Banned books an ethical dilemma in teaching
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Banned Books: An Ethical Dilemma in Teaching. By Sarah Dahl, Lauren Henry, Jim Hodges, Sara Hotchkiss, Karl Karkainen, and Abbie Landies. Banned Books.

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Banned books an ethical dilemma in teaching

Banned Books: An Ethical Dilemma in Teaching

By Sarah Dahl, Lauren Henry, Jim Hodges, Sara Hotchkiss, Karl Karkainen, and Abbie Landies


Banned books

Banned Books

  • Being that our group varies in the grade level, subject matter, and location taught, we decided that our ethical dilemma of banned (or challenged) books in teaching would cover all of our experiences (past and current).

  • We divided our group project into smaller partnerships to delve deeper into the questions and criteria needed to shed some light on this subject matter.


The nature of the controversy

The Nature of the Controversy

Abbie and Jim


Why are books banned the history

Why are books banned?The History

  • Plato in 360 stated that “The Republic’s first business will be to supervise the making of fables and legends, rejecting all which are unsatisfactory’.

  • Early book banning: primarily religious in motive. King Henry VIII of England required that all religious manuscripts be reviewed by Church of England administrators before being printed.

  • 1559: Roman Catholic Church published the Index ‘Librorum Prohibitorum’ This is the earliest list of banned books written. Not dismantled until 1966.

  • Today: Book banning is mostly local.


Why ban books what purpose does it serve

Why ban books? What purpose does it serve?

  • Mostly done to protect children from themes that are deemed inappropriate and corrupting. For example:

    • Violence, especially graphic violence.

    • Sex: For example out of marriage relationships.

    • Themes that express disrespect for parents, family, those in authority.

    • The glorification of evil.

    • Material that is deemed to be anti American.

    • Material that is deemed to be anti God.

  • Preserve moral and ethical ideas that are perceived to be ‘under attack’.


Is it advantageous to ban books

Is it advantageous to ban books?

  • It has been argued that book banning results in controlling what people, especially young people read. It could also lead young people to actively seek out such material just because it has been banned:

    “ Parents have the right to tell their kids not to take out certain books but they shouldn’t be able to narrow the choices for everyone else.”

    Pat Scales, School Librarian in Greenwood South Carolina.


Who challenges bans books

Who challenges/ bans books?

  • Book banning is seen as a fundamental parental right and duty to provide for children’s education. Therefore this includes the right to challenge/ban books even though the books have been chosen by well qualified and knowledgeable faculty for use in the classroom.

  • Those seeking to challenge or ban books say that books must be removed so children are not corrupted by them.

  • ALA: During the 1990’s:

    • Parents made 66% of challenges.

    • Library patrons made 16% of challenges.

    • Administrators made 10% of challenges.


However controversy surrounds this right

However, controversy surrounds this right:

  • Book banning is a kind of censorship. In this case, one group (parents) can be seen as controlling or restricting information and ideas within society.

  • A few people such as parents or library patrons can dictate what is appropriate for the many.

  • Denies students the right to free inquiry in order to come to their own unique understanding of material in such books deemed inappropriate.

    The position taken by those seeking to challenge/ban books is that by not seeking to challenge/ban these books our young people are at risk of becoming corrupted.


Cases where schools have encountered complaints

Cases Where Schools Have Encountered Complaints

Karl and Sara


Specific book cases and results

Specific book Cases and results:

  • Complaints against and for banned books:

  •  Librarians

  •  Parents

  •  Court cases


What librarians have to say

What librarians have to say:

  • Selection vs. Censorship

    • Books in the school library must be age-appropriate for the school and support the district curriculum

    • A balance of all viewpoints must be represented

    • Education and safety of all students is top priority

  • Coatney, S. (2000)


A librarian s example

A librarian’s example:

  • A Muslim mother asked the librarian to not allow her student to check out any books about Christmas or Christian holidays.  The librarian respected the mother's decision about not allowing her child to have access to these books because of their belief, however, the librarian would not censor the child's books because it is the parent's job to censor the books of their child.  The librarian feels that her job is to expose students to the best literature and be fair and unbiased.  


A librarian s quote

A librarian’s quote:

  • "All of us ban. Censorship abounds. It's more important for us to think about how we should be educating our students to make good choices, to know what is worthwhile and to be able to think logically and weigh all ideas in order to choose wisely. " (Coatney, 2000).


Why do parents want censorship

Why do parents want censorship?

  • Between 2001 and 2008 there have been 3,736 challenged books

    • 1,225 due to "sexually explicit" material

    • 1,008 due to "offensive language"

    • 720 due to material deemed "unsuited to age group"

    • 458 due to "violence"

    • 269 due to " homosexuality"

    • 103 due to "anti-family"

    • 233 due to "religious viewpoints"  

  • Statistics from American Library Association:


Top 10 most frequently challenged books of 2009 and reasons list from american library association

Top 10 most frequently challenged books of 2009 and reasons: List from American Library Association

  • 1. "TTYL; TTFN; L8R, G8R (series), by Lauren Myracle 
Reasons: Nudity, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs


  • 2. "And Tango Makes Three" by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
Reasons: Homosexuality
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  • 3. "The Perks of Being A Wallflower," by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Anti-Family, Offensive Language, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs, Suicide

  • 4. "To Kill A Mockingbird," by Harper Lee 
Reasons: Racism, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

  • 
5. Twilight (series) by Stephenie Meyer
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group


  • 6. "Catcher in the Rye," by J.D. Salinger
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

  • 
7. "My Sister's Keeper," by Jodi Picoult
Reasons: Sexism, Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs, Suicide, Violence


  • 8. "The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things," by Carolyn Mackler
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group


  • 9. "The Color Purple," Alice Walker 
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group


  • 10. "The Chocolate War," by Robert Cormier
Reasons: Nudity, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group


Specific books that have been challenged or banned

Specific books that have been challenged or banned

  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

  • Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman

  • Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

Pictures from www.amazon.com


To kill a mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird

  • Author: Harper Lee

  • Date Published: 1960

  • Publisher: J.P. Lippincott

  • Banned Category: Social Grounds

  • Background information: According to the American Library Association (ALA), TKAM is consistently in the top ten every year as one of the most frequently challenged books (Sova, 2006).

  • Reasons for being challenged: TKAM is frequently challenged mostly because of racial slurs, vulgar language and its promotion of racism.

  • Specific case study: Several black parents of the Warren Township School District in Indiana challenged TKAM in 1981. The reasoning for their concerns was that the novel contained racial slurs against blacks; they were additionally upset that the black characters in the book all had submissive attitudes to white authority, which "advocated institutionalized racism  and were harmful to the integration process" (Sova, 2006). They felt that the integration process in the public schools would be hindered if students were required to read TKAM. Upon review of the school board, the book was not banned. In protest, three black parents quit their positions on the human relations advisory council in Warren Township.


Heather has two mommies

Heather Has Two Mommies

  • Author: Leslea Newman

  • Date Published: 1989

  • Publisher: Alyson Publications

  • Banned Category: Sexual Grounds

  • Background information: HHTM is a book designed for elementary students. The moral of the story is that it does not matter if a family is composed of traditional elements of a family (i.e. a mother and a father). As long as there is love, any family should be acceptable. As the story indicates, "the most important thing about a family is that all people in it love each other" (Newman, 1989). Throughout the 1990s, the ALA rankedHHTM as the 11th most challenged book (Sova, 2006).

  • Reasons for being challenged: HHTM promotes homosexuality and a non-traditional family structure.

  • Specific case study: A group of parents challenged HHTM in a school library in Oak Bluffs, MA, in 1994. As one parent complained, "the subject matter is obscene and vulgar and the message is that homosexuality is okay" (Sova, 2006). The school board created a committee to evaluate the use of the book in its school district. The committee unanimously agreed to not ban the book from its libraries.


Gulliver s travels

Gulliver’s Travels

  • Author: Jonathan Swift

  • Date Published: 1726

  • Publisher: Benjamin Motte

  • Banned Category: Political Grounds

  • Background information: In GT, Gulliver, the main character, travels to several fictional islands. In each place he goes, he is an outcast who learns the ways of each land's natives. On the last island that he visits, he meets a horse-like species of creatures called the "Houyhnhnms" who appear ideal in every way. He also encounters "Yahoos", a wild species that remind Gulliver of the barbaric ways of humans. Gulliver wishes he could stay with the Houyhnhnms - yet his "Yahoo-like" nature prevents this. He comes to despise the human race.

  • Reasons for being challenged: Upon its publication, GT was not received well because it seemed to be making the point that human beings were a barbaric species with destructive qualities.

  • Specific case study: T.O. Wodel explains the backlash to GT is his essay titled "On the Philosophical Background of Gulliver's Travels". He maintains that there was a shift in thinking at the beginning of the 18th century in regards to the nature and worth of humans. The prevalent thinking was no longer that humans were despicable and sinful creatures, rather a beautiful creation of God. Wodel writes, "The Year of our Lord 1726, when Gulliver appeared, was in no mood to put a proper value upon a work which spoke of homo sapiens as 'the most pernicious race of odious little vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth'" (Karolides, 2006). If GT would have been written a century or two earlier, the backlash would have been much different.


Harry potter and the sorcerer s stone

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

  • Author: J.K. Rowling

  • Date Published: 1997

  • Publisher: Bloomsbury

  • Banned Category: Religious Grounds

  • Background information: According to the ALA, various HP books ranked #1 on the list of most challenged books for schools and libraries in the United States (Bald, 2006). By 2004, HP books dropped significantly on this list, and even more-so in 2005 when Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was first published.

  • Reasons for being challenged: Parents who challenge HP do not like the way that magic is defined as either "good magic" or "bad magic". Harry rebels against authority often and rarely gets in trouble for these actions.

  • Specific case study: The first legal challenge to HP books came in July of 2002 in Cedarville, AK. A parent, inspired after hearing a sermon from a pastor at the Uniontown Assembly of God church who denounced HP books, sued the Cedarville School District. The pastor was a member of the Cedarville school board. The district library committee unanimously voted that books should retain on library shelves. The school board compromised and allowed the HP books in school libraries - however they were in a restricted section; students could check out these books only if they had the permission of a parent or guardian. In April of 2003, Judge Jimm L. Hendren of the U.S. District Court in Fort Smith, AK, ruled that HP books should be returned to public access shelves in school libraries in the Cedarville schools. In the words of Hendren: "The majority of the board members voted to restrict access to the books because of their shared belief that the books promote a particular religion. Regardless of the personal distaste with which these individuals regard 'witchcraft', it is not properly within their power and authority as members of the defendant's school board to prevent the students at Cedarville from reading it" (Bald, 2006).


Suggestions to teachers

Suggestions to Teachers

Lauren and Sarah


Create awareness

Create Awareness

  • Create awareness about the banned and/or challenged books in your school by posting lists of these books, discuss the effects of censorship and of student’s rights to read.

    • Ask students to write a paper on censorship – or have students write a response letter in support of/opposition to an article in the local newspaper discussing a local issue.

  • Provide students with a lesson about the first amendment and create discussion about this topic

    • Assign students a paper about what freedom of speech/freedom of expression means to them

Adams, 2009


Create awareness1

Create Awareness

  • Assign students a project to investigate various first amendment issues (book censorship, school journalism, internet filtering)

  • Have students research the purpose of these various organizations: American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Coalition against Censorship, the First Amendment Congress and People for the American Way

  • Assign students a project to research the controversy of one of the banned books on the American Library Associations 100 most frequently challenged books.

Stephens, 2008; Scales, 2001


Challenge students

Challenge Students

  • Provide an opportunity for discussion about censorship and exposure to offensive ideas/topics/graphics. In the age of the Internet, it is possible students will come across (or already have come across) something they found offensive.

    • Class discussion: How should you handle such a situation? Should online content be monitored for children? Why or Why not?

  • Rather than asking students to pass judgment from an American perspective, have them consider the ways in which global issues such as climate change, environmental degradation, nuclear proliferation, or child labor might be regarded by citizens of another country, given that relevant information might be unavailable.

Scales, 2001


Discuss the controversial issues

Discuss the Controversial Issues

  • Select a book not banned in your school (but that has been challenged or banned somewhere else – ALA’s 100 most challenged books is a good resource) and have class read to together. Afterwards have students discuss the book’s ideas, why they think this book has been challenged and whether they agree or disagree.

  • Invite a member of your school districts ‘materials review committee’ or a member of the school board to come speak to your class about local challenges. Have students prepare questions for the guest.

  • Select a banned book and assign half the class to be in support of the book and the other half to be in opposition – allow time to research each side of the arguments, and then let students’ debate. Afterwards, ask students what they felt about both sides – which side they personally would support if this book was to be challenged at their school.

Scales, 2001


Ethical positions how they influence a teacher

Ethical Positions: How they Influence a Teacher

Consequentialist

Nonconsequentialist

Nonconsequentialism on the other hand holds that some actions are just wrong, regardless of the consequences. Nonconsequentialism considers morality intrinsic to the action, not the outcome. This theory holds that the course of action would be right or wrong, regardless of the context.

  • Consequentialism maximizes good consequences. From this viewpoint a morally right course of action is that which produces a good outcome. In this theory the context of the dilemma can change the morality of the action

Keuss, 2010


Ethical position

Ethical Position

In Teaching Banned Books

  • Consequentialism: How a teacher responds to the ethical dilemma of teaching a banned book is a consequentialist dilemma. Their ultimate intent is to produce a good outcome. The context of the dilemma will influence how they should respond.

Nonconsequentialist: This ethical dilemma in most cases would not fall under the nonconsequentialist theory of dilemma because the context of the classroom, teacher, students, etc. will influence whether or not the action the teacher takes is morally just.


Ethical position1

Ethical Position

In Teaching Banned Books

  • Approaching this dilemma then from a consequentialist viewpoint, the teacher should consider the context of the banned book(s) they want to use in their classroom, the nature of the ethics in banning books and the educational value students can gain from the situation. Whether or not the teacher agrees with the book’s ban, the teacher can certainly use the ban, the communities’ involvement, any relevant debates and passion about the topics, etc., as teachable moments for students.

  • Utilizing the dilemma to explore, learn and teach about freedom of speech, the first amendment and challenging students to consider the issues from their own perspectives will offer both students, teachers and the community a strong outcome.


References

References

  • www.amazon.com accessed August 11,2010.

  • American Library Association (2010). http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/banned/frequentlychallenged/21st   centurychallenged/index.cfm Accessed July 31, 2010.

  • American Library Association (2010). http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/banned/frequentlychallenged/21st   centurychallenged/2009/index.cfm  Accessed July 31, 2010.

  • Bald, M. (2006). Banned Books: Literature Suppressed on Religious Grounds. New York, NY: Facts on File.

  • Coatney, S. (2000).  Banned Books:  A School Librarian's Perspective.   TimeMagazine.  Retreived July 31, 2010, from http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,55630,00.html .

  • Karolides, N. (2006). Banned Books: Literature Suppressed on Political Grounds. New York, NY: Facts on File.

  • Sova, D. (2006). Banned Books: Literature Suppressed on Social Grounds. New York, NY: Facts on File.

  • Adams, H., (2009). Banned books week: just the beginning. School Library Monthly 26(1)

  • Keuss, J. (2010, July). Class Notes on Consequentialist. Seattle Pacific University.

  • Scales, P., (2001) Teaching Banned Books. American Library Association.

  • Stephens, W., (2008). Evidence of student voices: finding meaning in intellectual freedom. Knowledge Quest. 37 (2).


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