Wednesday, September 27, 2006

First Amendmeant Goes "Too Far," Say 55% of Teenagers

People are talking about the new survey that found that 55% of teenagers who felt they knew enough to have an opinion on the issue thought the First Amendment went "too far" in protecting our rights. This is a big change from the 57% of teenagers who, only two years ago, expressed support for our country's most basic of rights.

Why the reason for the drastic turnaround? I'm sure it had something to do with two years of politicians basically arguing that any dissent or criticism of government means "the terrorists win."

And then I read stories like this, where an award-winning art teacher was fired after one of her fifth grade students saw a nude sculpture while visiting an art museum on a field trip.

A nude sculpture? In art museum?

Um, someone please tell me what happened to the United States of America that I knew. I miss her very, very much.

Find a Dirty Word? Shut the Library Down

An eye-opening story of out Texas:

WEST COLUMBIA — West Brazos Junior High students won’t be allowed to check books out of the school’s library after two complaints about profanity and sexual content were found in books borrowed by children.Until librarians finish weeding out those books, the library is open to students only under teacher supervision, Assistant Super-intendent Martha Buckner said.

The book review process will begin Monday, Buckner said, but she did not know how long the process would take.Board members requested a review of the district’s instructional resources policy, which includes library books, after they were approached last month by a Brazoria resident who said her grandchild brought home a book that contained the same four-letter profanity 13 times in eight pages.

That was followed by a complaint Tuesday by West Columbia resident Monte Hurley, who said the book “Zero to Sixty: The Motorcycle Journey of a Lifetime” by Gary Paulsen, which was checked out from the school library by his 12-year-old son, contained details of sexual acts and profanity, Hurley said.

“No child in any school needs to read that — it’s pornographic,” Hurley said.The administration and school board members agreed, he said.“That book is obviously not age-appropriate, and that book will not be on the shelves,” Buckner said.

Superintendent Carol Bertholf said changes in personnel and publishers might have been a reason why books containing explicit content made it past the district’s book review council.“We’re aware of the situation,” Bertholf said. “That’s why the policy was addressed.”

Buckner said Paulsen is a well-known children’s author, and she said it’s possible librarians recognized his name and they thought it was good to buy. But with at least 10,000 volumes in each library districtwide, making the review process stricter is going to be a work in progress, Buckner said.

Hurley said the book had the words “mature reader” handwritten inside of the book, but he didn’t think that was enough to prevent children from checking it out.

“I really don’t want that stuff in the school system,” Hurley said. “I understand that my children hear this stuff around in the public, and they’ll hear it in school, I’m sure, but I don’t want my tax dollars to teach it to my children.”

A parent complains about a book, so they shut the library down to "review" every single book? Here at AS IF!, we can't help but ask...isn't that overkill? Granted, this is an elementary and middle school (where the question of age-appropriateness does more readily apply), but still.

And again, must we immediately equate a swear word or a mild sexual situation in a literary context with "pornography"? Hyperbole just inflames situations like these (and really, really annoys authors like us!).

As always, the question we at AS IF! have is: who decides, and what standards will be use to determine what qualifies as "offensive"? Is it going to be the personal opinion of the one person reading a particular book? Because, if so, we can absolutely guarantee that many great, classic, award-winning books will eliminated (because there is often something in almost every book that someone will find offensive!).

AS IF! strongly cautions the librarians at West Brazos Junior High to take a deep breath and slow down. There are books we're talking about, not asbestos siding. First and foremost, you need a clear, consistent book selection policy, and an equally clear consistent review policy following a complaint. The more open the process is, the better off you will be. There are simple, straightforward ways to handle the question of "age-appropriateness" in books.

We speak from experience when we say that at least 80% of all book complaints could be peacefully resolved with a clear book review policy, one that is readily available to the public.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


For us here at AS IF!, Banned Books Week is a little like Easter for the Easter Bunny. Except that rather than painting eggs and running around hiding chocolate bunnies, we try to call attention to ongoing efforts to censor or restrict access to books and ideas.

But that's looking at the glass half empty.

Banned Books Week also celebrates the FREEDOM TO READ, the fundamental, and fundamentally American, idea that the best person to decide which book or idea is right for you There are a lot of people who want to take that freedom of choice away, for a lot of different reasons--almost all of them bad or misguided.

This whole debate is very simple. It's all about the freedom of speech: the freedom to express yourself, to be yourself, and to tolerate others excercising that exact same freedom without interference.

And just so there's so misunderstanding: Banned Books Week is also about the freedom to criticize, even hate a book. You think a book is offensive or just plain badly written? That it's not appropriate for your children? As long as you don't want to restrict others' access to that book, even that opinion is also part of the freedom we're talking about! (Even if--gasp!--that book was written by an AS IF! member!)

The American Library Association's Intellection Freedom Manual puts it like this:

“Intellectual freedom can exist only where two essential conditions are met: first, that all individuals have the right to hold any belief on any subject and to convey their ideas in any form they deem appropriate; and second, that society makes an equal commitment to the right of unrestricted access to information and ideas regardless of the communication medium used, the content of the work, and the viewpoints of both the author and receiver of information. Freedom to express oneself through a chosen mode of communication, including the Internet, becomes virtually meaningless if access to that information is not protected. Intellectual freedom implies a circle, and that circle is broken if either freedom of expression or access to ideas is stifled.”

We here at AS IF! stand together with those authors who have been challenged or banned, those readers who have not had access to certain books or ideas, and, well, anyone who feels that their rights of expression have been suppressed or curtailed.

Happy Banned Books Week! a banned book! Speak out against intellectual suppression and intimidation!

Oh, and please pass the chocolate bunnies.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Banned Books Bracelets!!!

Look! Look!! Look!!!

Now you can wear your ideology on your sleeve. Or at least on your wrist. Fuse #8 Production saw this on Bookshelves of Doom's site, and now here it is . . .

Banned Books Bracelets for Sale

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I'm going to buy two.

-- Submitted by Lisa Yee