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» The Ornery American Forum » General Comments » Censorship at its Finest: Remembering

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Author Topic: Censorship at its Finest: Remembering
Member # 1881

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A fantastic blog post by a former teacher recounting the events that led to her leaving teaching. The link is a mirror of what was posted, the original got taken down by the author because it was causing problems for some of the people named in the post.

mirrored link

Remembering how excited I was to start teaching. Remembering the Master’s course in which I created a classroom group work matrix that included literature circles. Remembering the first semester I tried it, and how it failed horribly because I didn’t have literature kids would read. Remembering the combination of excitement and nervousness in my stomach when I raided Joseph-Beth Booksellers for discount YA literature, hoping that if it didn’t overdraw my bank account, that I would still have enough left to buy groceries. Remembering the way my face hurt from smiling when literature circles finally worked, when I had to ask kids to put their books away so I could teach, and when I saw kids bumping into lockers as they walked down the halls reading their YA novels.

Remembering how the same kids begged me to start a book club so they could keep reading good books, and how amazed I was when membership rose from 15 to 130 students from January of 2007 to August of 2008. Remembering the way I poured my soul into the Student Achievement grant to the National Education Association, citing our poor community and equally poor test scores, requesting money to buy books that students would read. And remembering the day NEA posted me as the recipient on their website. And after that, remembering the sheer joy of listening to students intelligently discuss, negotiate, and decide on which YA title to order each month, and then watching them tear through the Barnes and Noble boxes, unbelievably excited to hold their books.

Remembering how students in my classes suddenly liked English, and reading, when I was able to circulate retired club books into literature circle options, when I was able to design grammar and vocabulary lessons to build their skills using the books they had chosen to read. Remembering tracking their reading data (ThinkLinkLearn predictive assessments) when I applied for National Board Certification, and nearly falling out of my seat at Applebees—Excel documents strewn across my bar top—when I saw the gains in the reading sub-domains after just one month of literature circles.

You already know what comes next, don't you? Parents complained, parents who didn't even have kids in that teacher's class, or in the book club complained. The administration tries to make the parents happy.

That’s when the letters to the editor started. The entire community suddenly had opinions of me and my books. As a result, the faculty got heated. Students came to me several times saying what this teacher and that had said about me and the “godless” books I forced students to read to “advance the ALA’s gay propaganda.” Yes, a student said that to me. Several district administrators, teachers, and lunch ladies stopped speaking to me after the letters in the paper. And one Sunday, while working in my room after church, I heard mumbling in the hallway. Parents were praying in the hallway outside my door. Defeated, I retreated to my room where I proceeded to work with Jimmy Buffett blaring in the background.
I spent the next months in a blur. I did the best I could in the classroom, but the atmosphere of literature circles had changed. The students were angry, and I was, too. Our innocent and organic reading circles had turned into jaded therapy sessions. When I realized that, I put an end to my group matrix, collected what titles were still circulating, and resigned from my job.
You really should read the entire thing, it is lengthy, but worth reading.
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Member # 310

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How truly sad. I'm curious what type of community this is in.
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It's an American community and like all American public education, what's the goal?

Mullins made some mistakes in the way she handled it - a 9 page email blast without first talking to the principle? Not the best idea. But nothing that should have gotten her fired.

So why did she have to go? Here's the hint:
Last month, Montgomery County’s test scores came out. Reading went down six points. As I sit here right now, still remembering, I think of how my students’ predictive assessment scores had been amazing all year before the test. According to the data, my classes had surpassed the Honors-track sophomores’ reading scores.
So what was Mullins' "crime" that required her dismissal?
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By the way, you want to see some real censorship? Go buy a copy of "Operation Dark Heart" by Anthony Shaffer about an effort by the Defense Department to cover up a pre-9/11 military intelligence program known as “Able Danger.” Oh, wait:
Last month, the Defense Department took the highly unusual step of buying and destroying 9,500 copies of Shaffer’s book “Operation Dark Heart” at a cost of $47,000 to U.S. taxpayers.
Apparently a heavily redacted version will be available real soon now.
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Member # 1936

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Just as an aside, I'd say "Operation Dark Heart" is more a case of real inept censorship than real censorship. The only reason anyone knows about that book at all is because of the hilariously inept attempt to censor it by publishing the entire first print run, which put it on the bestseller lists and turned every advance copy of the unredacted first printing into collectors' items.
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