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14 March 2015 @ 08:04 am
Oh the ads that appear in my Facebook timeline. Some days I am convinced that FB believes me to be exactly the opposite of who I am. But, if it did not underestimate me, I would never have seen this: http://bookriot.com/2015/03/10/what-the-frick-thoughts-on-clean-reader-app/. An app that removes all the swears from a book so it is "clean," boggles my mind. As if words are the culprit. As if words make something "dirty." As if words have some sort of mystical power when they are 4 letters long (and sometimes longer, I know).

Here is the description from the app: "Clean Reader prevents swear words in books from being displayed on your screen. You decide how clean your books should appear and Clean Reader does the rest." Because it is free, I plan to download it and see what it does exactly. I do have to purchase the book I am "cleaning" through the app, however, if you were wondering where the money is made.

I do not need to see it in action, though, to know this is censorship, pure and simple. Changing text, altering the words of the author, is wrong, wrong, wrong. An article join the Washington Post recalls the publication of a "clean" edition of Huck Finn several years ago (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/style-blog/wp/2015/03/06/this-freaking-app-can-sanitize-the-heck-out-of-any-book/) that sought to remove all instances of the N-word. The thought was that it wold be more palatable to public schools without such language. But how far do we go? When we open this can, worms are going to go everywhere.

Read the WaPo article as it details why someone created this app. Parents did it for their 4th grader who needed more challenging books. Parents found more rigorous texts to have problematic words. Presto: Clean Reader. Sigh.

I hope there are some lawsuits here, challenges from the writing community whose works are being sanitized without their consent. Sanitized for your protection? No, sanitized because someone finds the problem lies with words and not with the ideas and concepts these words are addressing within the text.
Current Location: VSRA
Current Mood: upset
Candy Banda on March 14th, 2015 09:04 pm (UTC)
Completely with your frustration...what will be next? Other words? Art needs to be left alone.
Laura Pofflaurapoff on March 27th, 2015 04:21 am (UTC)
Debate in my mind
I'm right along with you on this issue.
Few questions:
1. I don't understand why the FCC bleeps out words from music and television without it being censorship.
2. What would you do if you were on the fence about a book?

Scenario: the book Almost Perfect by Katcher. Currently in my middle school library for 8th graders. The only other campuses that own the title are high schools. At least three reviews state it's 8th grade and up. There is a LGBT community of students I wish to represent with quality picks representing related characters.

Student and parent complained on premises that it contained inappropriate content, sexually explicit, homophobic slurs, and offensive language and situations. Parent bypassed librarian and addressed concern with AP. AP kept book for three days despite requests for it to be returned so that the librarian could read, review, recommend.

Received email from AP that she and the principal discussed and decided to "remove the book from the library." After several communications between the library director, myself, and principal proper procedure is being followed. I am reading, reviewing and recommending the fate of this book. If they aren't happy with my recommendation they could possibly present a official challenge.

I have the following options: send book (which is currently reserved for 8th grade) to a high school. OR- Keep it and possibly face a challenge, most likely from within the own campus admin. This has been weighing on my mind for a week and I need to finish up and make a recommendation.

Your thoughts and feedback?
professornanaprofessornana on March 27th, 2015 11:25 am (UTC)
Re: Debate in my mind
Following process is always a good idea. Was an alternative title provided? That is also a good idea so that if only 1 person complains, there is another book for that person to select. If you intend to retain the book I would advise gathering the reviews and recommendations. I would write up a rationale for using it. Perhaps you have done these things already. I cannot tell you how to proceed because it is not my classroom. I applaud your decision to use a book that reflects the reality for some of your students. We do need diverse boos for our students. I wish you the best. Keep me up to date?
Laura Pofflaurapoff on March 28th, 2015 05:40 am (UTC)
Re: Debate in my mind
Thanks for your comments. I appreciate the feedback.

It's not being used in the classroom by the teacher. It was a selection made by the student for an outside reading for 8th gr language arts assignment within the genre of contemporary YA.

I, as the librarian, provided a list of recommended titles (of which did not include Almost Perfect) but students were not required to pick off the list. Additionally, I assisted students in learning how to locate summary and even subject headings to get an idea of plot and topic if they chose to download or buy from a bookstore.

Three weeks later (while off campus) I received the forwarded email received by the AP from the parent. I responded appropriately and offered to personally assist the student to select another title more appropriate for her. The student chose to not use the recommendations and obviously didn't check the catalog or book for summary/headings before checking out the book because the parent email said the student was totally shocked and "glad she stopped reading before she was assaulted with visual images." The parent also stated they had already selected another book and she was disappointed with the "standards" of the book selections but she did not press the issue of challenge.

However, since admin had never dealt with parents regarding something like this and the parent bypassed me altogether they reacted too quickly despite my attempts to educate them regarding the proper protocol to follow.

Yes, I have printed reviews, listed the awards and honors the book has received, printed everything from the catalog to show how many times the book has circulated (8 times in 1.5 years...once for me to bring home, the most recent that spurred the concern, and 6 times without complaint...not exactly flying off the shelf because everyone is talking about it) I am also working on a rationale of sorts and have noted contact with at least two librarians and one community member/parent with their non biased opinions. Additionally, I've printed several news articles referencing bullying, violence, and suicide among LGBT Teens (including an 8th grader within the district from 2010) in case I need them. I would rather be over prepared for this discussion as I believe it will set the precedent for any future issues in our fairly vocal community.

I'm still debating the best course of action to take during the discussion we will have but I am hoping as I work things out over the weekend I will gain some clarity.