Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Tom Sawyer Stays in School

The DesMoines Register reports that The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is back in the classroom in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Teachers are not obliged to teach the book but they are not banned from teaching it either. The school district's purchase of 750 books has been approved.

Freedom to Read Poster 1984

Freedom to Read Week in Canada begins three weeks from now on February 25th. Watch for upcoming details of the Pelham Public Library's Banned Book Challenge and start to choose the banned and challenged books you will read from February to June. Find a banned book list at many links on the right side or download the Pelham Public Library's list. You can also search Library Thing or the Pelham Public Library's collection of challenged books and information on where and why they were banned by clicking on the LibraryThing button.


Lonnie said...

I think you're letting Cedar Rapids school administrators off too easily. Their decision effectively allows eighth grade teachers to avoid engaging their students in issues they find uncomfortable or in which they feel incapable. So much for no child left behind. In Cedar Rapids at least, some will be left behind.

fahrenheit451moderator said...

Hey, I only report the news.

My own experience with Tom Sawyer is from a Canadian point of view. I read and enjoyed the book as a child but didn't understand the issues it raised all that well. I did not meet a black person until I was in my teens (things are much different today in our multicultural society). When we said the rhyme with the "n" word, we didn't really associate it with any kind of hatred...it was just a way to choose "IT."

Teaching Tom Sawyer was another matter. As an inexperienced student teacher, I was given a book of excerpts from the novel which was thoroughly bowdlerized, was told it would be easy to mark, and was not encouraged to look at the real issues. It could have been a Hardy Boys adventure book for how benign it was. I did take on the issues with the class, even though the words weren't there.

It may be considered a great American novel but in a Canadian school, we should have using Canadian literature....but I digress.

With no disrepect for Mark Twain, I am sure there are other novels that can be used to explore the issues of racism and slavery. At least teachers have permission to use Tom Sawyer as one of these choices.