Censorship in the Classroom

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Sex. Politics. Religion. The big three: a work of literature is often considered controversial because of its statement about or use of these topics. What makes these and other areas so touchy in the classroom? Why do some parents and concerned community members want controversial materials out of the classroom?

In this look at the language of censorship, we must first define censorship, who does the censoring, and why. These will be the first three spotlights for looking at the language of censorship. Then, we will look at how teachers, especially teachers of literature and the language arts are affected by censorship. Finally, we will preview how censorship can be taught in the classroom, to prevent some of tomorrow's censorship cases.

"I never knew a girl who was ruined by a book."

* James Walker (Quotations, 1997, 2).

When I was in elementary school, I read every Judy Blume book I could get my hands on. I cried through three readings of Katherine Paterson's Bridge to Terribithia and scared myself with every Stephen King novel I could finish. In junior high and high school, we were taught Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, The Hobbit and Sounder, and My Brother Sam Is Dead, along with the classics. None of these books ruined my innocence. When I was date-raped the summer I was sixteen -- that ruined my innocence.

Since then, I read that Maya Angelou's novel I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings has been censored because the rape of eight-year-old Ritie by her mother's boyfriend, Mr. Freeman, is too "pornographic." In Moulton, Alabama, the novel was banned in December, 1995, after the superintendent said, "'When it goes into describing sex organs and describing the pain and actual act of rape, I...

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...Dr. Sara. "How the Mind of a Censor Works: the Psychology of Censorship." School Library Journal, January 1996, p. 23-27.

Foerstel, Herbert. Banned in the USA: A Reference Guide to Book Censorship in Schools and Public Libraries. West Port, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994. p. 135- 213.

Noll, Elizabeth. "The Ripple Effect of Censorship: Silencing in the Classroom." Young Adult Lit: A Contemporary Reader. Ed. Dr. Jeffrey S. Copeland. Needham Heights, Mass.: Simon and Schuster Custom Publishing, 1997, p. 199-204.

"Quotations on Censorship." Online. Internet. 2 Dec. 1997. Accessible at: http://www.booksatoz.com/censorship/quote.htm.

Rossuck, Jennifer. "Banned Books: A Study of Censorship." The English Journal 86.2 (1997): 67-70.

Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language. New York: Portland House Press, 1989.

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