Banned Books discussion

POLITICS/LEGAL/CURRENT EVENTS > the case against the canon

Comments Showing 1-20 of 20 (20 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Praetorian (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:28PM) (new)

Praetorian Padma | 1 comments What do you think, guys, are there some books we can get rid of? Are contemporary books being effectively banned by the backlist? Well, interesting argument.

Love to all

message 2: by Izajane (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:29PM) (new)

Izajane | 1 comments I think it depends on where you live. I am a teacher, and when we assign contemporary reading-even at the gifted level-without fail parents begin to grumble, then to scream. Examples? Life of Pi, The Kite Runner, The Posionwood Bible...
give them To Kill a Mockingbird, and hardly a peep (except for one bizarre lady who didn't want her child reading a book with 'Kill' in the title). Education anyone?

message 3: by April (new)

April (escapegal) | 2 comments Think this has something to do with fear of the unknown?

message 4: by Kat (new)

Kat | 9 comments Having just gone through textbook adoption at the school where I teach, I can definitely see the different views on canon. We've included some contemporary stuff and some canonical.

The trick with schools is that it's just as much about money sometimes as it is about content. Works in the traditional canon tend to be cheaper to put into anthologies (having gone beyond copyright) and so those are the books schools get. The more contemporary works require buying more books, sometimes more expensive than anthologies, and often in paperbacks that get destroyed and have to be replaced before the next adoption, costing yet more money. Fortunately, I work at a school where we have the money to include contemporary works like Persepolis and A Long Way Gone, which I'm totally excited about teaching, but not everyone has this luxury.

There is also a certain fear of the unknown. You have teachers who've taught the same thing for years and they don't want to have to do all the work to invent new lessons. You have new teachers who have read the classics, feel comfortable stepping into the classroom with them, and are nervous about confronting potentially hostile parents who could very well cost that new teacher her job.

And, frankly, some of the classics are just that- CLASSIC. We like them so we want to teach them. :)

In a nutshell, it's complicated.

message 5: by [deleted user] (last edited Jun 23, 2008 07:46AM) (new)

No April, I don't think it's fear of the unknown. I'm pretty sure they know exactly what they fear. Those who will prevent anyone from making their own choices fear losing control. They don't want anyone thinking for themselves for fear the thinker will then become a rebel and a leader causing others to think for themselves. This would deminish their powerbase. And Kat, it's always about money. There are two motives that pretty much cover the spectrum, power and money. And isn't money about power as well? You talk about teachers, but most of the true teachers I know do what the schools require of them. I'm a college professor and have only one mission in the classroom, introduce an analytical thinking process and feed raw data to the students and sit back and watch the learning take place. People are generally smart, given their head to do what that will. Again, the controls are about fear of losing control.

message 6: by Kat (new)

Kat | 9 comments In my experience, saying " what the schools require of them" as a means of saying they teach what they're told to seems a bit off when one considers the whole curriculum development and textbook adooption process. In an accredited school, the teachers essentially ARE the ones who make the decisions as to what is going to be taught, and through what texts. So, what is required of them is to look for books and compose lessons based on them. Yes, there is a parent committee who also gives suggestions and approves the texts; yes, the school board must also approve the curriculum---but all of this originates with the teachers. At least that's the way it is where I teach. I do what is required of me- I sat on a committee of English teachers this year, looking for texts that we think will help us teach the state standards (that we are bound by law to teach), but also teach students to think for themselves. We were all part of the process- some more than others, as is the way of group work, but we all were part of it.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this at this point, so I'll close, but let me just say that the teachers I know are generally more worried about the kids' education than they're getting credit for right now. I know it's not that way everywhere, but this is my experience.

message 7: by Tera Marie (new)

Tera Marie Well, the idea that teachers get to teach what they want is foreign to me. Where I teach, we are given our Essential Academic Learning Requirements (EALRs) from the state, the district takes those and decides on curriculum that will address the EALRs, they order the chosen curriculum, disseminate it throughout the district and tell us to teach. They tell us we must teach 90 minutes of uninterrupted reading and 60 minutes of uninterrupted math (of course the math lessons generally take between 75 and 90 minutes). We have lunch, recess and kids that need extra intervention (in reading) are pulled out an additional 30 minutes in the afternoon. We are given a science curriculum that we are expected to year will be the new social studies curriculum. There is no room for teacher creativity or input.

Then there is my classroom. I teach a self-contained class of students with varying disablities. They range in grade level from Kindergarten to 3rd grade, but cognitive levels range from 2 years old to 10 years old. I am expected to teach all of these children and make continued progress at moving them toward their grade levels, however, the district will not give me curriculum. I have to fight or get on the inside with a textbook coordinator who will "accidently" send me curriculum. Once I have curriculum, I am never included in receiving refills on consumables or updated materials. I have to begin fighting all over again. When I do get curriculum, I have to choose a grade level because they will only give me one set when really I could use K,1,2 and 3. I typically choose 1st grade and modify curriculum as best I can. The view of the district and my principal is the this is a special ed issue. I should be using my district special ed funds for curriculum needs...really? I get $100. This won't even buy me the teacher's guide. In addition, my students come from extremely low income families and even when I request supplies, they are unable to provide them, so I have stopped asking and use my $100 to buy supplies...

Anyway, my experience as a teacher is much different then what Kat is portraying. Kat, do you teach in private school? The one year I had absolute control over my teaching was when I taught 3rd grade in private school. I felt like a much better teacher, I wasn't confined to strict guidelines. I felt respected and important to the children and families, but they were just not the type of children I wanted to teach, plus I make double the salary in public schools which is important as I have my own family that I have to help provide for.

message 8: by Santina (new)

Santina (littlesaintina) I completely understand religion banning books, religion in my opinion is completely fear based, but it will be a huge issue for me if my daughter's school tries to ban students from reading a book. The older my child gets the more I realize the schools are not educating but creating armies of zombies. I find it shocking that in today's society is still trying to ban certain books, yet they will allow people to pay money to see in movies or mangazines what they will not allow them to read.

message 9: by Kat (new)

Kat | 9 comments I teach at a public high school. I also teach "regular level" classes that are required for all students to take before they can graduate. Granted, it's in a middle class suburban neighborhood, so we do have SES and a lot of parent involvement on our side, and the school has long been well-known for its academics. We've been awarded status as a National Model School and have several other accolades. I know I'm lucky to be where I am, and I've taught at the same school my whole career- I even student taught there.

Some of the books I'll be teaching next year in my senior English course that my teacher committee discussed and adopted:
The Joy Luck Club
A Long Way Gone

message 10: by Travis (new)

Travis | 4 comments i don't work in schools, but have been enjoying this discussion. most of our mandatory reading assignments in high school were simply uninteresting materials presented to uninterested students. i didn't observe banning so much as ignoring. i saw plenty of well-intentioned english teachers presenting the canonical works of classic pop fiction. having left there some time ago, I fantasize of leafleting high schools with lists of interesting, neglected works of all types that all students should know of and be reading instead of "Most Famous Story" by Ad Nauseum Famous Author. I could have received a better education in literature and writing by getting the hell out early and asking strangers what their suggestions were.

message 11: by Julia (new)

Julia | 62 comments Like TeraD, I am a special education teacher. Unlike him, I teach primarily high school students. Like him, in my last three years I have taught all subjects to my students, they are classified as emotionally disturbed. The first year I was teaching at a private special education school, that was funded with public dollars. Then I taught at a public regional program located at a public high school.
My students *were* bored; they expected not to be engaged in their own educations. Hopefully, I taught them differently. That was certainly my intent.
I taught Midsummer, Macbeth and Romeo & Juliet all toward performance. I also taught Whale Talk, Speak, Night, The Hobbit, The Outsiders, Kindred, Mountains of Mourning, Shakespeare Bats Cleanup, and other books, poetry & short stories in an effort to reach my students. Since I had small classes I taught the books that I could acquire through the school library system or through my public library system or I could find online for free. I had to have students' parents sign permission slips for some books at my administration's request. My students *liked* reading books with potty- mouthed characters.
I also have a 1000+ mostly used books in my classroom library, mostly YA, science fiction fantasy and horror, and required students to read a book outside of the ones assigned each quarter and write a one page paper on it.

message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

April wrote: "Think this has something to do with fear of the unknown?"

April, there are those who believe that every emotion is only the presentation of just two: Love and Fear. I think fear comes from ignorance and the fearful (read that ignorant) don't want others to learn any different.

message 13: by Carly (new)

Carly Praetorian wrote: "What do you think, guys, are there some books we can get rid of? Are contemporary books being effectively banned by the backlist? Well, interesting argument."

So back to this.... In the John Reed interview, he gives some examples of canonical books that could basically be expelled from the curriculum. I'd never read any of the books he mentioned nor heard of them being assigned in public schools. Maybe because most of my educational reading occurred after 2000, when I was in high school. So does this mean the canon has changed?

When I was in high school, we read a lot of Shakespeare, The House on Mango Street, Night, some Dickens, an abridged version of Les Miserables, A Separate Peace, The Scarlet Letter, The Scarlet Pimpernel, and The Odyssey, among others. We didn't read YA books, which I hear is becoming more of a trend. I think most of the books listed above could be replaced by good YA books, definitely Dickens. But I don't think Shakespeare or Homer can be replaced by contemporary authors. I think the problem with the canon taught in high schools is that most of the books are chosen for their readability and lack of complex ideas. YA books could be chosen for similar reasons. They at least get kids interested in reading and can teach them how to analyze fiction. Most kids fade out whenever they have to read something written before 1980, so if they're going to read simplistic fiction, it might as well be contemporary.

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) I went to high school in the Dark Ages. We read a lot of Shakespeare (10 plays), Dickens, Austen, The Scarlet Letter, etc. I think Hemingway and Steinbeck were as modern as we got, and YA wasn't even a publisher's concept then, as far as I know. I don't think we read anything that would now be considered YA, either - on the theory that if we wanted to read YA, we could read it on our own time.

message 15: by Old-Barbarossa (last edited Jan 02, 2009 10:55PM) (new)

Old-Barbarossa Also got a bunch of Shakespeare at the school. Strange it's not banned considering the content of most of the plays. Some things become acceptable just by being old?
Or are there places where old Bill is banned after all?
There's some odd stuff in the bible as well...
Geoffrey Chaucer, now there's a thought...anyone get him at school? We got one bit of the The Canterbury Tales, can't remember which...didn't have the red hot poker in it though...very selective teachers. But like a dictionary where kids look up the rude words we found the smutt anyway.

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) We had a good bit of Chaucer, as I recall. I like Chaucer.

message 17: by [deleted user] (new)

His only hit was Canterbury Tales.

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) Well, no, not really. Canterbury Tales is the big one, but I also like Troilus and Cressida.

message 19: by Julia (new)

Julia | 62 comments I worked in a private school where the principal forbade me to continue teaching A Midsummer Night's Dream. The kids were getting it, enjoying it, but she couldn't, also she wouldn't sit in on the lessons, so I had to stop teaching it.

Is that banning? The school had five classes and she was a woman with more authority than sense, for whom I never should worked.

message 20: by Daniel (new)

Daniel (danielrobbins) | 5 comments NO, don't take any away - in fact, add some if anything. I hate this trend of lowering standards to make numbers look better ... it doesn't make us a more informed society. I think much of the secret to getting kids turned on to some of these books is in how it is taught ... I remember I had teacher that made us watch Star Wars while we read the Odyssey and we discussed the parallels - and it was great because so many other students participated. Another instance I can think of is trying to help my younger brother get through Romeo and Juliet, being taught by his give-the-same-list-of-facts-every-year-and-make-sure-they-know-the-plot, very boring high school teacher ... I just used small, stupid things to engage him (like showing him how SO much of Romeo and Juliet is just very old d*ck jokes), and it worked so much better than the kind of bland, this-is-a-classic-so-you-should-read-it teaching many kids suffer through. Looking back, I feel fortunate to have read so many books in grade/high school - even ones I might still find boring. I think this is the case because so many of the "classics" or great books have their importance beyond the book itself - often they are more like representatives of enormous social change and/or tensions of their time, brought to life and demonstrating that social climate so much more vividly than most other things can.

back to top