Tag Archives: first amendment

I ♥ Banned Books Week

I stumbled on this sign last summer in the teen section of a local library

I had two kids taking classes at Scottsdale Community College one summer, and sometimes waited on campus between teen taxi runs. They always knew exactly where to find me — in a building where text from the First Amendment is painted across a wall in bold letters. Sitting under the words always felt just right somehow.

Most Americans profess their love for the First Amendment, but some have a hard time practicing what they preach — choosing instead to advocate the banning of books with ideas or words they find offensive. There’s a special week created just for these folks. It’s called Banned Books Week, and it’s held the last week of September each year.

Sales of this book benefit the National Coalition Against Censorship (I bought three copies)

I started my personal celebration of Banned Books Week a few days ago by reading a collection of original stories by censored writers. “Places I Never Meant to Be” is edited by Judy Blume — who’s written an introduction that addresses the history of book censorship in America and offers tips for fellow believers in books, banned or otherwise.

Those of you with a “run right out and do what’s forbidden” streak will want to hit your local libraries and book stores before the rest of the pack gets there. It’s a great week to take these books home and give them some love. The American Library Association has a list of banned books on its website. Being bad has never been easier, or felt quite as fun.

Often it’s parents who seek to remove books from classrooms and libraries. Blume suspects they’re “driven by the need to feel in control of their children’s lives” and “afraid of exposing their children to ideas different than their own.” The effects of censorship, says Blume, can be especially chilling for writers, young readers and communities.

There was a time when parents could keep the cat in the bag, but it’s long past. Hide or lock away those books if you must. Your children will still find the content, and relish it all the more because you’ve forbidden it. Better to spend the time getting comfortable talking with your child about diverse ideas and situations they’ll encounter in both books and real life.

Blume’s “Places I Never Meant to Be” introduction notes that censorship often happens “when you least expect it.” Don’t assume, if a book has never been banned at your child’s school or local library, that it simply can’t happen. Be aware and informed, says Blume. And familiarize yourself with anti-censorship resources now, including the following:

♥ National Coalition Against Censorship at www.ncac.org

♥ American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom at www.ala.org/oif

♥ People for the American Way at www.pfaw.org

Check with local libraries and book stores for news of events celebrating this year’s Banned Books Week, which runs Sept 24-Oct 1. Or visit the American Libraries Association for tips on organizing your own event. Folks who “You Tube” can learn more about a virtual reading of banned books at www.bannedbooksweek.org.

You can order this sticker online from Northern Sun

Turns out I won’t need to hit the SCC campus this week to appreciate their support of the First Amendment. It’s evident in their online offerings related to Banned Books Week, which you can explore by clicking here. Of course, you can always head to my favorite SCC sofa if it makes you feel better. Take a banned book and a friend along.

– Lynn

Note: Click here to enjoy a “Jacket Copy” post on Banned Books Week from the Los Angeles Times. Click here to learn about the National Book Festival taking place this weekend on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Click here to learn more about the Arizona Library Association.

Coming up: A tale of teen angst

The fine art of civil discourse

In the aftermath of the tragic Tucson shooting that recently took the lives of six people and injured many more, there’s been a lot of debate about the role of rhetoric in fueling violence.

I haven’t any way of calculating the relative role of various factors in the shooting, but I began wondering that day about how we might begin to reclaim the fine art of civil discourse.

I started by exploring something called “Project Civil Discourse” — a “special initiative” of the Arizona Humanities Council.  The program is “a statewide effort to create respectful dialogue and discourse on public issues.”

There’s a dedicated “Project Civil Discourse” website that features information on speakers, readings and resources related to the topic of civil discourse.

I got to thinking about the role of arts and humanities in fostering civil dialogue the other day when I heard someone propose that schools pay math and science teachers more than teachers in other subjects.

The speaker detailed the relative scarcity of qualified teachers in these areas, and noted the importance of these fields in both national and international affairs. 

I can’t disagree with either point, but I have to wonder whether he’s heard the startling statistics about how poorly even college graduates fare these days in the reading and writing department.

I’m inclined to believe that arts and humanities form the foundation of civil society — and that they should never be valued (or funded) less than other fields of study or enterprise.

So I was especially pleased to learn that Arizona State University is readying to launch “Project Humanities” next month.

It’s “a yearlong celebration filled with public events, programs and activities that highlight faculty and student scholarship, research and creative activity” in the humanities.

The university-wide initiative includes all four campuses — and will focus on “Humanities at the Crossroads: Perspective on Place” during its inaugural year.

Fervent arts supporters have likely noticed recent upticks in calls to downsize or eliminate organizations like the National Endowment for the Arts and National Public Radio.

It’s compelling evidence that many value the right to bear arms over the right to free speech.

Appreciating art is no longer enough. Those who create and love it must also advocate for it. Hence the importance of organizations like Arizona Citizens Action for the Arts and the Arizona Commission on the Arts.

Seek out community resources offering education and training in the fine art of civil discourse — including colleges, libraries, museums, non-profits and cultural organizations.

And check out “iCivics” — an online tool founded by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to help improve the depth and breadth of civics education for American youth.

If you agree that the arts and humanities are at the very core of our democracy, you have plenty of opportunities to become a more engaged citizen working to assure their role in fostering and sustaining civil discourse is never neglected or forgotten.

– Lynn

Note: If you know of another organization or program specializing in civil discourse, please share it below to let our readers know

Coming up: A pair of posts featuring perspectives on bullying, Performance resume tips for child and teen actors

Photo: Wikipedia