Censorship

Smithsonian Censors Itself at the Behest of the Government

The Smithsonian Museum has been under pressure from Catholics and congressmen to pull pieces of an exhibit focusing on homosexuality and homosexual Americans. From NPR:

At least one critic has accused the Smithsonian of caving in to pressure from Catholics and from two Republican members of Congress. Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia called the exhibition "an outrageous use of taxpayer money." A spokesperson for incoming House Speaker John Boehner told The Hill newspaper that "Smithsonian officials should either acknowledge the mistake or be prepared to face tough scrutiny beginning in January."

More from NPR.

"Mamnoueh maqroubieh," goes the Arabic proverb. All that is forbidden is desired.

Article in the LA Times: In Jordan, a bookstore devoted to forbidden titles

"There are three no-nos," the owner of Al Taliya Books explains with a big smile. "Sex, politics and religion. Unfortunately, that's all anyone ever wants to read about."

5 Things to Learn From Amazon's Latest PR Disaster

Amazon is backpedaling after initially coming to the defense of one of its electronic book authors, a man selling a how-to-guide for pedophiles.

"Amazon believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable," the company said in a statement. However, after receving massive media attention, the book self-published by Phillip R. Greaves II, The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure: A Child-lover's Code of Conduct, has been removed quietly from the Kindle store.

This latest action further highlights how Amazon seemingly has no idea how to defuse a public relations nightmare; has sketchy business ethics; and apparently lacks a quality control mechanism to prevent more of these publicity headaches. Here are some takeaways from Amazon's fiasco.

Full blog post here

Parent: Homework assignment crosses the line

Greenwich's top educator is defending the use of a handout sheet of literary passages containing racial, ethnic and gender slurs that was part of a homework assignment on free speech and censorship in the middle schools.

An "appetizer" to a project coinciding with the American Library Association's Banned Books Week, which took place in early October and celebrated the First Amendment, the handout was intended to get students to think about why certain literary classics are considered taboo, said Sidney Freund, the superintendent of schools.

Full article

Book Bans and Challenges, 2007-2010 Mapped

Book Bans and Challenges, 2007-2010 Mapped
Hundreds of books are challenged in schools and libraries in the United States each year. A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, while a banning reflects the actual removal of those materials. The American Library Association (ALA) provides confidential support to teachers and librarians and tracks challenges that occur. ALA recorded 460 challenges in 2009 but estimates that this reflects only 20-25% of actual incidents, as most challenges are never reported.

This map is drawn from cases documented by ALA and the Kids' Right to Read Project, a collaboration of the National Coalition Against Censorship and the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression. Details are available in ALA's "Books Banned and Challenged 2007-2008; 2008-2009; and 2009-2010,"and the "Kids' Right to Read Project Report."

Penguin Full-Page New York Times Ad Defends 'Speak'

Further to our earlier story about an associate professor at Missouri State U. who referred to the young adult novel "Speak" as "soft pornography," the Penguin Young Readers Group has taken out a full page ad in today’s New York Times to defend the novel by Laurie Halse Anderson.

In an op-ed piece earlier this month in the Missouri News-Leader, Wesley Scoggins wrote that Speak was not appropriate for students of the Republic School District and also challenged Slaughterhouse-Five and Twenty Boy Summer.

From Publishers Weekly: “That such a decorated book could be challenged is disturbing,” said Penguin’s Shanta Newlin about the decision to run an ad. With Banned Books Week now in full swing (Sept. 25-Oct. 2), Penguin believes the ad points to the larger issue of books still being challenged in large numbers across the country, Newlin added. The ad, in fact, notes that "every day in this country, people are being told what they can and can't read," and it asks Times readers to "read the book. Decide for yourself." -- Read More

Author Defends Her Novel Stating that Rape is Not Soft Porn

For an event like Banned Books Week, it never hurts to have a cause célèbre, and this year, organizers needn’t have gone very far in search of one. They just had to turn to Twitter, where people have been rallying behind the young-adult author Laurie Halse Anderson, whose best-selling 1999 novel, “Speak,” has found itself at the center of a heated censorship debate.

Earlier this month, Anderson posted a series of messages about a Missouri man who wanted “Speak” removed from the high school curriculum in his school district. The man, Wesley Scroggins, an associate professor of management at Missouri State University, wrote an opinion article for The Springfield News-Leader in which he said that “Speak” — as well as Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse-Five” and Sarah Ockler’s “Twenty Boy Summer” — should be classified as “soft pornography.” (“Speak,” for the record, is the story of a high school girl who is raped by an acquaintance but then tells no one, is ostracized as a result of rumors about the episode, and becomes virtually mute. It was nominated for the 1999 National Book Award and was a Printz Honor title in 2000.) -- Read More

K-State Celebrates Banned Books Week

The sign on the podium from which Mary Siegle reads a passage from “Catcher in the Rye” says: THINK for yourself and let others do the same. Kansas State is celebrating Banned Books Week.

This event has been taking place since 2006, during American Library Association's Banned Books Week. This year's event began Monday and will continue through Friday.

According to the Office of Intellectual Freedom, there are many specific reasons why books are banned, but the top three reported are: inappropriate language, sexually explicit material and being "unsuited to any age group."

Many famous, classic novels - some of which are required reading in many high school English curricula - are part of the list of banned and challenged books. For example: "The Great Gatsby," "To Kill a Mockingbird," "The Color Purple" and "Gone with the Wind."

"It's important to raise awareness of the dangers of censorship and banning books," said Naomi Wood, associate professor of English. "When books are censored and banned, too often it means that information is being suppressed. Often, individuals want to prevent everyone from accessing information that perhaps only they and a few people like them find objectionable."

K-State Collegian has the story.

More Thoughts on Banned Books Week

Harry Potter and Huck Finn never met in their adventures, but they'll share a shelf at libraries across America during Banned Books Week, Sept. 25 to Oct. 2. The weeklong celebration of our freedom to read began in 1982 in response to an increase in the number of books being challenged in the nation's libraries and schools.

From DePauw University, Greencastle, IN: Banned Books Week has continued annually, and its need has not diminished. According to the American Library Association's (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom, there were 460 recorded attempts to remove materials from libraries last year and many thousands more since the organization began counting in 1990.

Three books by Lauren Myracle -- ttyl, ttfn, and l8r, g8r -- topped the ALA's Top Ten List of the Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2009 (see article below). Written entirely in texting shorthand, Myracle's books were challenged for sexual content and drug references. Stephenie Meyer's popular Twilight series was challenged on religious grounds, evoking opposition to J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter novels for promoting witchcraft. And it's not just new books that are being challenged. Classics such as Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird and J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye are perennial contenders for the distinction of being the most challenged book. -- Read More

Lauren Myracle Reads (and Writes) Banned Books, Do You?

Lauren Myracle, author of ttyl and Luv Ya Bunches, two frequently challenged books, writes about the phenomenon of Banned Books. She says that parents anger springs from fear. Grown-ups who care about what kids read aren't the enemy.

From Shelf Awareness: As 2009's number one most frequently challenged author in the country (Mom, cover your ears), I often catch flack for writing about topics that certain parents, teachers and librarians would prefer I didn't. Like what? Like a teenager kissing her female best friend, or high school kids drinking too much and doing really stupid things, or a discussion of the pros and cons of thongs.

I've also come under fire for writing (lovingly) about a fifth-grader who has two moms, as well as a boy who won't join the Boy Scouts because of the Boy Scouts' discriminatory policies. Biology gets me in trouble, too. For example, parents get all kinds of upset about a scene in one of my novels in which a 12-year-old girl sits down with a box of tampons and attempts to make heads and tails of the dense instruction pamphlet.

In grappling with issues surrounding censorship, I've come to the conclusion that the enemy--at least in part--is the inevitable us/them dichotomy that arises in discussions of intellectual freedom.

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