the tweets just keep rolling about these books being banned at our school, and quite frankly, we are tired of seeing tweets that specifically note the books as banned. There are even banned book giveaways highlighting books that have never been banned.

I think the majority of this post is about the teachers you have talked to. I think I have a voice for my department and can easily say we are exhausted. We have spoken with great care and diligence to our administration. We are visiting with our board members. We are talking to the people who make decisions for our district. Our students are doing the same thing. I guess it feels a little disheartening to see it keep going through the twitter feed as if nothing has been done in the district by anyone to keep these books on the shelves, and that is not true. Whose place is it to get information out? I don't know. Does the school board have to respond to the OpEd piece? I personally don't think so. They are, however, taking time to read the books in question from the June board meeting.

Paul, you are right, the #speakloudly campaign is not about Republic. What happened here was the match that started the fire for a nationwide awareness of challenging and banning books in our society.

As a writing project teacher, once I first learned about the issue (PRIOR to the OpEd piece), I immediately talked to colleagues about how to handle this--not for a nationwide audience and not for the authors involved, but for my 120 kids I face every single day. It is in having conversations that I learn the most, get support, and seek advice. After visiting with my department and making the decision to schedule a meeting with administration, within the hour, I called you, Keri, and since then, we've communicated almost daily regarding how OWP could support the teachers. Later that day, I contacted another NWP colleague in California and began looking at resources to help start conversations about book banning. The next day, I DM'd Paul Hankins.

To say I haven't been reaching out, or been involved in the conversation is a little insulting. I reached out from the very beginning. Paul told me to follow Sarah on Twitter, and that he would read the book. We DM'd several times after that. I also began to DM Sarah any updates. I guess the funniest part about this whole thing is that both of you, Paul and Sarah, overlooked the fact that I worked in the district and was involved in this conversation from a different perspective. Even OWP colleagues tweeted this fact out several times using #speakloudly.

Sarah, I'm not quite sure how encouraged teachers in the district felt to engage in the conversation publicly. The Sunday evening after the Scroggins article appeared my colleagues and I were trying to figure out how to negotiate conversations with our other colleagues, but more importantly, with our students. As we watched the twitter feed, we also had many questions and stories to share. In three different tweets and even two DM's, I asked for advice on behalf of my colleagues on how Republic teachers should handle this in their classroom. No response. It was clear, from that moment, it wasn't about the teachers, students and readers who this so deeply affected at the root.

Casey said...

As a writing project teacher, once I first learned about the issue (PRIOR to the OpEd piece), I immediately talked to colleagues about how to handle this--not for a nationwide audience and not for the authors involved, but for my 120 kids I face every single day. It is in having conversations that I learn the most, get support, and seek advice. After visiting with my department and making the decision to schedule a meeting with administration, within the hour, I called you, Keri, and since then, we've communicated almost daily regarding how OWP could support the teachers. Later that day, I contacted another NWP colleague in California and began looking at resources to help start conversations about book banning. The next day, I DM'd Paul Hankins.

To say I haven't been reaching out, or been involved in the conversation is a little insulting. I reached out from the very beginning. Paul told me to follow Sarah on Twitter, and that he would read the book. We DM'd several times after that. I also began to DM Sarah any updates. I guess the funniest part about this whole thing is that both of you, Paul and Sarah, overlooked the fact that I worked in the district and was involved in this conversation from a different perspective. Even OWP colleagues tweeted this fact out several times using #speakloudly.

Sarah, I'm not quite sure how encouraged teachers in the district felt to engage in the conversation publicly. The Sunday evening after the Scroggins article appeared my colleagues and I were trying to figure out how to negotiate conversations with our other colleagues, but more importantly, with our students. As we watched the twitter feed, we also had many questions and stories to share. In three different tweets and even two DM's, I asked for advice on behalf of my colleagues on how Republic teachers should handle this in their classroom. No response. It was clear, from that moment, it wasn't about the teachers, students and readers who this so deeply affected at the root.

I ended up contacting an OWP teaching colleague who worked at Stockton High School last year to hear about her experiences in talking with students about book banning. All of a sudden, it was real, not just a unit or lesson plan, but I couldn't get a response from the one place my PLN has always come through for me...following the hashtag.

So, we (my department) continued our conversations together, and alone, without the support of the authors or the #speakloudly campaign. We read their tweets, their blogposts, their opinions in our local newspaper. We read about ourselves, our students, our community in the third person. We shared links with each other and held private conversations through FB msging on how to handle this. We laughed a lot, got angry, made welcome and unwelcome comments, but we are stronger for it. We may have some disagreements, but we are all united in thought that we want books available for reading. I personally bought two copies of your book, Sarah, for my classroom for student use. I'm not alone. I think everyone in my department bought it to read prior to the OpEd piece and has since promoted it for reading if students are interested. If our students are curious as to why or how this book came up to be challenged, we encourage them to read it to find out why.

Casey said...

I ended up contacting an OWP teaching colleague who worked at Stockton High School last year to hear about her experiences in talking with students about book banning. All of a sudden, it was real, not just a unit or lesson plan, but I couldn't get a response from the one place my PLN has always come through for me...following the hashtag.

So, we (my department) continued our conversations together, and alone, without the support of the authors or the #speakloudly campaign. We read their tweets, their blogposts, their opinions in our local newspaper. We read about ourselves, our students, our community in the third person. We shared links with each other and held private conversations through FB msging on how to handle this. We laughed a lot, got angry, made welcome and unwelcome comments, but we are stronger for it. We may have some disagreements, but we are all united in thought that we want books available for reading. I personally bought two copies of your book, Sarah, for my classroom for student use. I'm not alone. I think everyone in my department bought it to read prior to the OpEd piece and has since promoted it for reading if students are interested. If our students are curious as to why or how this book came up to be challenged, we encourage them to read it to find out why.

I have to say, Keri, your title choice here must be what is so controversial with this post. Does that happen? Sure, I know it does. I can't imagine any writer who isn't in the business of writing for profit to not take advantage of a situation if their book is placed there.I must say I have had to defend MANY, MANY times that this is not the case here. This is what people outside of Twitter talk about.

Casey said...

So, I don't really know what all of this means. I am a teacher at Republic High School and I took nearly three days to navigate conversations in my classroom on book banning. We still talk about it sporadically and I have been truthful and transparent with my students.

Does this mean the National Writing Project spears a team to help the teachers in schools where books have been challenged? I guess the bottom line is this: anyone involved in censorship cannot wait for the teachers to step forward. Go to them. Talk to them. Value them. Ask them how you can help in their defense. If they don't know (b/c I can assure you I have never been through an ordeal such as this) then offer advice and support. Sending them to a website or a blogpost...well, who has time for that? I want real, meaningful conversations that help me clear my thinking and focus my thoughts. I have had so many of them with you, Keri...and I hope they never end. I don't know if he's posted here yet, but I'm sure my friend Thomas is lurking, too. Conversations with him have always helped me think through situations. I can't leave out Paul Oh, and yes, Paul Hankins, we had an excellent conversation Wednesday night after the meeting with our administration. The other real conversations came with my colleagues across and down the English hallway at Republic High School. I love working with every single one of them and I count it as a blessing to do so.

I didn't mean to write this much, but wow, I think it felt kind of good. Thanks for providing the place. I'm not an argumentative person by nature. If you start pulling individual lines from what I've written here and telling me how I'm wrong, or that I should have done something different, I probably won't respond.

To update, again, all of these books are available for student reading as choices right now. There has never been a request for a formal review of the books. Speak was in question, but after an excellent defense from our department chair (who has taught the book for years) back in early September (prior to the OpEd piece), it wasn't even considered for removal. Our administration is still concerned with the language and content in Slaughter-house Five and feels the students in our district are not ready to read this text. They also feel as if parents would not want us reading this text if they knew the language laced through it. If the board decides to remove it from the curriculum and furthermore from the library, well, my colleagues and I hope to and will ask to be deeply involved in the internal review process.

Casey said...

Seriously. Totally sorry about all those posts. It wouldn't let me post one long one. I hope I've cut and pasted it in the right places. I've only been kicked off the Internet about 17 times in the process. Someone needs to put up a good fight for our rural kids who don't have access to high speed Internet.

joan said...

Everyone has an interest in, and right to speak about, censorship disputes, because they threaten fundamental values affecting us all - the freedom to read, write, and speak.

Teachers are critical players, but they can't fight these battles alone. They are employees of the school district and ultimately have to carry out the instructions of school officials. They may be constrained in their ability to speak out publicly, not only because they risk potential job consequences, but also because they have an ongoing relationship with parents and students with differing views.

These concerns are irrelevant for outsiders, who may be no less interested in the outcome of the debate. Whether a book is removed from a school in Missouri, Indiana, Florida, and New York (to cite a few recent examples), it's a threat to students and authors everywhere. Even a book challenge that doesn't succeed has an effect - on the students who view the book through a different lens, on teachers who may steer clear of it in the future, and on authors whose writing may be affected by the fear of future challenges.

Frequently, a vocal minority is responsible for the effort to remove books from schools and libraries. School officials should also hear from those who think that students should be taught to think about and discuss controversial topics and that their best chance to do so is in school.

Anyone who wants assistance in opposing book censorship is invited to contact the National Coalition Against Censorship at ncac@ncac.org. We treat all inquiries confidentially.

Joan Bertin

mar_dave said...
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Margaret Hart said...

Well, I guess the optimism and trust in the administration were misplaced. Two of three books are out of the curriculum AND the library. So much for the administration respecting the teachers' opinions. Oh, and of the four Board members who voted the books out, only ONE actually read them all. Great.