Censorship in the Classroom Essay

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Sex. Politics. Religion. The big three: a work of literature is often considered controversial because of its statement about or use of these topics. What makes these and other areas so touchy in the classroom? Why do some parents and concerned community members want controversial materials out of the classroom?

In this look at the language of censorship, we must first define censorship, who does the censoring, and why. These will be the first three spotlights for looking at the language of censorship. Then, we will look at how teachers, especially teachers of literature and the language arts are affected by censorship. Finally, we will preview how censorship can be taught in the classroom, to prevent some of tomorrow's
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A breaking and entering when even the senses were torn apart..." (Angelou, 1969, 76). This does not sound like something one would read in Penthouse or Playboy, or even in hard-core porn on the internet. Yet according to Ken Donelson, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings has gotten the second highest number of complaints in the last ten years, with twenty-three. Only Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men had more, with twenty-nine (Donelson, 1997). Other complaints against I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings called the novel "graphic" and said that it "raised sexual issues without moral resolution" (Foerstel, 1994).

This is an example of censorship in a language arts classroom. But what is censorship? Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language defines censorship as "the act of censoring." What is censoring? These definitions were selected from the definition of censor: "(n) 1) an official who examines books, plays, news reports, motion pictures, radio programs, etc., for the purpose of suppressing parts deemed objectionable on moral, political, military, or other grounds. 2) any person who supervises the manners or morals of others. (v) to subject to censorship" (Webster's, 1989).

In the classroom, teachers are considered by law to be operating in place of the parents. This makes parents prime candidates for classroom censorship, although

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