It will be if Dr. Daniel Freeman, Superintendent of Montgomery County Schools in Mt. Sterling Kentucky has his way!
According to kentucky newspaper the Advocate, Dr. Freeman believes books like DEADLINE, TWISTED (by Laurie Halse Anderson) and LESSONS OF A DEAD GIRL (by Jo Knowles) have no value in preparing high school students for college, so they should be removed from college prep English teacher Risha Mullins (left with Chris Crutcher at NCTE/ALAN in November 2009) OPTIONAL reading circle title selections. In mid-November, he required that her reading circles be dismantled and Mullins job may be in jeopardy.
As is so often the case, a few parents objected to these books (and four others) as choices for their own children and asked that they be removed from the reach of all students in September of 2009.
A reconsideration committee reviewed the challenge and voted to support the teacher and her book choices, but the parents appealed and Dr. Freeman dismissed the vote and removed the books from Mullins shelves.
We object to the disregard for educational expertise as strongly as we object to censorship and the trampling of free speech. We object to the fact that students raised their voices in support of powerful book choices and were all but ignored. We object to the suggestion that learning how to deal with the life challenges reflected in these books does not prepare high school students for college.
We strongly encourage Mt. Sterling students to respectfully express their opinions, whether they agree or disagree with Dr. Freeman's decision. And we will continue to offer CC wristbands to kids who demand the right to read.
Read Chris Crutcher's response to Dr. Freeman's letter to the Advocate HERE and watch for more developments here, as they unfold. ALL voices should be heard. Don't let vocal minority steal intellectual freedom. SPEAK OUT!
Students from Risha Mullins class held a rally for free speech in the xx on December 18, 2009. Daniel Freeman was invited to discuss the issues with the students and Chris Crutcher, who flew to Mt. Sterling to help bring the facts to light. But Dr. Freeman did not care enough about his seniors to spend those hours with them. Their voices were heard, but not by Daniel Freeman. Photos from the event are featured below.!
Dr. Daniel Freeman insisted in his October 2009 letter to the Advocate newspaper that he had no desire to "ban" books, as you'll read below. Following Dr. Freeman's remarks, Chris Crutcher will explain why he disagrees (as featured in the Advocate in November 2009). Dr. Freeman's Letter
“Clarifying book issue”
This letter is written as a follow-up/clarification of the one that was submitted previously by a number of distinguished Montgomery County High School graduates regarding “banned” books.
I am very pleased to learn how successful these individuals have become, and especially to know that they are keeping close ties with their hometown.
I am an avid reader and I certainly promote and encourage reading by children and adults of all ages. I agree, also, that people should have an opportunity to choose what they read. However, as a school system providing services to students ages 18 and under, I believe that we have some responsibility to our students and their parents, both from an academic and a content standpoint, as it relates to school-based reading materials.
That being said, I want to clarify that no books have been banned in the school system. There was parent concern expressed about some books that were included on a college prep English reading list. My instructions were that reading materials used in English classes (or other classes) were to be from recognized approved lists and include content that is deemed necessary and appropriate for preparing our students to advance to and excel in college. The school system has a very limited timeframe to deliver essential English curriculum.
We must be extremely focused when selecting resources to achieve the most effective results, particularly at the high school level where achievement (according to state testing) has significantly dropped in the past two years.
In my estimation, for example, the book Lessons from a Dead Girl by Jo Knowles, which among other issues, depicts sexual activities between two eighth grade girls, has not been included on any relevant lists for college preparation, and while there may be adolescents who choose to read it on a personal level, it does not appear to be academically appropriate for the college prep English curriculum.
This content does not appear to me to be necessary to excel on the college board exams or at the university. I have indicated to the staff that any material they believe should be included on the district reading lists for the appropriate subject will be considered if they can demonstrate why it is appropriate and how it relates to the curriculum.
I also cautioned them against presenting bias to their students on the book selection issue (thus the confusion over national banned book week). I will repeat, however, that no books have been banned.
Even though a book may not appear on an approved reading list for a class, an individual still has the option of choosing it through the school media center or the book club to read on his or her own.
Thank you, again, to those that have expressed an interest in this issue. Community involvement and input is important and appreciated.
Daniel Freeman Ed. D., Superintendent Montgomery County Schools
Chris Crutcher's Response
I’ve followed the censorship controversy at MCHS with interest because I was informed that it started with my book Deadline. Having read how your students and alumni responded, I’m aware they’ve said most of what I have to say better than I could. They clearly understand the value of bringing diverse ideas and points of view into their education. Were they my children, I’d be proud. I have also read Superintendent Freeman’s letter to the editor and care to address that. (As a foot soldier in the battle for intellectual freedom in this country, the irony of his surname is not lost on me.)
His statement “No books have been banned” and his reasoning for taking the actions he’s taken seem disingenuous to me, because his wording is chillingly similar to the wording of the folks from PABBIS (Parents Against Bad Books In Schools) and other conservative groups who seem to believe that if we all worked together we could control what kids think.
The “I have to get our students ready for college,” statement also seems ill-thought-out in the light of the brilliantly articulate letter from alumni who have been there recently. Tell recent graduates of Virginia Tech that issues of grief and loss and loneliness – issues addressed in a number of these books - aren’t important in their literature. Tell any number of students headed off for college that the who-am-I and-what-is-important issues also addressed in these books, aren’t critical to their success in college and beyond. And what about any school’s obligation to those students who aren’t going on to college? One goal of any English or reading teacher is to create lifelong readers, a seemingly dying species. That doesn’t happen when students aren’t given stories to which they can relate. We’re not ruling out the “classics” (yes sir, you dare say it); these books are in addition to the classics.
So no books have been banned, but none of these books is available until a resolution is reached. Were I a member of your community I would loudly protest a policy that removes a book at the point that it is challenged. That allows would-be censors to disrupt your educational process for several weeks any time they disapprove of a book, even if they eventually loose the challenge. It smacks of guilty until proven innocent.
As administrators, teachers, librarians or child and adolescent counselors, our clients are kids; not parents, not churches, not other community groups. Those may be worthy of consideration in our decision making, but if we take our eyes off the students, we take our eyes off our mission.
One last consideration. I have often seen intimidation tactics directed toward teachers from administration or from community groups in situations such as this. Public school teachers have chosen a career that is long on hours and short on pay, and sometimes short on appreciation. I would hope that you as citizens would support whoever might come under fire here,