Censorship in the Classroom

Censorship in the classroom is a very controversial topic and always remains a central issue when discussing the parameters of education. Our government plays a large role in governing what sort of information America’s children are exposed to within the set curriculum. The average American child receives the majority of their knowledge and education from school, so the information that is allowed to be taught is a very delicate and important issue which needs to be discussed more openly.

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When literature is altered or banned from public schools and libraries it can be over a variety of reasons. Books containing vulgar language, excessive violence, or connotations of drugs and sex are often items targeted for censorship. The reasoning behind this is that some believe that these are potentially dangerous ideas, and if children were to be exposed to them that they would be corrupted and manipulated by them. Some fear that discussing these items in a classroom atmosphere may lend some sort of acceptance in the real world.

There is a contradictory school of thought on the subject which says that censorship in itself is a form of manipulation, and is a greater evil than anything a student might learn in a book. The basis of this counter argument is that censorship does not allow children to reason and think for themselves. The inclusion of all materials would then allow students a freedom choice to decide on what is or is not moral behavior. The removal of this freedom is decided by a higher power.

Some parents complain about a lot of literature that most schools have approved as reading material in their library and in the classroom. If we listened to every parent complain there would even be a ban on the dictionary from schools. “School officials at Menifee Union School District temporarily removed copies of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary Tenth Edition for containing graphic terms like “oral sex” after a parent complained”. http://ncacblog. wordpress. com.

While it may not be ideal to have a universal curriculum, teachers should be able to explain their choices, stating why the book was chosen and what the objectives are in terms of the problems, needs, or interests of their individual class. Removing a book should be based solely on its educational value, not on whether a few parents think it is a good or bad thing. In theory, any parent could have some complaint on a majority of books depending on their beliefs or religion. There would be an unlikely scenario where veryone is satisfied with the choice of literature in the classroom. When I become a teacher I would make sure that on back to school night I would print out all the required reading materials that my class would read. I would go over the reading list book by book with the parents to ensure that they consent with the reading list. I would detail the need and benefits of my selections, detailing the positive virtues and lessons learned. If they do not consent I would provide an alternate book for the child to read but I would stress the importance of the lesson plan.

If I were teaching an older class, perhaps 6th or 7th grade, a book that I could understand that would offend some parents, which they would potentially bann is Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. While a classic in American Literature, the books excessive use of the “N Word” may on the surface seem troubling to modern education. I would explain that the benefits of the novel outweigh the negative connotations of some of its language. I would explain that at the time it was written, it was acceptable language at the time and it wasn’t trying to be offensive.

The use of the word was a reflection of the social commentary of the times. I would explain how it isn’t acceptable in society or the classroom today and decide as a classroom if we want them to skip it or substitute the word with something else. For curse words that aren’t appropriate for class but are commonly used and aren’t really in the massively offensive category (like the B-word), I would substitute something silly or completely opposite like honey-bunny or cupcake in order to make light of the situation and in turn diffuse the word.

We must be very careful when it comes to censorship in education. The classroom should be a showcase for open minds and ideas and the moment we start restricting avenues of thought, is the moment we halt progress in our nation’s youth. Openly discussing the questionable selections with parents and in the community is key to halting unnecessary censorship in the classroom.

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