Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The War on Free Thinking

We've had a few discussions lately about censorship and how it affects readers, particularly young readers. First it was Ellen Hopkins being gracelessly uninvited from the Humble ISD Teen Literacy Festival and then it was the protests against the Speak novel because it addressed issues of teen rape and trouble.

Today's story is a little more personal.

I work really hard to provide my daughter with a great education, access to knowledge and multiple world views so that she can make her own determinations. We emphasize that we want her to think about what she is doing, what she is saying and what she is thinking about. My husband and I believe it's important for her to be able to think and the only way she can do that is through education. Education that provides her with multiple viewpoints…

Enter the Problem

Two weeks into her new school year at a school invested money to send her too, her teacher informed the class that no books with paranormal elements would be counted towards the yearly reading contest the elementary hosts. Two days after that, my daughter got into trouble for discussing Harry Potter with a classmate on the playground. She was told it was inappropriate. I protested both and was told that the Bible informed them that anything involving demons or the glorification of demons, vampires and other preternatural creatures was wrong.

Now this is a private school with a religious affiliation so it's not a free speech or freedom of religion argument. But at the same time, this was not an issue in any grade previous and apparently none of the grades after. It's just this one narrow-minded teacher. When I countered with the psychological metaphors found in most Young Adult books, including those with paranormal elements, about the isolation most mid-grade and young adult readers feel, she responded with the secularism promoted by these novels were too broad of a world view and were not wise choices for impressionable young children.

My brain began to hurt.

Two days after this conversation, my daughter was told not to open or remove her books from her backpack at school or they would be confiscated. Needless to say that despite speaking to the administration (who informed me that it was the teacher's prerogative in her classroom), my husband and I were confronted with the difficult decision of what to do.

We want our daughter to think.

Her teacher wanted her to not think.

We want our daughter to have open access to multiple ideas, viewpoints and more.

Her teacher wanted her to have access to one viewpoint.

The advantages of her school were completely undercut by the teacher's seeming desire to stamp out independent thinking, exploration and a world view that such education provides.

Education should be unlimited.

Education should blow the lid off a limited world view.

Education should expose kids to different viewpoints and ideas.

Education should not be censored.

And if someday my daughter decides she agrees with that teacher's assessments of a  limited viewpoint – it will be her choice, because she had the freedom to think about it.

3 comments:

  1. "too broad of a world view"?!

    WHAT THE FRACK?!?

    In my opinion, no world view can be too broad. The more broad the better!

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  2. Ugh, that is SO frustrating. I went to catholic school all my life and my parents would've had a fit if I were restricted like that. So I don't blame you for getting upset.

    But I think--if you don't want to take her out-- that going to a religious school can be balanced with parents who are discussing the issues at home.

    For instance, my school once showed us a documentary in religion class called Hells Bells about the evils of rock 'n roll music. *snort* I spent most of the class enjoying all the music clips, lol. I'm thinking--cool, I get to listen to AC/DC and Guns N Roses in religion class. But that's because i had parents who taught me that i didn't have to buy into everything but, like you said--to think, then decide for myself.

    The results of 12 years of Catholic education? I go to rock concerts like they're going out of style, I haven't been to confession since i left school, and I write erotic romance. Clearly, the school agenda didn't work on me, lol.

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  3. I would be furious, too. What right do they have to make these decisions for you and your daughter? I love what you said about an education being unlimited. And how can you have "too broad a worldview?"

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