I have a poster hanging in my classroom. It has many different covers of many different novels on it. In the center, it looks as if it is an eye chart used by optometrists everywhere. But the kicker is what it says: “Censorship Causes Blindness. Read!”
This is my tenth year of teaching high school Language Arts (that’s fancy educator speak for English literature and writing.) I have had this poster since day one, and I believe in it wholeheartedly. Pictured on the poster are books such as To Kill a Mockingbird, Slaughterhouse-Five, 1984, and even Judy Blume’s Blubber. Books that are classics. Books that encompass time periods that we have conveniently forgotten about. Books that are guides to not making the same mistakes twice.
My students don’t understand how some of these books could be the victims of censorship. They can’t wrap their heads around how a book about a Southern girl or a book about a wizard boy with a lightening bolt scar can be on the same poster. They don’t get how a book about a girl being bullied because of her weight or about a boy would choose to eat worms would be censored. These students are not blinded by censorship.
If they aren’t, then why are adults? Why the need to censor books, blogs and more? Who decides what is to be censored and what is safe? Isn’t censoring these things just making more of an issue? Shouldn’t we be teaching our children to understand what is right and wrong and also, more importantly, truly understand the defeating power of censorship?
I just finished reading two novels set during World War II and the Holocaust. One was Sarah’s Key. This book was unbelievably heartbreaking to me. Censorship? Yeah, it was everywhere during that time. So much so that the French didn’t even understand that Jewish neighbors were being rounded up and sent to concentration camps. The second novel I read was Those Who Saved Us. This was from the point of view of a German teen who fell in love with a Jewish doctor. She ended up having to do many difficult things in order to survive. One point rings true: No one was told anything. Everything was censored. The news, the neighbors and even the words each said to each other. Censorship was hurtful. Censorship caused blindness.
It is important to look back on these novels for reference. Especially books like 1984 when the world is a false utopia and Big Brother is constantly watching. It is important to look back in history so the same mistakes aren’t repeated. It is important to look ahead at the ever-changing landscape of the world and make sure our children don’t have to face the dangers of censorship. It is even important to think of the words of Elie Wiesel when he said, “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” So, in turn, we are not blinded by censorship.
Posted in Random Days, School Days, Teacher Days
- Tagged books, censorship, generation, Holocaust, life, novels, school, teacher, teaching
Quite a few years ago, I taught the novel entitled The Chocolate War. From the title, one may feel that it is a Willy Wonka romp through a magical land of chocolate with some prevailing conflict that can be solved by – you guessed it – chocolate. And maybe even the Oompa-Loompas go on strike and are protesting by stopping their tireless production of chocolate, or the chocolate waterfall stops flowing and Charlie has to find out who of the original group sabotaged it. However, that is not the case. The novel is about a chocolate selling fundraiser, which is the hell I am dealing with at school.
Fundraisers are hard. Schools don’t have money to buy things and even, sometimes, replace technology. I teach a broadcasting class that airs announcements every day over our own cable channel. This year, we have lost five video cameras. Not physically lost, just dead soldiers who proudly served for five plus years each and every day of the school year. Cameras are not cheap, and video cameras run around 300 clams each. Hence the fundraiser.
What is one not-so-fundraising-creative teacher turn to? Why, chocolate, of course. It is not a difficult fundraiser, even though it is completely time consuming and the chocolate is always around. This is the bad part. I have zero willpower when it comes to chocolate. As I said, it is always around and I see it, smell it and basically figure out ways to justify/rationalize devouring it. Skipped breakfast? Why not have some Buckeyes. Afternoon snack as a reward for grading freshman essays? Why not try a London Mint bar. Stopping at the post office after school? Well, you get the drift.
This time, I have 50 cases. Each case has 48 bars. That is a total of 2400 chocolate bars. I could build a chocolate mountain with all of it. I could surprise my friends with a two-story chocolate fountain. I could be the envy of my neighborhood when I don my new chocolate winter apparel. But, I digress. In all honesty, I would love to find another fundraiser – one that is not going to cause me to gain ten pounds each year. Any suggestions? Well, while I am waiting, I guess I will just have to Willy Wonka it and get busy. I have some chocolate to peddle/smell/buy/eat/enjoy. But first, I may have to have a little, bitty bite. And then hit the treadmill. For days.
A quest to stop the insanity.
Do you remember the Lily Thompson movie “The Incredible Shrinking Woman”? Mom took us to see it at the movie theater sometime in the 80s… Anyhow, that is me now. I am Lily Thompson in that movie. But not exactly in the same context of cleaning products, but with the exorbitant amount of information I am holding onto. I feel swamped, not in a medicated way, but more of a “how can I remember this because it, like 99 other million things in my life, is so important?”
That’s how I feel today. Too much on my plate – my plateth overfloweth.