Barbara Jones, director of ALA’s OIF and FTRF executive director, responded in a letter addressed jointly to Byrd-Bennett; David Vitale, president of the Chicago Board of Education; and Rahm Emanuel, mayor of Chicago, seeking an explanation and urging that the book be returned to classrooms. “While we applaud the CPS Department of Libraries for adhering to its own very well-crafted policies on school library collection development…we remain exceedingly troubled by the standing directive to remove the book from classrooms,” Jones said.
Jones also called the directive to restrict access “a heavy-handed denial of students’ rights to access information” that “smacks of censorship.”
So we’re faced with a choice. Do we want to micromanage our schools for ideological purity? Or do we want kids to learn something — even, sometimes, something with which we might disagree? If we want the first, we should keep on as we’re keeping on. If we want the second, we need to stop being so worried that teachers might teach the wrong thing that we don’t let them teach anything at all.
Read more. [Image: Marjane Satrapi]
More on Chicago Public Schools’ decision to remove Persepolis from their school libraries.
Why is Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis being removed from Chicago Public Schools?
Here’s an e-mail from Chris Dignam, principal of Lane Tech College Prep High School in Chicago, instructing removal of all copies of Persepolis from Chicago Public School libraries, classrooms, and curricula. As it states, no reason was given for this action.
Marjane Satrapi’s memoir about living in Iran during the 1970s revolution and eventually emigrating to France, and its animated film adaptation (which received an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature), have faced challenges in Middle Eastern countries for obvious reasons. Challenges in the United States have been rare, but sadly not unheard of. In 2009, parents in the Northshore School District in Washington state complained about its language and a scene in which a man is urinated on after being tortured; in that case, the school board voted unanimously to keep the book and film in schools. Could Chicago have received similar complaints? Or, as some reports indicate, has there merely been some mix-up about whether the books have been paid for and by whom?
According to retired Chicago teacher Fred Klonsky, students in a journalism course in the district were the first to report the book’s removal from their class. There are also claims that students have planned a protest for today.
My opposition to all forms of censorship is assuaged by the knowledge that now every student in Chicago Public Schools is going to try to get their hands on a copy. If this is indeed a case of censorship rather than confusion over payment, I would be very surprised if it would be upheld on the school board level, but let’s just get the CBLDF on the line, just to be sure.
The painting that caused such a ruckus at the Newark Public Library is uncovered again, viewable by all, and the controversy around it gone.
You may remember a column last month about several staff members up in arms because they didn’t think the art was appropriate. They made such a fuss that it was covered up a day after being hung in the second-floor reference room.
The huge drawing was done by Kara Walker, a renowned African-American artist whose themes deal with race, gender, sexuality and violence. This piece shows the horrors of reconstruction, 20th-century Jim Crowism and hooded figures of the Ku Klux Klan.
This 50 Shades of Grey thing is perfectly fun to sit back and watch.
But it’s an interesting library discussion. The book isn’t only being challenged or removed—it isn’t being made available in the first place. Librarians and library leaders are choosing not to include the book in the collection. If the library purchased the book, like they did in Flordia, they’re now going back and pulling it after reading reviews (though not before reading the book itself).
From Library Journal, Mike Kelley’s “In Salt Lake PL, New Email Rules Called a Gag; Ex-Employee Alleges Talk of Hush Money:”
"Er, apparently ‘free and open access to information’ doesn’t apply to library employees, according to the new guidelines from HR (Shelly Chapman) regarding ‘all staff’ e-mails," Pierce wrote. "That this most democratic of sacred institutions-the public library-should feel it necessary to ‘gag’ its staff by limiting their access to ‘the exchange of ideas’ via e-mail is as appalling as it is shameful.
"Since many of the handful of all-staff e-mails that I have seen are critical of the current administration’s policies or communications (or lack there of), it’s tempting to see this action as an attempt to curb legitimate staff concerns and stifle constructive dialogue," Pierce wrote.
Self-censorship. It’s a dirty secret that no one in the profession wants to talk about or admit practicing. Yet everyone knows some librarians bypass good books—those with literary merit or that fill a need in their collections. The reasons range from a book’s sexual content and gay themes to its language and violence—and it happens in more public and K–12 libraries than you think.
— From the 2009 School Library Journal article “Self-censorship is rampant and lethal.”