Intellectually Our Duty For the Freedom To Read

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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.

Intellectual Freedom (Voki-1)

Intellectual Freedom (Voki-2)

Intellectual Freedom (Voki-3)

Intellectual Freedom (Voki-4)

Intellectual Freedom (Voki-5)

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Author: Kyle Greenwood

Certified Library Media Specialist from Coatesville, PA B.A. Journ '01 Penn State University (GO STATE!) Teachers Certification (Library Science K-12) '07 Kutztown University Director of Media Services: Moravian Academy Middle School (Bethlehem, PA)

1 thought on “Intellectually Our Duty For the Freedom To Read”

  1. I agree with you about this being something that you need to be very mindful of as a teacher/librarian. I have worked in a public school where I did all of the ordering of the books. I had known teachers in my district that had books that were challenged and questioned. In the past, we were mindful of things like profanity,violence, and sexuality but I noticed that things are changing.

    When I ordered books I tried to be mindful of multiculturalism and I would purchase books on different cultures and lifestyles. I tried to pick books that represented these different cultural aspects. I know other librarians did this also, but unfortunately because of this I knew librarians who had many of their books questioned because of their content. These books were not violent, or overly sexual in nature instead they talked about things like gender identity and having parents who were the same gender. Since this happened, I realized that there is still a great deal of censorship that we need to be mindful of, and we need to make sure that we are providing the reading materials that our students need and are representative of issues and topics that are relevant today.

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