Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Great Debate: Banned Books!

(* Looking for information about Parade of Books?  Please click here.)

The subject of Banned Books Week was a lively topic for 7th graders.  Many students expressed great surprise that some of their favorite books have been removed from the shelves in some libraries; books like The Giving Tree, Green Eggs and Ham, Where the Wild Things Are, The Diary of Anne Frank, Harry Potter, Winnie the Pooh and The Wizard of Oz...even the dictionary!  We talked about the First Amendment in the context of the library, but our students wondered:  do kids have the same constitutional rights as adults?  Don't parents trump everyone else when it comes to the final say of what is allowed to be read?  Does a parent have the right to decide what other people's children read?  Can books harm us in their influence, or do they broaden us?  What happens if someone doesn't agree with content in a book, but the book represents a minority, and without that book, a group is not represented in the that fair? How do we know if a kid really is mature enough to handle the content in a book? Oh so many questions, and our favorite kind: ones with many possible answers. 

The kids were so stirred up by the topic that they asked to pay a game that clever Ms. Saternus taught them last year called "On the Fence."  We created a general question:  "should youth be allowed to read banned books?"  Some students made arguments for, and some against (and some argued sides they didn't necessarily agree with, just for the fun of it). I was so impressed at how articulate our students were, and what good listeners. In the middle of the room was an undecided group, and they could go and stand on either side of the room as the arguments progressed.  The interesting thing was that even after many impassioned and intelligent arguments, many undecideds remained "on the fence" at the end of the game.  I asked, why aren't you convinced?  Even though the arguments were good, they explained, they were opinions, and lacked credibility.  (Be still, my librarian heart.)  There was not enough hard evidence to sway.  Now, students will be doing research to give their arguments some teeth, and we will have a more formal debate in the near future. There was a student request for a podium. 

I love when learning happens organically, and is student-driven.  Yay, Stone 7th graders! 

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