When the Teacher’s a Climate Change Denier | Scales on Censorship

Censorship expert Pat Scales provides advice on a teacher's claims of a “political hoax,” a warning to avoid books with the N-word, and other challenging situations.

I am the teen librarian for a public library system with five branches, and we are experiencing problems with tween patrons. They borrow books that the staffers feel are inappropriate for their age. The branch managers say that their jobs would be easier if we created a separate tween section and limited these patrons to this collection. I have resisted this, but I’m getting pushback from the librarians and staff.
“Inappropriate for their age” is subjective, and librarians shouldn’t make such value judgments. What young patrons borrow from the library should be strictly between them and their parents. Libraries that fall into the trap of altering or limiting service may actually jeopardize their ability to serve patron needs. Many tweens are ready for books that older teens and adults are reading. Those who aren’t will likely reject books they aren’t ready for in favor of titles that match their maturity. Let your staff know that it’s “inappropriate” to judge any patron’s reading choices, regardless of age.

Suggest that the branch managers work with their staffs to develop tween programs. There’s nothing wrong with recommending titles to them or creating a book display they may be drawn to. You could suggest that regular patrons write book reviews. Tweens are better served when they are engaged and respected for their ability to think for themselves. They don’t want to be judged.

I’m a high school librarian. My eighth grade daughter was troubled when her science teacher had students read an article about climate change, and then told the class not to believe anything they read. The teacher said, “Climate change is a political hoax.” I’m horrified, but I don’t know what to do.
Politics doesn’t belong in the classroom, and I’m surprised a science teacher wouldn’t know this. There should be a school district policy addressing “Teachers and Politics.” If there is one, make an appointment with the teacher and share it. If there isn’t, suggest that a policy be written. Facts must be presented to students without biased commentary. If teachers dispute the facts, they should at least allow students to read information from reputable sources on both sides of the issue. True education occurs when students are encouraged to research, analyze data, and form opinions. This is true of any hot-button topic. In the meantime, have a conversation with your daughter. Advise her on how to appropriately challenge the teacher’s comment.

I taught seventh grade for the first time last year. I was asked to stop teaching Mississippi Trial, 1955 because a parent was offended by the N-word. The administrators at my charter school said that the parent might take us to court and win. I am concerned because I have always taught To Kill a Mockingbird with my ninth graders and it has the same word in it. This parent may go after Lee’s novel next. What counsel can you give me?
To Kill a Mockingbird is taught in many high schools, and I believe that Mississippi Trial is an equally important book for middle school students. Books with such racial slurs must be dealt with in an open, honest discussion. Students should be led to think about language and how words can hurt. Encourage students to consider the historical setting and racist attitudes of characters in the books. Teachers who don’t feel comfortable doing this shouldn’t be using these novels. Regarding Lee’s novel, English teachers have varying viewpoints on teaching it. Here are two such opinions, both published on the National Council of Teachers of English blog:

Your administrators shouldn’t scare you over a lawsuit. Such attempts to ban books rarely go to court; that’s a long, expensive prospect for parents. Does your charter school have a board policy manual? Is there a policy that addresses teaching controversial texts? A policy is your best defense. If there isn’t one, then suggest one be created. Teachers and administrators are extremely vulnerable without a policy to point to.

Pat Scales is the former chair of ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee. Send ­questions to pscales@bellsouth.net.

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Diane Smith

The science teacher is correct- climate change fear mongering is a hoax. https://mobile.twitter.com/va_shivaDr. Shiva Ayyaduri - MIT PhD explains very well. You can thank this teacher for telling the children the truth.

Posted : Nov 26, 2019 09:03

Marcia Nelson

It's funny that the writer of this article wants a policy where all sides of an argument are presented but gives no credence to scientists who disagree about global warming. I am old enough to remember the 70s when scientists were worried about a new ice age coming!

Posted : Nov 27, 2019 05:23



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