Professor of Media Law at the University of Florida, Clay Calvert, was a former professor of mine at Penn State University. I had the privilege to be a part of his Media Law class during my time in Happy Valley (a pseudo-name for the campus). One quote always stuck with me as a professional teacher-librarian from that class back in the summer of 2000, “Censorship can have a chilling effect on all forms of media.” The term “chilling effect” means that if books are being freely censored and banned, what could be next?
Throughout history, those who have challenged material towards an outright ban have done a disservice to the American public whose fundamental right to free speech as outlined in the First Amendment is being tarnished over reasons stemming from ignorance to a desire for conformity in the name of decency. One of the most banned authors within the last 40 years has been Judy Blume…..yes…THE..Judy Blume (Superfudge, Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret). According to the 2007 Banned Books Guide by Robert P. Doyle, Superfudge has been challenged in Wyoming due to the “profane, immoral, and offensive” material. Are You There God…has been challenged due to the themes of “sex and anti-Christian.”
Educators in general have a duty to protect quality works of fiction. One of the ALA’s (American Library Association) published Bill of Rights protects the shield of censorship.
- III. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment
What does this have to do with cultural competency? Everything. If a child is being denied the access to read quality, culturally significant stories. Fiction builds connections. The concept Intellectual Freedom is vital to the lifeblood of any library program. The concept can not be seen, touched, or heard, only experienced. The goal is to protect the right to read. Censorship takes away that right and then students become disassociated with learning. We all fail.
The following five part Voki presentation elaborates on the ethics of protecting intellectual freedom.