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23 March 2013 @ 07:44 pm
The many headed beast of censorship  
There was a great post in The Atlantic about the recent kerfluffle about PERSEPOLIS. You can read it here: http://m.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/03/sex-violence-and-radical-islam-why-persepolis-belongs-in-public-schools/274152/, although every story, posting, and tweet I have seen has a slightly different timeline and story. The earliest posts indicated that the Chicago Public Schools had ordered the book removed from ALL classrooms and ALL school libraries following a complaint (and the complaint ad come from a teacher or an administrator depending on which of the early [posts you saw). Very quickly the order for removal from libraries was rescinded (it did not follow the proscribed policy according toe CPS officials), but the ban for classroom shelves and usage remain and still do. As the day progressed, and folks wrote and tweeted and posted and phoned about it, the story changed and was tweaked. I even had a reply to one of my tweets by the school system. It seems bad PR is something to be avoided at all costs.

However, the classroom ban is still in effect despite the fact that PERSEPOLIS was a text included in a CCSS framework for 7th grade. Officials indicate they are concerned following the "complaint" by someone (and again that someone is elusive) that the book is too mature in its content. Now, they are indicating that the book will only be allowed for 11-12 grades unless teachers have "special training" in its proper use. Nothing more solid that that has been offered.

The book has an NC380L lexile (which makes it below the required and for 2nd grade, BTW). Here is the explanation for NC from the web site www.lexile.com.


These NC or "Non-Conforming" books have a Lexile measure markedly higher than is typical for the intended audience or designated developmental level of the book. The NC code is useful when matching high-ability readers with a book that's still at an appropriate developmental level.

And here is the info you will find if you wish to use the ATOS measurement of text (from www.renlearn.com). Reading level is 3.3. The book is worth 2 AR points if the test is passed. Interest is noted as UG for upper grade. Also, please note the summary which does not really let anyone know about the content of the book other than it is black and white comic strips (it is a graphic novel).

IL: UG - BL: 3.3 - AR Pts: 2.0
Accelerated Reader Quiz Type Information AR Quiz Types: RP
Book Rating Rating: 3.0
This book contains black-and-white comic strip images in which the author shares the story of her life in Tehran, Iran where she lived from ages six to fourteen while the country came under control of the Islamic regime.

Now, I am pointing out NONE of this as an excuse for the Chicago Public Schools. I am noting it because, as someone who has actually READ the book, I require it for my graduate YA lit class. I do so because it is a GN, it is in black and white, it is about another culture, and a myriad of other reasons. I made this selection using my OWN knowledge of the book and not some numbers from a web site. If I were in a middle school classroom, I can tell you that, since I am not a believer in the "all kids read the same books all the time" approach, this book might be one of many different GNs and books set in other countries that might be part of a classroom library. On the other hand, I might not, depending on the ability of my students to deal with the issues and situations in the book, even have the book on the shelf for my students (notice I said might or might not. I am out of that level classroom and cannot make a decision unless I am in the classroom and know the kids; this is called selection: making decisions based on the developmental levels of my kids, the needs of the curriculum, and other factors).

Does this in any way excuse the actions of the schools? NOPE. It is censorship, pure and evil (not simple at all). It did not follow any policy about challenged materials. My suspicions are this:

1. Kids went out to public libraries or asked older siblings to check it out of the high school library so that they could see what all the fuss was about.

2. The book will NEVER be returned to the middle school and particularly not as part of the curriculum.

3. We will NEVER know the full story.

4. This is just the beginning of incidents caused by placing a book carelessly within a framework based on numbers.

So, want do we do when we see this happening? SpeakLoudly. Read the %$#^*( book. Do NOT put a book into the curriculum for study by ALL kids you have not read. Be prepared to defend your choices for texts. SpeakLoudly some more.
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