Chapter 17: Academic Freedom and Censorship: Teacher Rights or Responsibilities
How should the proper balance between teacher freedom and responsibility be determined? Position 1: Fir increased Academic Freedom:
* Schools are at the center of local debates about touchy subjects such as, morals, sex and sexual orientation, religion, politics, economics, racism, and a host of other social value controversies. * Censorship denies, defeats, or diminishes academic freedom! * Sex, Politics, and Religion: A few Cases
* A parent in Loathe, Kansas, demanded that John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men be banned from the school curriculum and classroom because the book is “worthless” and “profanity filled.” The Majority rejected the effort. * In Oakley, California, some parents wanted the same Steinbeck book banned for racial descriptions. * Schools use the popular Philip Pullman book The Golden Compass was protested by a group of parents and Christian leaders in Winchester, Kentucky; because Pullman was call “an atheist” and the book “anti-Christian.” * A high school history teacher in Denver Public Schools was dismissed because the city newspaper published his and other candidates’ views as they ran for congressional seat” the district thought his views were too controversial. He won the case but the district limited him to teaching Basic English and erased his teaching history. * A high school student paper in Bakersfield, California, was prohibited from publishing a story with interviews about gender identity, but a county judge ruled that student to have the right to exercise freedom of speech. * Most frequently banned books: Harry Potter, Diary of Anne Frank, Catch-22, Farewell to Arms, Deliverance, The great Gatsby, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Chocolate War, and Slaughterhouse Five. Even some comic books suffered censorship. * Most censored authors: Judy Blume, Mark Twain, Maya Angelou, John Steinbeck, J.D. Salinger, Toni Morrison, R.L. Stine, Maurice Sendak, William Golding, and Rovert Cormier. * Quotes about censorship from famous figures:
* Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart: “Censorship reflects a society’s lack of confidence in itself.” * Historian Henry Steele Commanger: “Censorship always defeats its own purpose, for it creates in the end the kind of society that is incapable of real discretion.” * Actress, playwright, screen writer, and sex symbol Mae West: “I believe in censorship. I have made a fortune out of it. * Climate of Fear
* Challenges to school and library books have been 400 to 500 per year over the past three decades. A lot of the challenges were mostly by individual parents. Organized efforts have joined. * Parents Against Bad Books in Schools (PABBIS) and safelibraries.org. * On safelibraries.org they have published the most shocking and inappropriate segments of each book. * A lot of schools try to limit controversy by passing strict policies that are even sometimes illegal. * Good school districts have splices and practices that promote academic freedom which doesn’t allow for parents, students, and the public to challenge or raise questions about what is taught and how. * What happens? Teachers lose jobs, students can be suspended, and teachers avoid controversy, and education suffers. * We need freedom: Intellectual freedom!
* A Necessity, Not a Frill
* Academic Freedom = Free Society, which is what our Nation was founded on. * It is increasingly important for teachers to become more active advocates for academic freedom in public discourse and in political arenas. * Democratic education requires debate and discourse – only with teacher freedom can this happen. * Freedom to teach and learn is basic to good education. * Arguments against Academic Freedom
* Based on traditional ideas...