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There have recently been many controversial discussions regarding the rise of censorship in American Public schools. This has been a popular topic that I have been very interested in researching for awhile now due to my future career involving teaching. In the past decade alone nearly several hundred cases regarding public school books being censored have surfaced throughout social media. Currently, there is a heated debate concerning over which books should be included in high school English curriculums due to the heavy clash from the different values shared between school systems, teachers, and parental figures.
It is hard to merge all parties ideologies to agree towards a standard of what can be considered appropriate for students.
I choose my topic because it expanded on the themes we were already learning about in our class. Censorship can be seen throughout all media and environments, and a place where censorship has a large presence is in America’s schools. The purpose of my research paper is to examine how censorship in schools can be harmful to students.
The suppression of books in high school English curriculums leads to a limited classroom that takes away essential literature for students. I learned a lot of valuable information regarding the services that Longwood provides for students research in my History LSEM course that I participated in last semester. I utilized the past things I learned from LSEM, and the new information I gained from our library visits to research my topic thoroughly.
I began my search by using the Greenwood Library Online Catalog because my friend suggested that I use it.
To find the specific genre of books that I desired I typed brief keywords such as fight, censorship, and school to give me a broad sense of what the Library had to offer. I was very surprised that I could find many valuable references using the catalog. I felt very confident that I had a topic that was interesting to me, as well as others. Now that I had a wide selection of books that I could research into I felt less stressed, and more motivated to expand on my topic.
After writing down the location and names of the books I found, I went in person to examine my findings to validate if they would be helpful to my arguments cause. Through Longwood’s Library services I found many books that would be viable to my case. However, I was still searching for a direction to go in for my conclusion that would strengthen my argument. I used the provided Longwood Databases such as JSTOR to find modernized content that would help my thesis. Through my research process, I found many potential sources that I considered to use. From my years of experience, I found that it is very important when using references to validate the credibility of the author provided.
The first thing that I did when I found a source that looked helpful was research who published the content. When I found a source that had a reputable publisher it made me feel more comfortable using it because I knew the content of the book had gained approval from a higher establishment. I followed a routine procedure of researching the content, author, and publisher before determining to use the resource in my narrative. Author Jean E. Brown provided unbiased evidence regarding how students first amendment rights are being impacted by the rise of book censorship in public schools in her book, “Preserving intellectual freedom: Fighting censorship in our schools”. I knew that she was a credible source due to her book being published by the National Council of Teachers of English. When I established the source to be published by a credible organization, I moved to researching who the author was.
For example, Brown graduated from an ivy league school and has many credible accomplishments that give her leverage when making claims regarding book censorship. I did not have any challenges when determining the authenticity of the references that I choose because of the to the strict procedure I followed to ensure that my sources came from credible backgrounds.
The censorship of books in schools has grown in today’s spotlight and is now a main point of contention in the United States. Advocates for anti-censorship often struggle, especially in schools to preserve the rights, knowledge, and skills for students. Brinkley posits the notion that the most common causes of censorship in high school books are profanity, sexuality, violence, witchcraft, and violence. Klass (2017) would agree with Brinkley’s statement, “Books can get challenged because they involve magic or because they offend religious sensibilities”.
Although my sources are spread throughout different years, the ideologies they all share are still very prevalent in this society. It is astonishing to me that the struggle of book censorship is still a common practice, and that the claims made years ago are still impacting students today. I found it interesting how Brinkley (1999) claims that a student’s exposure towards bad language, sexuality, and new age thinking can serve a literary purpose and “is justified as it portrays historical events or current social conditions” that can benefit a student’s ability to learn (p. 128).
Brown (1994) expands on Brinkley’s claim by stating a large percentage of, “psychologists and educators generally agree that students learn best when they are free to form, hold, and express their own ideas” (p. 31). Noll (1994) provides a consistent agreement with Bushman’s claims. However, she examines the negative consequences that teachers can face when engaging a child’s education, “teachers who seek out literature which instead explores multiple perspectives provide opportunities for their students to question the status quo.
In doing so, these teachers also make themselves vulnerable to criticism and censorship. They become caught in the middle between a desire to teach according to their beliefs on the one hand and pressures to conform and use ‘safe’ literature” (p.63). This adds weight to my initial thesis by insinuating that the teacher’s role is more significant when considering alternative reasons to why are books being censored. However, it would seem that Bushman has similar views as Noll and Brinkley as he states that educators are starting to stray away from using stereotyped classical literature and starting to expand on the new genres that push limits by, “providing a confrontation with life and to help students to make a personal discovery” (Bushman, 2001, p.139).
Finding a solution for book banning can be difficult due to the amount of participation it would require from all parties involved. Teachers, parents, students, and administration can work together towards a new educational standard that does not allow the suppression of information because of biased motives. There is no question as to whether or not this should be done. The methods are not always easy for the vulnerable and troubled teacher, but they are unattainable. Teachers are reluctant to fight against censorship due to the consequences that might impact their job.
The teachers that have previously fought against censorship usually lose their battles or suffer in their communities. The precedent set for teachers allows for little progress to be made involving anti-censorship without receiving repercussions. Teachers are pushed into situations where their decisions are “caught in the middle between a desire to teach according to their beliefs on the one hand and pressures to conform and use ‘safe’ literature on the other” (Noll, 1994, p.63). One of the most efficient ways to combat book banning is to use self-expression which will bring attention to the wrongdoings of censorship. Engaging all perspectives is a very powerful tactic as it brings more awareness to what needs to be changed.
Noll states, “The collective voice empowers us and others as we all make choices about the literature we will share with our students” (1994, p. 64). The voice that will inspire change comes from those who are willing to create it. Speech is not just entitled to the powerful; it is the savior for the masses as it accentuates change. Organizations that bring awareness to book banning help by encouraging solutions to be made. For over 40 years, the National Coalition Against Censorship has defended the right to read for all.
The NCAC encourages students, parents, and school officials to fight back against censorship by spreading information against the unjustified cause. The NCAC created a pamphlet which they encourage others to spread throughout classrooms to bring attention to book banning. The NCAC (2017) claims that, ‘When books are challenged for their controversial content, the resulting discussion often brings more attention to that specific content and could overshadow the value of the book as a whole. Which is why you should speak out! Student voices are very in denial – particularly when they demonstrate a maturity and understanding of the broader implications of censorship” (Kid’s Right to Read).
Spreading this information around schools allows more students and faculty member to participate in advocating against book banning. Another initiative that helps create awareness is The Banned Books Week Coalition which celebrates the right as citizens to decide for our own intellectual choices. To spread awareness, the Banned Books Week Coalition has an annual celebration which glorifies the freedom to read and encourages individuals to participate by reading a banned book. This celebration is held every year on the week of September 24th. The BBWC and the NCAC are both two nonprofit organizations that strive for academic freedom. These two organizations provide opportunities for communities to get involved to stop the practice of educational censorship.
I found valuable sources using programs that Longwood provided for students. I have found many sources that examine the different perspectives of which censorship impacts through the greenwood catalog and JSTOR. My proposed solution allowed my direction to pathway into many other sponsored organizations that are all founded on academic freedom. I want to explore these new sources in narrative two as they could help influence new research involving my thesis. I want to expand on my research by understanding how censorship affects the English curriculum and students. For my next narrative, I also want to include more data that would strengthen my argument and provide logos to my points.
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