Monday, March 31, 2008

Chris Crutcher: An Opposition to Censorship

The Fahrenheit 451 Blog welcomes Stacia Derdzinski as a guest blogger. Below is her column on a visit by Chris Crutcher, whose works have been challenged frequently.

Chris Crutcher: An Opposition to Censorship

During his visit on March 6th, Chris Crutcher, author of “Deadline,” “King of the Mild Frontier,” “Whale Talk,” “Ironman,” “Athletic Shorts,” and many other novels stunned SUNY Cortland students with his down-to-earth personality and inspiring views on books in the adolescent classroom. Despite the winter weather, the Fireplace Lounge in Corey Union was overflowing with college professors, high school teachers, students, and fans longing to hear this notorious writer express his personal views on his often challenged books. Organized by SUNY Cortland professor Dr. Karen Stearns, this event was sponsored by a BIG READ grant during the months of March and April on campus and in the community. The BIG READ celebrates Ray Bradbury’s novel “Fahrenheit 451” with its focus on book burning. Crutcher was invited to speak since his books are frequently censored in schools because of their honesty about controversial issues including abuse, homosexuality, anger, bullying, and more. A panel consisting of three teachers and a librarian were also present. They described the processes their schools require in order for a book to be banned from their curriculum or library. The audience expressed their surprise about parents who attempted to ban books including “A Northern Light” and even Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.” While not all parents were successful in their efforts, the audience was appalled at the interference with the freedom to read.

Chris Crutcher began by enlightening the audience with the basics of his writing by telling stories of people who have become the troubled characters in his books. Crutcher’s novels and short-stories openly confront real life issues that many teens deal with today, yet these stories have still been added to the banned books list countless times. Therefore, he spoke from experience when he explained that “when we ban books we ban children.” He justified this statement by describing that students are not always capable of revealing their secrets in the classroom setting or elsewhere. However, if they read a story about a character facing those same issues, they can speak out in the classroom using their point of view through the voice of the character. Consequently, Crutcher’s books are helping young adults to recognize that the issues they face are both normal and survivable. Using his past experience in family therapy and child protection, Crutcher was supportive of current and future teachers saying that he has “never had a kid who didn’t have a saving teacher someplace.” His sincerity and enthusiasm for his craft shined through in his humble words of motivation. He will continue to amaze and even save his readers from feelings of hopelessness and destruction. After all, Crutcher’s advice will resonate with anyone who picks up one of his books: “Never let anybody tell you you can’t do it.”

Stacia Derdzinski is currently a junior enrolled in the Adolescent English Education program at SUNY Cortland. She attended Cazenovia High School where she quickly developed a love for English and an urge to write. She has always enjoyed creative writing, poetry, and journalism but also likes to experiment with other genres. Through her numerous observation placements and mentor work with the Cortland High School writer’s club, she knows that students are eager to express themselves. She strives to become a High School teacher who will reinvent the English classroom by allowing students to read and write about issues that truly matter to them.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like Chris' visit was inspiring. He's my hero.

Rachel said...

This is a great lesson plan about banning books: Banning Books Lesson Plan

By the same people who did an interview with Chris:
Interview with Chris Crutcher

Rachel said...

Good stuff here for teachers:
Author Series: Interview with Chris Crutcher
"Banning Books" Lesson Plan, Middle School (6-8), Persuasive Writing