Censorship in Schools
There has recently been a renewed interest and passion in the issue of censorship. In the realm of the censorship of books in schools alone, several hundred cases have surfaced each year for nearly the past decade. Controversies over which books to include in the high school English curriculum present a clash of values between teachers, school systems, and parents over what is appropriate for and meaningful to students. It is important to strike a balance between English that is meaningful to students by relating to their lives and representing diversity and satisfying worries about the appropriateness of what is read. This burden often falls on teachers. The purpose of this research paper is to discuss censorship in schools and to argue that the censorship of books in the high school English curriculum is limiting and takes away literature that is meaningful to students.
How a Book is Censored
Brinkley describes a few actions that can lead to the censoring of a book in a school or school system: An expression of concern is simply a question about the material with overtones of disapproval; an oral complaint is an oral challenge to the contents of a work; a written complaint is a formal written challenge to the school about the contents of a work; and a public attack is a public statement challenging the contents of a work that is made outside of the school, usually to the media to gain support for further action (1999). Brinkley also points out an important difference between selection and censorship: Selection is the act of carefully choosing works for an English course that will be age-appropriate, meaningful, and fulfill objectives, while censorship is the act of excluding works that some consider offensive to readers of a certain age group (1999). In other words, selection is about choice, while censorship is about exclusion.
Censorship can take different shapes depending on the public school system: Schools can give teachers a list of acceptable books to teach, just provide guidelines, or leave it up to the teachers to judge which books are appropriate (Agee, 1999). Teachers are often very nervous about including texts that are not traditional or specifically approved by the school, especially because of the highly publicized cases of teachers whose careers have been ruined because of censorship debates in courts and school systems (Agee, 1999).
First Amendment Rights Relating to the Censorship of Books
Censorship cases often bring about debates over students’ first amendment rights. Students’ first amendment rights are important to preserve so that students can not be excluded from meaningful works or literature. It is understandable for the government to design educational plans as a way to get its voice into classrooms, but “the truth-promoting function of the First Amendment provides no reason, however, to question the right of students to explore a variety of ideas and perspectives, and to...