SITES WE LIKES – PART TWO

Yesterday we featured the latest news on the banning of a comic (Persepolis), this time in the Chicago school system. Today, in a related post, is an update of SITES WE LIKES on the theme of censorship. In honor of our first listing, we’ll make them in alphabetical order:

AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION

ALA is one of the strongest groups working against kids’ book bans, and fighting censorship in libraries. The ALA also sponsors an annual event called Banned Book Week (www.bannedbooksweek.org). Another part of ALA’s site is called the Freedom to Read Foundation. They are the only organization in the US whose primary goal is to protect and promote the First Amendment in libraries.

COMIC LEGAL DEFENSE FUND

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of the First Amendment rights of the comics art form and its community of retailers, creators, publishers, librarians, and readers. The CBLDF provides legal referrals, representation, advice, assistance, and education in furtherance of these goals.

FREE EXPRESSION POLICY PROJECT

Section of site focuses on issues around censorship of youth.

KIDSPEAK

Born out of kids fighting Harry Potter book bans in school, kidSPEAK now encompasses youths’ free speech battles across the country. These rights are not as broad as the rights of adults because they have been limited by courts in the United States and elsewhere. However, where these rights exist, kidSPEAK will help kids fight for them.

NATIONAL COALITION AGAINST CENSORSHIP ALLIANCE

NCAC strives to create a climate of opinion hospitable to First Amendment freedoms in the broader community. They also support the KIDS’ RIGHT TO READ PROJECT which provides advice and assistance to students, teachers and others opposing book-banning in schools and communities nationwide as well as supplying educational materials to promote community awareness about the right to read,î and supports local activism by reaching out to students, teachers, booksellers, librarians, journalists, and other community members. Also tracks book censorship incidents across the country.

PROJECT CENSORED

The mission of Project Censored is to teach students and the public about the role of a free press in a free society – and to tell the News That Didn’t Make the News and Why. Most famous for its Top 25 Censored news stories each year.

STUDENT PRESS LAW CENTER
SPLC is an advocate for student free-press rights and provides information, advice, and legal assistance at no charge to students and the educators who work with them.

 

 

BANNED IN IRAN…AND CHICAGO

This week Chicago public school students were set free for the summer, but when they return to classes at the end of August there will be something missing that was there when the 2012-13 year began (and we’re not talking about the 50 schools that will be shut down for good after being deemed underperforming). The big difference we’re talking about is the absence of the highly-praised graphic novel Persepolis: A Story of Childhoodwhich was officially banned from all Chicago middle and high schools in March. According to an email sent out to staff by Christopher Dignam, principal of Lane Tech High School, the Chicago School Board mandated that all copies of Persepolis be removed from every library and classroom in the network. The autobiographical comic by Marjane Satrapi, which depicts her early years growing up in Iran during and after the Islamic revolution, was first published in France in 2000, and has gone on to become an internationally acclaimed comic. In 2007, it was adapted into a successful animated film as well and even received an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards. All of which begs the question: what can’t Chicago kids read it in school? According to an email sent out to staff by Christopher Dignam, principal of Lane Tech High School, while he was mandated to “physically” take each copy out of the school and confirm that it was done – he was not “provided a reason for the collection of Persepolis. If I learn more I will inform all staff….”

Later, Chicago Public School’s general counsel James L. Bebley explained that the ban was based on the book’s “graphic images of torture… as well as obscene language.” CPS administrators determined it is not appropriate for use in the 7th grade curriculum and are considering whether or not 8th and 9th graders should be exposed to Persepolis. The Kids’ Right to Read Project, an initiative of the National Coalition Against Censorship, filed a second Freedom of Information Act records request with the district for internal documents on the removal. At this time, they have yet to receive those documents from the Chicago Public Schools (CPS). Whatever the internal documents say, it will still be hard to explain CPS’s erratic behavior, given the fact that Persepolis served “as a foundational text to discuss violence against women and equal rights in a curriculum developed and endorsed by CPS itself, the Chicago Teacher’s Union and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights.” Chicago Teachers Union’s financial secretary, Kristine Mayle, commented on behalf of CTU: “We are surprised Persepolis would be banned by the…CPS system. The only place we’ve heard of this book being banned is in Iran. We understand why the district would be afraid of a book like this – at a time when they are closing schools – because it’s about questioning authority, class structures, racism and gender issues.”

BAD FOR YOU tracks the long history of comic (and book) censorship in America in its opening chapter “Flames of Fear.” Click on the “Book” section of the BFY banner to see the “Comic Burning Map,” which graphically explains the fiery issue comics became in this country in the 1940s & 50s.

THE TIMES THEY AREN’T A-CHANGIN’

“If we teach the children how to play and encourage them in their sports…instead of shutting them in badly ventilated schoolrooms, the next generation will be more joyous and will be healthier than the present one.”

Does the quote above sound like something from a recent editorial about what sad little shut-ins kids have become because of the influence of internet and social media? In fact, it’s taken from Public Opinion: A Comprehensive Summary of the Press Throughout the World, Volume 18, published in 1895. This nugget of wisdom and worry is but one of many available at The Pace of Modern Life, a section from the web comic xkcd. You can also read many more in BAD FOR YOU’s timeline titled FEAR OF THE NEW. At least you can when it comes out in November.

 

SITES WE LIKES

In the course of our endless search for the latest BAD FOR YOU info, there are a few sites that rise to the top. You may find some of these in the RESOURCES section but they are worth mentioning again:

Videogames:

GamePolitics: Where politics and games collide (just be sure to duck!)

Safety:

Free Range Kids: Fighting the belief that our children are in constant danger (a site hosted by Lenore Skenazy — “America’s Worst Mom”…but we mean that in the best possible way).

School:

The Learning Network: Where students can have their opinions heard on the news of the day (with stories taken directly from the New York Times, which hosts this cool, educational site).

This is only the beginning of our SITES WE LIKES list. But it is in the end of this post.

STANDARDIZED MESS

“With Fifth-Grade Test Now Revealed, New York’s Tougher New Reading Exams Set Students Up to Fail, Critics Warn”

One of those “critics” in the Daily News article (a teacher who wanted to remain anonymous for fear she would be fired) asked: “Have these students had an opportunity to build up to that complexity?”  “No,” was her answer. “This test is coming at them like an anvil to their face.” Ouch.

In a recent Youtube video, one teacher’s face did go public. She explains in the video why she quit her profession and standardized testing was a major factor. It’s reasonable that teachers are concerned about testing. In Kentucky, one year after the arrival of the new, harder tests, “students’ scores fell across the board by roughly a third in reading and math.” The upgrade is grading is called “Common Core,” a government program to bring nationwide standards to education (45 states by 2014-15). Standardized testing is essential to create this average…from C-to-shining-C.

But how “average” are these new standards if, as an editorial in the New York Times, points out: “More affluent students…will have parental support. Private tutoring, already a growth industry, will become more important if passing scores on the Common Core are required for graduation. Despite worthy aims, the new standards may well deepen the nation’s social divide.”

There’s another danger with testing. But to learn what it is, you’ll have to answer the question below from BAD FOR YOU’s “Standardized Cheating” exam:

QUESTION 6. WHAT DID NEARLY 9,000 NEW YORK CITY PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENTS HAVE TO DO WHEN A COMPANY THAT MAKES STANDARDIZED TESTS MARKED THEIR CORRECT ANSWERS WRONG?

___ Lots of push-ups

___ Nine months hard labor

___ Worst of all, summer school.

Give up? The correct answer is the last one. Even though the testing company had been alerted about the problem eight months earlier, they said nothing at first when students’ scores dropped dramatically and the New York City School Chancellor was fired. Formerly a big fan of standardized testing, today that same ex-Chancellor sounds a little testy when he says that what the company did was “lie.”

Or, you could say, cheat…both him out of a job and the kids out of their summer.

SCHOOLS OUT…OF CONTROL

Since school will be ending soon, let’s bid farewell with a collection of some recent “War on Fun” stories from the front lines of education:

School officials “grilled” a kindergartener for bringing his “cowboy-style cap gun” to show a friend. During the two hour interrogation, the culprit peed his pants. In addition to wet underwear, he received a 10-day suspension for “possession of a look-alike gun.”

A 6-year-old Massachusetts student caused “quite a disturbance” on the school bus with his “tiny plastic toy gun.”

Accused of “brandishing a weapon” at school, one 10-year-old in Virginia wound up fingerprinted and photographed by police, then sent before a judge twice. “How can you go from a toy gun to a criminal charge…?” asked Tina Hone, founder of the Coalition of The Silence, a pro-student advocacy group in Northern Virginia.

A Nerf gun which fired foam “bullets” was responsible for the lockdown of two high schools in the Bronx, N.Y.

Drawing “what appeared to be weapons” in a notebook lead to the arrest of one New Jersey high school student.

Another high school student was suspended for using a photo of a gun as his school-issued computer background photo.

And the list goes on…

Local Student Suspended for Gun Gesture”

“Kindergarten Student Suspended for Pink Bubble Gun Threat in Pennsylvania”

“School Confiscates Third-Grader’s Cupcakes Topped with Toy Soldiers”

“Philadelphia Girl Scolded, Searched for Pulling Out Paper Gun at School”

“Virginia 2nd-Grader Suspended for Pretending His Pencil was a Gun”

“Maryland First-Grader Suspended for Making Gun Gesture with Hand”

“Tamaqua 7th Grader Suspended for Pointing Finger ‘Gun’ at Classmates”

“6-Year-Old Expelled for Bringing Plastic Gun to School”

This last one has a happy ending. After giving “careful thought and consideration for the safety of the school community,” the South Carolina school superintendent allowed the expelled girl to return to class.

A Maryland boy also got some good news…maybe. It depends on your opinion about the pro-gun group the National Rifle Association, who gave 8-year-old Joshua Welch a lifetime membership to their organization. Josh had been suspended earlier in the school year for unintentionally biting his Pop-Tart into the shape of a gun. The NRA, seeing all the media attention the story was getting, thought it was a great idea to honor Josh (though he’s still unsure of exactly what the group is). Along with the membership came a $550 certificate, which the boy handed to his parents “and returned to playing games on a cellphone.”

Another response to the Pop Tart incident came from Maryland Senator J. B. Jennings, who introduced a bill in Congress to try to bring the public school system’s Zero Tolerance polices under control. Readers not familiar with the term “Zero Tolerance” can take a look at the explanation from BAD FOR YOU (lavishly illustrated in the comic below).

BFU.zt

While the actual book won’t be out until November, you can see the original BAD FOR YOU map by clicking on “The Book” section above this website’s banner; the map is the first image at top left. Everything listed above has happened after the map was completed.

You can expect more Zero Tolerance roundups in the future.