The American Library Association has helpful resources on censorship and lists of frequently challenged texts. You can check out the most challenged books of 2004 and learn more about intellectual freedom. Or, check out the way that Focus on the Family, a coservative Christian political organization, has tried to discredit the ALA. ALA has also recently issued a statement opposing new federal legislation that could limit school’s access to information:

(WASHINGTON) The following is a statement from American Library Association (ALA) President Carol Brey-Casiano:

“The American Library Association is deeply concerned about H.R. 2295, which would deprive schools of much-needed funding unless the community adopts a federally mandated review panel to judge books purchased for classrooms and school libraries.

“According to the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), the legislation is designed to restrict children’s access to information by establishing review boards that would recommend for or against the acquisition of particular books and materials based on the panel’s view of “appropriateness.” This effort to limit access violates ALA’s long-held principles of intellectual freedom and parental involvement by denying every parent the ability to choose what materials are appropriate for their children according to their own family’s values. Instead, it empowers a small review board to decide for all families in a community what materials will be available.

“This legislation is also unnecessary. Communities already elect parent and community representatives to local school boards, and these boards empower parents by providing ample opportunities to participate in their children’s education. This legislation is a solution in search of a problem. There is no need for federal interference in a local community’s decisions about its education needs.”

H.R. 2295 (full text here) has been referred to the Committe on Education and the Workforce, of which Michigan Congressman Vern Ehlers is a member. Write to the Congressman about this legislation.

By the way, several of the texts (and films) I taught were the subject of complaints, protests, challenges, and even censorship:

Macbeth: A concerned parent thought it condoned witchcraft and requested an alternate assignment.

A parent also complained about me showing Roman Polanski’s Macbeth, which is rated R. In this case, the department decided to make the Polanski film an official part of the curriculum, replacing the much lamer BBC version and giving us a certain strength in numbers.

“The Miller’s Tale,” from Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales: A parent complained to principal about the content of the tale, which tells how a clever student outwits an aging carpenter in order to sleep with his young wife, who is also being pursued by a church clergyman. The principal advised me not to teach the tale again.

Sherman Alexie’s The Business of Fancydancing: A concerned parent objected to the content (alcoholism, sexuality) and language of this poetry/short story collection.

Of Mice and Men: The department fought hard for this text, over the hesitation of the principal. The compromise was that we could teach the text only if students did not take it home (i.e. using classroom sets).