Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading
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Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading
An Educator's Reading List of Contemporary Literature, Literacy, and Reading Issues. Visit us at
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Classic Books Yanked From Virginia County Schools After Parent Complaint

Classic Books Yanked From Virginia County Schools After Parent Complaint | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
In a divided time, can we afford to read books like "Huck Finn" -- or can we afford not to?
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:
2 December 2018

Yes, Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird  are among the most banned books in schools and have been for decades. 

Well, here's an A+ book report any student capable of critical thinking could write about each of these stories.


Both authors bravely confronted and attempted to expose the facts that LIKE IN OUR OWN TIMES, Blacks have suffered too much sh-- , racism, and inequality from too many in the dominant culture. 

Both authors created stories that put the sins of racism front and center and truthfully in our faces. And, each chose children as the witnesses and recorders of those horrific sins. 

Some somehow believe that our children should hate the book when the point of each story is to expose hatred.

Both Huck Finn and Scout Finch and all of our children must sooner, rather than later, come to understand the harsh realities of racism's indefensible victimization of innocents. 

Both books are generally taught in high school. By that age, aren't students old enough to begin learning such lessons? If not, when will they be?

If we believe that high school students are not old enough to begin facing the harsh reality of life and believe banning these books somehow protects them from facing those harsh realities of racism, when will they be ready to accept their adult responsibility of  confronting our unfinished business of pursuing Liberty and Justice FOR ALL?

Each novel has only one primary black character; Jim in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Robinson in To Kill A Mockingbird are victims and powerless to do anything about their victimization because they lived in times when there was still work to be done to ensure that all citizens have the right to expect life, liberty, and JUSTICE FOR ALL.

Final Exam Question:
After reading The Adventures in Huckleberry Finn and To Kill A Mockingbird, explain your level of empathy for Jim, Huck, and how that empathy might be expressed best given today's news.

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Anne Frank's Diary Too Pornographic For 7th Grade, Claims Parent

Anne Frank's Diary Too Pornographic For 7th Grade, Claims Parent | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Since being published in the Netherlands in 1947, "The Diary of Anne Frank" has become a staple in American classrooms.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

It seems as though Anne Frank is making the news quite a bit recently.


From Justin Beiber's self-centered and shallow note left in the guest book at the Anne Frank Annex.


To what I assumed was well-intentioned, but questionable and certainly insensitive assumption behind the Mormon Church baptizing Anne Frank posthumously. ;


I don't know, but neither imposing one's"beleibes" or one's beleifs on another without consent just seems a bit audacious; well-intended or not.


However, does the same imposition by parents of their beliefs upon their children, or the children of others fall into a different area of concern?


It is the parents' duty to raise their kids as best as they can, and whether we as educators or neighbors or strangers may recognize that it may not be within our purview to impose contradictory influences. We've already recognized that parents have a right to approve or not approve the viewing of videos they do not want their children to see. We don't have to agree, however, I don't think it's right for any educator to believe they have the right to trump the parent's right to make such decisions.


We've also for the most part accepted the notion that providing alternative options for that child is a professional obligation. However, the touchy edge of this issue is whether or not a parent has the right to make such calls for the children of other parents.


There is a sort of Venn diagram between censorship and professional judgment. There were books I chose not to teach due to professional judgment. And, while teaching  The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn ALOUD, I chose to replace the "N-word" with "N-word." Yet we would also discuss the controversy over the use of the word both in the book and in contempory times. 


And by the way, I happen to think that Mark Twain's use of the original term was quite intentional. And, that the intention was to be abrasive to ethical ears. The book is awash with examples of the negative impact of what many people at the time believed was acceptable behavior. Huck was raised within that society where slavery was defended in churches.


And, the whole point of the story comes down to Huck's coming to realize that his default upbringing was faulty in many ways. Why else did Mark Twain have Huck decide, after spending time with Tom who had not had Huck's experiences, decide that he didn't want to go back to Tom's world?


So, back to the article. The references objected to dealt with Anne's wondering about the vagina and it's role in reproduction. The entire passages is as follows:


"Until I was eleven or twelve, I didn't realize there was a second set of labia on the inside, since you couldn't see them. What's even funnier is that I thought urine came out of the clitoris…When you're standing up, all you see from the front is hair. Between your legs there are two soft, cushiony things, also covered with hair, which press together when you're standing, so you can't see what's inside. They separate when you sit down and they're very red and quite fleshy on the inside. In the upper part, between the outer labia, there's a fold of skin that, on second thought, looks like a kind of blister. That's the clitoris."

Read more:

What would your call be? But, before you answer too quickly...

There's certainly no doubt that it wasn't the writer's intention to titillate. If anything, it was more in the nature of  simplly expressing a pubescent curiosity in the biological structure of the female genetaila. With this in mind I don't see the issue here of being whether the passage is pornographic. However, even if we excuse the loose use of the word "pornographic," there is still the issue of parents' rights to determine what they believe is the proper approach to sex education for their children. And, again this is not the purview of educational systems to feel they have a right to trump the parents' decision in this regard, whether we feel it is justifiable or not.

The two elements and perhaps a third, that I think might be of most concern here have to do with the grade level at which the protest is being made. The parent in this case is objecting to the passage which only appears in a "Definitive Edition" (unedited). This is apparently not the traditional edited edition that has been in standard practice for years. If this the case, the question becomes are all 7th graders ready for this level of "condoned" exposure to the description Anne gives? In my own recollections of my readiness for "sex ed" information when I was a 7th graders, I think my own response would have still been a bit on the "Yuck! That's disgusting" level and certainly not at all as being titillating. Heck, when I was in the 8th grade I could not get through my oral report on the plant Uranus! And, even when I was a sophomore I was really nervous about even listening to my biology teacher say the words "penis" and "vagina." 


Yet, I knew a lot of "dirty jokes" about everything sexual, most of which in retrospect were disrespectful and sexist along the lines of those blonde jokes only a bit more sexually focused.


I suppose also that girls in middle school are already quite aware of the biological changes they're going through and might be less "harmed" by the passage.


But boys really are a different animal at that age, many boys are still much more like "big little boys" than like "young men." Some might be less ready or incapable of sufficient maturity or more than ready and/or mature to read such passages.


I would not see the teacher's role in this case as having to "tolerate or take a stand against" censorship. I would see this as an issue regarding professional judgment. 


Like showing films in the gray area, if the professional judgment is that the "unedited" version of the book is justifiable, then I don't see an issue with parental permission slips being required, and alternative assignments being available. It would be inconvenient and perhaps even resented, but the question is not whether the parent is right or wrong, but whether the parent has the right to make certain decisions about what their child are exposed to.


So would the traditional edited version be a suitable compromise?


Does the unedited version provide a learning experience of such value that compromising on the traditional version is unacceptable?


I hesitate to mention the last concern that arises in my mind about this objection. Though there is no evidence in the story to suggest that the parent in this article is in any way an anti-semite, we live in times when racism, anti-semetism, anti-immigrationists, gun control advocates and anti-gun control advocates have taken to using "code" language to express their positions.

 I will just leave it at that. You either already know what I mean or you haven't been paying attention lately.

 ~ ~

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Library Is Unapologetic After Lending An Erotic Novel To A 9-Year-Old

Library Is Unapologetic After Lending An Erotic Novel To A 9-Year-Old | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
An Indiana library has not apologized after a 9-year-old checked out an erotic novel.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

So if they put YOU in charge of resolving this issue how would you resolve the issue to everybody's satisfaction?


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"Google Lit Trips" is the fictious business name for GLT Global ED, an educational nonprofit

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University of Virginia Library Online Exhibits

University of Virginia Library Online Exhibits | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |

Books, films, music, and works of art have been suppressed, altered, expurgated, bleeped, blackened, cut, burned, or bowdlerized. Writers and artists have been imprisoned, fined, fired, or silenced. Wearing many masks, censorship has appeared in our living rooms under the names "national security," "classification," and "selective inclusion."

GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

If you're serious about literary reading, this is an incredible site if you're looking for associated informational reading.


I'd love to have a literature class spend a day or two jigsawing the wealth of censorship information and then sharing.


I tend to do both jigsawing and group work in a multiple step process.


I'd begin with about a 10-15 minute "private write" where students were asked to respond to a few probing but open-ended questions regarding their feelings regarding censorship in books, movies, TV, video games, the Internet, etc. I'd try to come up with a simple unbiased version of the most intelligent expressions of anti-censorship arguments, the most intelligent expressions of pro-censorship arguments, and the most intelligent expressions of the gray area arguments between the pro- and anti- arguments. You know, "I'm (against / for) censorship, however, I do believe that access to some material  for people (over / under) the age of _____  might be a (good /bad) idea."


Then I'd have students seal their responses in envelopes with one of those Avery Address Label-sized stickers crossing the envelope flap and have them autograph the sticker or if anonymity concerns are high, I'd have them draw or scribble anything they'd like so that they'd know which envelope is theirs. I would then use my private rubber stamp to stamp each of the labels and envelopes so that the stamp also crossed from the envelope flap to the rest of the envelope.


The point being, that students could feel secure that their envelopes would not be tampered with; not even by the teacher. I'd let them hold on to their envelopes throughout the exploration of this site and perhaps even offer a small point value to their ability to show me the sealed envelope at the end of the unit. I'd tell them up front that after showing me their envelope while they watched me enter the promised points into the gradebook, they would be welcome to keep the envelope if they wished or run it through a paper shredder I'd make available.


Why? The signed and sealed and then destroyed envelopes assure a basic trust that the student's baseline opinions would not be held against them. And, that while doing the jigsaw exercise, not even the students themselves would be tempted to change their baseline opinions should they discover that a deeper probe of the issue of censorship causes them to consider "cheating at solitaire."


I would probably ask students to work independently so that their initial opinions and their considerations of the material could be done without the influence of the voices of their friends and/or "the smart kids."


But to reduce the task a bit, I would have them randomly draw 2-3 slips of paper from a collection of slips with the names of the various sections of the exhibit (found on the "Walk Through The Exhibit" page). This way every student would only have to "study" a few elements of the exhibit, but all elements of the exhibit would have been "studied" by a few students. And, in the end, there would be two sets of groups of three. That is, my first slip might match that of students A & H, while my second slip might match that of student L and Q.


I would probably use the brief introduction on the Exhibit Home page as a quick whole group kick off. Then have students spend an appropriate amount of time focused upon the sections they've drawn looking for INFORMATION about the topic. I'd have them do a three part note taking assignment. Part 1 being limited to the FACTUAL INFORMATION they found important. Part 2 being a separate section where they would jot down their personal reactions to that information. And, Part 3 being reserved for any notes they might write that connects anything they remember writing in the sealed envelope pre-write directly to the specific focus of the section they just read, paying particular attention to whether or not the connections influence their original sealed opinions one way or the other.


After spending sufficient time with each of their selected areas of the site, I would end this portion of the experience by having them "discover" who else worked on each of their sections and give them an opportunity to discuss each section with their other "group members."  In each of these two small group discussions, I'd ask them to be ready to share in five minutes or less the essence of the group's discussion with the rest of the class. This may or may not be an expression of consensus or division. It may well be a simple sharing of the essential information one ought to consider before taking a position. 


This concept, much more difficult to describe briefly than it is to actually orchestrate, relies upon a couple of lessons I learned about helping students effectively process information and their associated opinions.


First, giving students an opportunity to pre-contemplate their baseline thoughts free from the influence of the more vocal voices in the class while at the same time attempting to protect those "raw" thoughts through a process that assures them anonymity even from the teacher, frequently frees them to actually contemplate those thoughts rather than spending that time wondering what "the right answers" might be. In fact, in order to establish trust in this process which I used in variations frequently throughout a course, I always tried to create a similar experience early on in a semester on a subject fairly free of controversy, yet one where multiple opinions can be supported intelligently. For example, "Is it better to have a school day schedule that starts very early and ends earlier in the day or a schedule that starts a bit later and ends a little later in the day?" or "Are bowlers athletes?" (a wonderful essay topic with which a math teacher friend of mine used to begin every math course. He was using essay writing to set the stage for algebraic and geometry proofs.)


Another lesson I learned is that "cold group work" (group work where there is no real opportunity to pre-consider one's ideas before a group discussion, rarely lead to contemplation of others' opinions, more often being conversations where everyone simply expresses what they think they believe. And, those conversations are frequently dominated by the students who typically dominate most class conversations. This inevitably leads the less vocal students to not even attempt to share their thoughts for fear of being wrong and even more disturbing, to frequently just assume that whatever the "smart kids" say must be right.


A related lesson has to do with the randomizing of groups. Many kids feel quite comfortable if they get to choose their own groups because they can "work with their friends." However, the tendency for friendship to narrow the potential array of opinions is high since similar beliefs often are the core of friendships.


I also came to realize that the typical process for writing essays has students begin with their opinion and then work the paragraphs to provide evidence for the correctness of their opinion. This implants a subtle bias at the start that encourages "cherry picking" evidence rather than examining evidence first and then synthesizing that evidence into an "informed opinion."


Whether or not exercises like this end in an essay assignment, I also like to at least get students to a point where they realize the difference between an informed opinion and an uninformed opinion and how the difference between the two often drives the quality of the evidence they rely upon to defend those opinions.


And, perhaps my personal favorite outcome of this process is bringing students to an appreciation for educated differences of opinion. Unlike the typical multiple choice mentality that suggests that in life there is always a right answer to be chosen over all of the wrong answers.


So, at the very end of these kinds of experiences, after students have captured their own baseline thoughts uninfluenced by friendships and assumptions that the smart kids are always right, then informing themselves without those same influences, followed by sharing those deeper insights with a small group and perhaps coming to a more informed and articulated refinement of their baseline thoughts, I ask them to consider the best evidence to support "the other point of view;" the evidence that in their own minds, might have given them pause before deciding to cast their vote for the "opposing point of view, while at the same time causing them to develop a sincere respect for an intelligent opposing position. 


We all know the problems caused by investing our egos in our opinions before informing our minds. It's a lesson to be learned from such wonderful literary reading as "The Emperor's New Clothes."



You of course remember the folly of the Emperor deciding to continue walking in the parade in spite of his recognition that he was in fact naked. But, do you remember the original promise made by the "two swindlers"? They promised to create a suit of clothes that would be "invisible to anyone who was unfit for his office, or who was unusually stupid."


Can we really call them "swindlers" if they did in fact, deliver what they promised to deliver?


When ego is invested publicly, it's often difficult to retreat to a more reasonable position based upon the actual facts and we often do display our lack of fitness or unusual..., hmm, shall we say our "adamant ignorance"?




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