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Vagabond Librarian

Reports from the intersection of military life, motherhood, & librarianship.

This Year is Different

A Story of Self-Censorship

As the dust finally settles from our latest move, I’m spending a quiet morning cleaning up my Facebook timeline and looking through my old posts. The themes of my posts and the posts I’m usually tagged in are personal, full of librarian stuff, and generally free of politics (though I am always passionate about intellectual freedom, which sometimes veers into political territory). Every year, I post about various holidays, special occasions, and national and international observance days. For me, this is a fun way to have conversations about local and global issues, as well as an enjoyable exercise in finding additional reference material to share with fellow lifelong learners. One of the days I post about each year is International Women’s Day, a day established to celebrate the achievements of women and to serve as a call to action to accelerate gender parity. This year, the responses I got to my post were different than in past years. And I let that difference lead me further down a road of self-censorship.

Screen Shot 2017-08-04 at 7.08.22 AM This year, my fairly innocuous March 8th International Women’s Day post garnered not just the few likes and “atta girl”s that those kind of posts usually do. This year my post also inspired a few not-very-nice private messages and one or two lost online friends. I don’t dwell on the lost “friends,” but I am sad that we have arrived at this place where people are not only quick to find fault and offense, but are determined to shut out all viewpoints they perceive to be different than their own. I haven’t been living under a rock. I’ve read The Filter Bubble. I am aware of the cacophony of discord that exists on social media and in passionate conversation, particularly during and immediately following election seasons. My reflections this morning are not about what I see in general (that type of observation is plentiful on the internet), but about the way I realized I let this discord influence my willingness to share ideas and information online.

I noticed while cleaning up old or redundant posts that I had started to share less and less on social media as we neared the presidential election last year, and that I hadn’t really started sharing again. I have always been around people for whom it was not appropriate to speak about personal political opinions in public–city government employees, educators, and active duty military people to name a few. The people in my circles, both while I was growing up and now, as an adult, have mostly been open minded and have definitely been well informed about politics and policy. And they have not seemed to have trouble sharing opposing opinions while staying friends. Until this year.

This year even posts that have nothing to do with politics seem politically charged. This year I’ve seen name-calling. Ugly name-calling. This year I’ve seen nasty “if you don’t like it, leave the country” ultimatums posted by people I once respected as reasonable and kind. This year there was a person who sent me an angry manifesto because they interpreted a high school lesson I shared about the responsible use of social media as an attack on free speech. Another person sent me an expletive filled message about the same lesson because they saw it as an attack on our president’s use of Twitter.

This year I see so many of my friends of different political persuasions desperately seeking kindness, understanding and clarity while so many others (also my friends) are lashing out with what I can only describe as a deep and ferocious anger. Depending on your political leanings, you probably pictured the “Other Guys” when you read about the angry people in that last sentence. If so, I’d encourage you to take a better look at whatever social media you follow and leave your bias aside when you do so. We can all do better. We need to stop working from the assumption that people who express different opinions than ours are Super Bad Other Guys. It’s not getting us anywhere. They are just people, many of whom are struggling, and most of whom want things to be better. These people envision different paths to getting to better, and have different ideas of what better looks like. In some cases, we have fundamental differences that do not allow for compromise. Surely though, dynamic and respectful discussion of those differences is better than shutting out any attempt at understanding. For me, one of the best things about our country is that there are so many of us with so many different ideas and perspectives. We are really a pretty amazing bunch–once we are willing to get past our own viewpoints.

There is quote I’ve had taped to my fridge for over two decades now that reminds me that if I want to maintain the right to speak and be heard it is important for me to extend that right to others–and to defend that right for everyone. Ironically, at the same time I wish everyone would practice a little more civility online, I vehemently support their right to not do that.

If we don’t believe in free expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all. 

-Noam Chomsky

The realization that at the same time I’ve been championing freedom of expression in other platforms I’ve been censoring my own posts on social media is as paradoxical as it is timely. Considering this realization in the context of Banned Books Week has given me a fresh look at how easy it is to fall into the gray area between carefully selecting information out of a desire to share ideas and opinions and not sharing information out of a desire to avoid conflict.

I will continue to read, to learn and to listen. I will continue to select topics that are important to me to have a conversation about–and I will stop avoiding sharing my thoughts about  tough topics. I look forward to agreeing with you, disagreeing with you, broadening my perspective and (hopefully) broadening yours.


The featured Noam Chomsky quote is from an interview by John Pilger on BBC’s The Late Show, 25 November 1992.

Censorship, Selection & Banned Books

Banned Books Week kicked off yesterday.

I love Banned Books Week. It is a whole week dedicated to awesome stuff like celebrating our freedom to read and highlighting our right to access diverse material of our own choosing at our school and public libraries. And, equally as awesome, it is a reminder of the guarantee that librarians will protect our privacy when it comes to what we choose to read, check out, and research.

As this week approached, I encountered a number of in-person and online discussions about book challenges, reading choice, and student privacy that spurred me to think deeply about books that have been challenged at school libraries throughout the past year. Even more than that, though, I’ve been thinking about books that didn’t make it to a library’s shelf because of self-censorship or the fear of community reaction. I look forward to sharing articles, ideas, and reflections about professional ethics, censorship, selection, and banned books with you this week. I hope you will feel comfortable sharing your thoughts about these topics, too.

The following could help us get our discussion off the ground:

Not Censorship But Selection by Lester Asheim

“Not Censorship But Selection,” by Lester Asheim is a brief read that helps frame the discussion about the difference between banning or removing a book from a library and the thoughtful selection of materials appropriate for inclusion in a collection. First published in the Wilson Library Bulletin in September 1953, this article stands the test of time in explaining the sometimes blurry line between censorship and selection.

Worth Fighting For: Factors Influencing Selections Decisions in School Libraries by April Dawkins

“Worth Fighting For: Factors Influencing Selections Decisions in School Libraries” is a doctoral dissertation by April Dawkins that explores book selection and self-censorship in school library environments. I am excited to be working my way through this right now, and grateful to Ms. Dawkins and to the Scholar Commons for providing open access to this work.

American Library Association | Professional Ethics

American Library Association | Privacy Guidelines for Students in K-12 Schools


Just For Fun: Flashback to a Few Favorite Banned Books Week Moments

Booked!

 

Three Years: Panther Media

Thanks for an awesome three years, Panther Peeps!

Memorial Day

“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.”

-George S. Patton

From his speech at the Copley Plaza Hotel, Boston Massachusetts, June 7, 1945, reported by William Blair in The New York Times, June 8, 1945, p. 6.

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Memorial Day hurts.

For military families, Memorial Day is personal. We honor the memory of fallen heroes on this day, including many who were much more than heroes to us–they were our friends and family.

This year, like every year, I obsessively read the thoughts, responses, and manifestos posted about the meaning of Memorial Day and the appropriateness (or inappropriateness) of the words we use to express that we’re thinking of each other on this day. I am going  with my gut this year, and I will not be conflicted about what to say to someone who wishes my family a “Happy Memorial Day.” I will thank them for their warm thoughts, assume they are coming from a place of caring, and seize the opportunity to tell them about one of our fallen friends and how important it is to me that we have this day of remembrance for them.

My family and friends do devote time to somber moments of remembrance on Memorial Day, and I am glad to live in a country that dedicates a day to pay tribute to our war dead. I am also glad that in my family we spend most of Memorial Day laughing. We come home from somber and reflective ceremonies during which our eyes and hearts well up and we hold each others’ hands a little tighter, and then we spend the rest of the day telling old tales and building new memories. And we usually laugh our damn heads off, eyes and hearts still welling, sharing those tales and thinking about how fortunate we are to have had such friends as those we have lost. And how fortunate we are to still have each other.

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National Moment of Remembrance

Our National Moment of Remembrance is a time for Americans everywhere to pause for one minute at 3:00 p.m. (local time) on Memorial Day to remember and reflect on the sacrifices made by so many to provide freedom for all.

The photographs featured in this post were taken by the author at Fort Drum Memorial Park.

 

 

Deployment ’07: Extended Remix

A decade ago, our military was facing a dizzying  op-tempo, coupled with the kind of violent warfare that my family, and many other young Army families in the regular combat arms community, had not been exposed to quite so intimately before. I have felt comfort in reading stories from other military spouses processing their most galvanizing deployments from that time. Stories in which I saw echoes of my own experience. One of the great dichotomies of the military spouse community is that while spouses have so much in common with each other, we possess even more that serves to make us unique. For this reason, our individual stories are important. I respectfully add this small piece of my own story to the greater anthology. I use “we” frequently in this post–this is the “we” I felt part of at this exceptional time in my military spouse experience, and is not meant to be definitive.

This little piece of my story is my love letter to those sisters who helped me through the extension referred to here, those sisters who kept me from shattering during the deployment that immediately followed, and those sisters and brothers who inspire and support me through the deployments that continue to follow. 


In early 2007, my Against All Odds sisters and I thought we were winding down a brutal deployment.

We were weary. We were exhausted from a steady barrage of gut wrenching news, memorial services, and incident briefings.

We were tender. We were bruised from constant worry, from caring for everyone except ourselves, and from shouldering a great emotional burden that was impossible to set down.

And, we were fiercely resilient. Which was a very good thing, because just as we thought we could begin to relax and think about homecoming, the U.S. Office of the Secretary of Defense announced the extension of our soldiers for an additional four months of deployment.

I had just seen my Vagabond Soldier in December. He’d been deployed eleven months by the time he was able to take leave, and we wondered whether it was even worth it at that point. We were so close to the deployment’s end, we wondered if it would be emotionally harder and more disruptive (for us and for our young son) if we were to take a knee for a break so close to the finish line. By that point in the deployment, we were also superstitious about every decision we made: were we asking to be that tragic couple in the movie where you just know the poor soldier who just came back from seeing his wife and kid is going to step on a land mine within seconds of being back in the combat zone?  In the end we decided that the opportunity to see each other, like life itself, was a precious thing and not to be wasted. Our leave was quietly glorious. We watched Star Wars movies and Animal Planet, and played in the deep snow of Northern New York. And, best of all, I watched my husband sleep soundly, safe for the moment from IEDs, rocket attacks, and bad guys.

A little over a month after leave ended, as the brigade’s torch party and another battalion were just beginning to head home, and around the time our battalion families were receiving tentative dates for homecoming, I got a call–a vicious, sucker punch of a call. There was going to be an extension. We’d get more news soon. There would be a town hall meeting.

I’d been writing in a journal throughout the deployment. Originally with the intention of giving the journal to my husband when he came home to share daily stories of charming things our son did and my adventures in house renovation. I am a glass-half-full-kind of girl, whose prolific and honest journal entries about the wonder of everyday things are evidence that I was not just “surviving” but “thriving” through deployment. It was a mindset a number of us adopted–a little everyday Pollyanna mixed with a heavy dose of dark cynicism at the larger goings-on of the world. Mostly, I wrote about everyday things I wanted to share with my soldier: the first crocus peeking out of the snow; our son sledding like a maniac down the “big hill” with bright red cheeks; my success in installing a new floor in the upstairs bathroom. Looking at those entries a decade later, I find them conversational and chatty, and hovering somewhere between sucking-the-marrow-out-of-life passionate and pragmatically zen. My journal entry the day of the phone call was quite different:

I am so tired. 

Not sad. Or angry. Or anything. Just empty. Clinging to what I remember of my brave and solid self until I find her again.

This isn’t some sad story about slowly fighting my way back to sanity. I found my brave and solid self quickly, with blunt force, in the faces of my sisters during the emotional cacophony of our town hall meeting. I found bravery in our honesty, tears, anger and unapologetic disappointment. I found solid footing in our grit and gallows humor–and in the pragmatism of the questions we posed. We were not a stoic group, but we had more than enough practice at dealing efficiently with the unthinkable to let this sucker punch keep us down for long.

I regained my equilibrium  though the sheer strength I saw in the people around me. I don’t believe things in life happen to us to provide us with lessons, but I do believe that we have a choice to learn from everything that happens to us. What I learned from laughing, crying, caring, and sucking it up and driving on with the badass sisters of the CHOSIN, Against All Odds, battalion was to live deliberately every second of this life that you are given, because life is too damn short and too damn beautiful not to. It is as simple and as profound as that.


 

Version 2The picture featured in this post is of a shadow box that hangs in my kitchen. It holds a 1-32 Infantry ‘Against All Odds’ charm, a Fort Drum pin, a political cartoon from the time of the extension, and a photograph, c. April 2007, of a handful of the phenomenal people who helped me find moments of joy in the most worrisome of times. 

 

 

Jan 25, 2007

Release Number: 0701-18

By: CJTF-76 Public Affairs

NEWS RELEASE: 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division will extend deployment in Afghanistan

BAGRAM AIR BASE, AFGHANISTAN – The U.S. Office of the Secretary of Defense announced today the extension of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, based at Fort Drum, N.Y., for an additional four months through June 2007. Coupled with the scheduled deployment of 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82d Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C., this extension will increase the U.S. forces supporting the NATO led International Security Assistance Force by approximately 3,500 Soldiers.

“This increase in combat power will ensure a robust, flexible force capable of denying insurgent sanctuaries in Afghanistan, place greater emphasis on the border region and extend security operations to a wider area in Afghanistan,” Maj. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley, 10th Mountain Division commander said.

The U.S. Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff visited Afghanistan January 17th promising to provide the resources U.S. commanders need to defeat the Taliban and ensure security and stability in Regional Command East in support of the ISAF mission.

“Secretary Gates and General Pace asked us, ‘What do commanders on the ground need to win?’, and we told them an additional maneuver battalion, addition forces on the border and a theater tactical reserve,” Freakley said.

The extension of 3rd BCT immediately satisfies that requirement with a U.S. commitment to seek a long term sourcing solution yet to be determined. The actual employment of this increased combat power will be determined by ISAF and RC East commands.

“I understand and respect that this news will be taken hard by some members of the Task Force Spartan family team, but they have been responsible for so much positive progress here in Afghanistan and I know the Spartans will take this in stride and together with 4th Brigade, 82nd Airborne, Task Force Fury, they will make a significant impact on the mission during this 4 month extension.”

The Department of the Army will send a Tiger Team to Fort Drum to identify ways to resource additional support to the families of 3rd Brigade Soldiers for the four month extension. General Freakley has also charged the Fort Drum staff to double their efforts to support the soldier’s families.

“This extension is necessary to demonstrate to the Taliban that pressure on them will be unrelenting and to show the Afghan people that the United States of America is fully committed to the security of their nation and the assurance of their freedom,” Freakley added.

The 3rd Brigade Combat Team has been deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom for 11 months. Their four month extension will allow them to support security operations along side the 4th Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division to promote stability and security in Afghanistan.

 

Book Review: The Fire Next Time & Between the World and Me

At our neighborhood book club, I mentioned I was looking forward to reading Between the World and Me and received an excited suggestion to listen to the audiobook, which the author reads himself, and to also read James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time. I took both suggestions, and am glad I did. I am reviewing these two works together because I read them so closely together.

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Between the World and Me

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ prose is powerful, especially when heard in his own voice. I found Coates’ anger, his insights, and his frank advice to his son (to whom this work is addressed) relatable both as the parent of a fourteen year old and as a person who works with (and cares about, and worries about) the teenagers in my high school every day. Coates brings into sharp focus the hopelessness, fear, and anger he felt growing up, and the fear he feels as his son is thrust into a world that has proved itself to be a hostile and divided place.

The greatness in Between the World and Me is that it is intensely  personal. Coates’ description of the constant struggle he faced during his formative years to protect his own body is gut wrenching. The personal stories Coates shares provoke deep consideration of our societal constructs regarding race, as well as close consideration of our assumptions about, and treatment of, other people as individuals.

Between the World and Me is illuminating. I appreciate the rawness of Coates’ narrative and his perspective, though I confess that on the first reading I did find his repeated assertion that the actions of American white people are the result of their intent to claim racial superiority  exhausting.  Upon reflection, though, perhaps that is Coates’ point–to demonstrate that his experience as a black man in America has been an exhausting practice in defensive living. I was emotionally drained after reading this book, but still heartily recommend it.

I read The Fire Next Time immediately after finishing Between the World and Me, and was struck by the similarity of the sentiments expressed in the two books, considering they are written decades apart. Baldwin’s writing is a pleasure to read, and his message resonates as powerfully today as it must have when it was first published in the early 1960s.

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The Fire Next Time

While Baldwin expresses similar themes in his work to Coates–disillusionment with an education system stacked against black Americans; anger at the lack of choices and outright racism that confront him in everyday life; and, rage that black Americans face immeasurable obstacles for no reason other than they are black–Baldwin’s work contains brilliant lights of revolutionary thinking that transcend integration. Baldwin calls on all Americans to accept our complicated, often ugly, past “without drowning in it”–and to each take responsibility for smashing the myth of the American Dream, as it previously existed, in order to create a nation together.

Baldwin offers more than his anger in The Fire Next Time. He is also generous enough to offer the hope that we humans all have the capacity to wake up to the reality of our current state, and to contribute to a better nation. Baldwin places the responsibility for our future in all our hands, giving both agency and responsibility to the disaffected, as well as the privileged:

In short, we, the black and the white, deeply need each other here if we are really to become a nation–if we are really, that is, to achieve our identity, our maturity as men and women. To create one nation has proved to be a hideously difficult task; there is certainly no need now to create two, one black and one white.”

I would recommend everyone read these books, one after the other if you can. If you have time for only one of them right now, start with Baldwin.

Further Reading & Exploration

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin. New York: The Dial Press, 1963.

Why James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time Still Matters by Orlando Edmunds

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. New York : Spiegel & Grau, 2015.

Why Ta-Nehisi Coates Isn’t Our James Baldwin by Vinson Cunningham

Book Review: Praying for Sheetrock

Melissa Fay Greene’s Praying for Sheetrock is a well-researched, detail-oriented, unhurried read about a tumultuous time in the history of McIntosh County, Georgia. Greene explores difficult subjects with objectivity and understanding, and she tells a good story.

Greene’s approach to this narrative work of non-fiction is rich with personal details that reveal the good and the flaws in all of the characters who populate the story. Greene elegantly ties each of these personal stories into the larger historical epoch. The struggle for civil rights was slow to arrive to McIntosh County, a community Greene describes as living in a state of “civilized repression” and “good manners” until an event of shocking violence “violated the unspoken social contract that allowed the whites and the outcast blacks to live in peace” (p. 122-3). While some readers may find Greene’s style and language cumbersome and overly detailed, I found that the meticulous language she used not only enriched my understanding of the events in the work, but also evoked the overall pace of coastal Georgia, where I currently reside. I found that Greene’s deep dive into intimate detail helped me understand better what was at stake for the inhabitants of McIntosh County as they attempted to reconcile their personal experience (with their history, their community, and their law makers) with the awakening of the local black community to their civil rights and to their own power.

Though Greene’s story contributes to our national narrative of our ongoing American civil rights struggles, Praying for Sheetrock is ultimately a story of people. Noble and flawed people, who are sometimes horrible and sometimes heroic, and often both. In the hands of another author, this cast of unbelievable characters–including a Robin Hood style white sheriff, flawed black community organizer, and a group of eager Yankee lawyers–could have become a farce. Thankfully, Greene presents this real life cast with a thought provoking honesty that serves this story, and the reader, well.

Further Reading & Exploration

Melissa Fay Greene’s Website 

Greene’s Website includes more information about her published work, her media appearances, and her upcoming events.

Georgia Writers Hall of Fame interviews: Melissa Fay Greene

Georgia Writers Hall of Fame honoree: Melissa Fay Greene

The Georgia Writers Hall of Fame, under the leadership of the University of Georgia Librarian, honors Georgia’s writers, literature, and cultural history. The Georgia Writer’s Hall of Fame honoree page for Greene honors her for both her extensive research and her “personal approach” to the subjects of her work.

The New York Times Review of Praying for Sheet Rock

The 1991 New York Times “Book of The Times” review of Praying for Sheet Rock, written at the time the book was published, is a concise and well-written summary of Greene’s work.

Through the Lens of Photographer Walker Evans from Georgia Public Broadcasting

In Praying for Sheetrock, Greene refers to Walker Evans’ photographs of rural poverty to provide context to the poverty and living conditions of McIntosh County, Georgia in the 1970s. The above link leads to a Georgia Public Broadcasting page that includes a brief slideshow of highlights of Evans’ work; an audio interview with Alex Harris, who was a student of Evans; and, a video that combines Evans’ photography and his own reflections on his experiences as a photographer.

Featured Image

The Featured Image for this post is from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Online Collection, a collection of photographs, prints, and other still media that documents the lives of Americans and our collective history.

Title: A Greyhound bus trip from Louisville, Kentucky, to Memphis, Tennessee, and the terminals. Sign at bus station. Rome, Georgia

    • Creator(s): Bubley, Esther, photographer
    • Date Created/Published: 1943 Sept.
    • Medium: 1 negative : nitrate ; 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 inches or smaller.
    • Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-fsa-8d33365 (digital file from original neg.) LC-USW3-037939-E (b&w film nitrate neg.) LC-USZ62-75338 (b&w film copy neg. from file print)
    • Rights Advisory: No known restrictions. For information, see U.S. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black & White Photographs(http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/res/071_fsab.html)
    • Call Number: LC-USW3- 037939-E [P&P]
    • Other Number: E 5153
    • Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pp.print

Reading the Hard Stuff

screen-shot-2016-12-03-at-8-35-53-amJust a few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of spending the better part of a school day engaging with students as they checked out To Kill a Mockingbird for their American Literature classes. Class after class of students commented as they checked out this classic work that they knew the book was going to be good when the pages were worn and the spine was taped up (see photo). It was a spot-on observation that made me smile. Some books checked out for class reading are returned to the media center looking untouched, and probably abandoned in favor of SparkNotes or Thug NotesTo Kill a Mockingbird is not one of those books. The copies of Mockingbird come back to the media center dog-eared and well-used. Mockingbird is the type of story that our students value most–a story that is relatable, and at the same time calls us out, makes us feel challenged, and inspires us to question our world view.

I was saddened this week to read The Associated Press article School District Temporarily Pulls Classics After Complaint  and to learn that Accomack County Public School System was temporarily suspending use of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn after a parent submitted a complaint about the effect the language, particularly racial slurs, in these books could have on students. I appreciate reading about a parent coming forward to voice her concern at a school board meeting, which is an appropriate and effective forum for civic engagement. (Click here for audio of the  Accomack County, Virginia November 15, 2016 School Board Meeting) I am horrified, though, that the school system’s review process apparently includes suspending the titles in question while they are under review. Surely, there could have been some less drastic measure taken, such as offering an alternative text for this individual student while going through the process of addressing the parent’s concern.

I am a champion of reading choice. As a high school media specialist, that means I provide access to a wide diversity of information and stories. While the Accomack story centers around two classic works presented in the classroom, I am concerned as a parent and a librarian that a piece of valued literature could be so quickly “suspended” from use by students school wide after a single parent complaint. I want my son, who is in high school, to have the benefit of exploring challenging literature with a professional educator who will help him navigate the inquiry process spurred by his reading. Removing texts that are uncomfortable is contrary to that.

Stories are important. Especially the ones that make us uncomfortable. Words are important. And, the stories that resonate with readers do not shy away from words authentic to their time, place, and situation. Stories like To Kill a Mockingbird touch students by personalizing history. These stories also provide a platform for students to explore challenging topics, such as prejudice (historically and today), our country’s ongoing civil rights struggle, “fitting in” to society, failures of the justice system, and personal morality. We simply can’t afford to remove access to stories that help give students the context to grapple with complex issues.

 

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Diversity in Literature

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED Talk  The Danger of a Single Story is an inspiring look at the importance of exposure to a wide range of stories that reflect ourselves and those around us.

 

To Kill a Mockingbird 

In my own high school media center, I can’t keep To Kill a Mockingbird on the shelfOur students check Mockingbird out to read for their English, they choose it for independent novel assignments, and they read (or reread) the book for pleasure.

 

 Roy Newquiest’s 1964 WQXR interview with Harper Lee in which Lee talks about her writing habits, her opinion of the film version of To Kill a Mockingbird, Southern people, and her book.

Jamie LaRue’s September 2016 School Library Journal article All Schools Need Book Challenge Policies

American Library Association 

The freedom to read is essential to our democracy. You can learn more about this topic in relation to librarianship by exploring the following links:

Intellectual Freedom Round Table

The Freedom to Read Statement

Informed Voters

Photo credit: The featured image on this post is Vote by Theresa Thompson, made available via a Creative Commons 2.0 license by personalincom.org/vote

I became a librarian because I am passionate about empowering people by connecting them with information they can use to positive effect in their lives and communities. With the election fast approaching, we all continue to seek out information that we can rely on as accurate–for ourselves, and to use with our children and students. I hope the information in this post will help you feel empowered when you go to the polls next month.

Please vote.

 

Our System: The Electoral College

Having trouble explaining the electoral college process? The National Archives and Records Administration U.S. Electoral College webpage can help! This collection of current election information, historical resources, and Frequently Asked Questions is a great place to begin when explaining our electoral process to students or foreign friends.

 

The Candidates: Their Positions and Policies

Get it straight from the candidates’ websites. Click the name of each candidate below to visit the page of their official website on which their policies and positions are articulated. The candidates have been listed here in alphabetical order.

Hillary Clinton

Gary Johnson

Jill Stein

Donald Trump

 

Educational Resources 

Newsela: Students Vote 2016

Newsela is a website that many educators at my high school rely on for current event articles that can be adapted (scaled) to different Lexile reading comprehension levels. In addition to providing high-interest articles for readers of all levels, Newsela is currently featuring Students Vote 2016, in which Newsela presents a collection of articles, profiles, biographies, speeches, maps, and other resources for students to explore citizenship, voting, and the election.

PBS LearningMedia Resources: Election Central

PBS LearningMedia’s Election Central provides a treasure trove of multimedia resources to engage voters and future voters of all ages. You will find information about the election process, debates, electoral college, candidates, as well as films, lesson plans, and tool kits to engage students in actively learning about the electoral process.

TED-Ed Video and Lesson: The Electoral College

In the following video from TED-Ed, Christina Greer explains the Electoral College, and how votes are counted on the state and national level. You can find the learning material associate with this video on TED-Ed here: Does your vote count? The Electoral College explained.

National Education Association Lessons and Resources: Elections

Retired middle school teacher Phil Nast has curated a rich collection of resources and lesson plans that are available via The National Education Association’s Elections webpage.  The page includes lessons for student from Pre-K through 12th grade, and are curated from sites such as Scholastic, PBS, National Endowment for the Humanities, and other organizations with a history of providing reliable information in formats that provide a platform for students to engage their inquiry and critical thinking skills.

 

For Fun and Further Exploration: The Political Quiz

Having trouble defining your stance on some issues? Looking for a way to spark a conversation based on thoughtful consideration of the issues with your students? One of the following political quizzes may help get you started.

Pew Research Center: Political Typology Quiz

I like the Pew Research quiz for two big reasons: the questions are thought provoking, and there is a group version of the quiz that could be used to engage a class or other group interested in engaging in meaningful inquiry of political typology.

iSideWith.com: Political Quiz

I like the iSideWith quiz because it provides granularity in the available response choices to each question, and allows the person taking the quiz to weight the importance of each issue to them as a voter.

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