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09 December 2014 @ 06:01 am
censorship in all of its ugly forms  
There was a recent exchange on Instagram about what is appropriate for kids. An elementary teacher posted a photo of a page from Origami Yoda where Angleberger, the author, used characters such as these-- $%^&*^ to denote some feelings from one of the characters. The teacher labeled these as cussing and indicated she felt they had no place in elementary school books at all. Maybe, she said, they could be in books for 6th graders and up, but not in books for elementary kids.

A few other authors chimed in that she need not read their books if this type of "cussing" was disturbing to her. I refrained from posting as I could not think of a gentle way to call her a censor. You see, while I appreciate her feelings, she does not have the right to decide what her kids can and cannot read just because she finds something offensive. While I might agree that perhaps second grade is perhaps too soon for some of the novels she mentioned, I do not agree at all that having books with cuss words is inappropriate at school. She somehow believes the books we share with kids should be "clean."

And that is where we part company. You see, what she would describe as "clean" more than likely are books written decades if not centuries ago. I wonder if Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and Pollyanna are the books she might select? Perhaps Five Little Peppers and How They Grew? Those were the books of my childhood; but mostly they were my reading because Where the Wild Things Are was yet to be written (yes, I am THAT old). Would she find Black Beauty appropriate, I wonder? With its animal cruelty is that preferred over some characters designating strong feelings or even a DAMN or something stronger?

I worry about the kids in her class. I hope that next year they have a teacher who does not impose her morals on them but, instead, permits them CHOICE.

But censorship exists in other forms as I note in a column I wrote for THE ALAN REVIEW (http://www.alan-yabeta.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/L77-81-ALAN-Fall14.pdf). Recently, there was a request on the YALSA listserv for some short stories. A teacher wished to use short stories to review the elements of plot with her students. However, the stories had to be a certain length (no worries there as Gallo and Cart and others have wonderful SHORT story collections). And the stories had to have certain levels a la Founts and Pinnell, Lexile, etc. I recommended some resources but noted that I had NO idea about levels and such. Nor do I care. This is also censorship in a more insidious form.

If you wish to use the best materials you can find for your students then levels, exiles, cuss words, and the like should not be criteria. Read the materials yourself; determine whether the kids can access the text (because access is about more than syllables, syntax, semantics, and sentences). Remember that kids who have seen Mary Poppins know "supercalifragilisticexpealidocious" but they might not know "morose" (unless they have read Lemony Snicker, that is).

If you do otherwise, you are "just a brick in the wall."
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