Censorship of books is not a new idea. Literature that has been banned over the years include Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter, Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and even J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series of books. Advocates of censorship assert that children must be protected from inappropriate ideas and even some words contained in certain literature.When a potentially controversial text is included in the curriculum, a teacher must be aware of what in the text might be considered controversial. Are there particular words that are provocative or does the text include a description of a graphic sexual encounter? Does the text promote an unpopular political view? Knowing ahead of time what some might consider controversial would prepare the teacher on the best way to introduce the book or play to his or her students. Teachers should also send a notification home to parents so that if any object, the student can either be assigned different work for the same credit or go to another classroom when the text is being discussed.
In order to balance the need to teach the texts while, at the same time, being sensitive to the issues being presented requires awareness of why some might think the issues are inappropriate. Some people may have a religious objection to the information. Others might think the topic challenges their view of how the world should be. And still others could find certain language that is used to be offensive.
Certainly, educators need to have a clear understanding of why certain literature has faced censorship. However, students should be allowed to read and discuss these in a monitored, well-directed educational setting. This will allow students to see the world in a perspective other than that in which they may have been raised. Being open to new and different thoughts and ideas also gives students the opportunity to develop critical thinking skills.
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