March 25, 2013

On the End of Banned Book Week

I can’t believe I didn’t post a lengthly essay seething with remorse and anger at the fact that books are still being banned all over the world.  Instead, I let my students speak of banning without them even knowing it.  I had two of my classes find tweets from their twitter feed (along with tweets from my twitter feed) that they had to use to write a poem.  They were ONLY allowed to use the words within their ten tweets and add nothing.  The part where banning comes in was that I didn’t ban or censor their writing in anyway.   Cuss words ran rampant through subways and Chicago, mocking the polite and well-mannered buttoned-up educational vocabulary.  Inappropriateness climbed mountains in its steel-toed boots and mini-skirt, and content just laughed it’s hyena assault and trampled, once again, the goodness of Mufasa.  Not to say that all the poems were rye with sex, drugs and rock & roll, but I think anytime you look at a high schoolers twitter feed, you find irresponsibility, longing, and rebellion.  I’m going to use this lesson to talk about banning and censorship next week in both Newspaper and Creative Writing.  I think it’s important that students understand why Mark Twain in his dead silence can no longer use the n-word to evoke the spirit of the poor South.  (I censor them everyday by having them say peanut-butter instead of cuss words and ninja instead of the n-word).  I want them to know the point behind censorship and why it was so important to this country to have freedom in all ways including writing, speaking, and listening.

Since I can feel the essay coming, here is my student’s work.  Free of censorship and free of the unnecessary.

"America Isn't White"

“America Isn’t White”


A Poem about Woodstock for Those That Didn't Live It.

A Poem about Woodstock for Those That Didn’t Live It.


Young Love

Young Love





Men Like Beyonce

Men Like Beyonce


I think the winning line in all of these is:

“Best Part of Love: That awkward moment/ not wearing pants.”

I also want to preface this with, I don’t always let my students use foul language, but I think as long as the language isn’t meant to add shock value to your poem, then it’s useful.  For this lesson, I wanted them to have the freedom to be themselves in a concise way.

26 comments so far.

26 responses to “On the End of Banned Book Week”

  1. What an awesome lesson for your students, to know that profanity can be valuable when it’s deployed for a purpose. Love their work!

  2. So happy I’m back to blogging so I can read your posts once again. I’ve missed you so much, love.

  3. paulaacton says:

    I think the question of censorship is a really tough one especially now when self publishing is so easy however I do think there has to be some judgement call made on certain books, we live in an age where youngster are brainwashed to hate and commit terrorist atrocities should we allow those who teach them the hate to be allowed to publish without censorship likewise the Amazon scandal regarding the man who published the how to guide for grooming youngster for paedophiles – maybe it is not that we need to do away with censorship but possible reassess the criteria it is administered under

    • Cassie says:

      I completely agree. I understand the value in censorship in certain situations, but I also understand that that won’t stop things. When I was at the Holocaust museum this summer they had a whole exhibit on one book that has been translated into hundreds of languages that had been proved false, but is still bought in large quantities today. It was shocking. I think the value in teaching about censorship is to teach about having an open mind and knowing when things are right or wrong regardless of whether they are censored.

    • Cassie says:

      I think what I didn’t make clear is that I don’t like when other people make decisions for me on how or why things should be read or viewed. I’m hoping to educate my students that they have to make the decision on censorship for themselves and what the authors purpose is in the text.

      • paulaacton says:

        While I totally agree with you that in an ideal world censorship would not be needed and individuals would make informed intelligent decisions regarding what they choose to read I think I have come to the conclusion there will always those who must restricted not only to protect us but to protect them from themselves, Censorship will never stop evil or people writing and spreading it but it can make it harder for them and reduce their opportunities to profit from it. I don’t have an answer to how you stop the types of books I mentioned before without their being censorship in films maybe you make the same moves in terms of rating books as they do with films?

        • Cassie says:

          That would be really interesting. I wonder how they would create restrictions for that. They do it with music, movies, video games and television shows, so why don’t they do it with books. It might help people discover their own reading tastes as well. I wonder how hard that would be to categorize.

          • paulaacton says:

            maybe that is a classroom task for your students work out what they think should be appropriate in books for each age restriction here in the UK it would be PG, 12, 15, 18 and I think there is a separate 18 rating on actual porn but it is also worth noting some magazines get the rating based on their content such as gaming and music magazines when they are giving away free demos/cds

          • Cassie says:

            This would be such a great project, Paula! I am going to go off and think about this now and try to create something. I love this idea. Thank you!

          • paulaacton says:

            Just promise me you will share your results

          • Cassie says:

            Of course! 🙂

  4. I love this lesson, from the language, to the restriction on the words, to the poetry, to the use of social media for the immediateness of it. This works on so many levels for them. They are getting SO MUCH out of your classroom! You are such a wonderful teacher. They’re so lucky to have you!

  5. Heather says:

    This is awesome. What a great project.

  6. I love the way you think and I also agree, your students are lucky to have you. An open mind makes better thinkers.

  7. haileyjw says:

    Great idea! Such creative kids you have 🙂

  8. Bea says:

    You make me proud every day! Nice blog, and young people with imaginations that never quit. Let it fly!

  9. I applaud the freedom you give your students when it comes to using curse/vulgar words. I totally agree with your perspective – if it is meant to add shock value then it’s not okay – otherwise – go for it! Be creative and be yourself 🙂 Thanks for sharing these by the way. I really enjoyed reading them.

    • Cassie says:

      Eeeeee….I definitely can’t give them that freedom all the time, but it definitely has its place in my classroom. : ) This week their writing poems in the voice of people throughout history that they’re researching. I’ll be sure to share those because their tons of fun.

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Hi, I’m Cass

I am a writer, educator and genuine creative living on the coast of NC. Our house is built on sunshine with my husband BJ, dog named Tucker, and our two very sassy cats: Fromage and Jasper.

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