School censorship and privacy rights highlight ´Fahrenheit 451' programs

guyla houston(STILLWATER, OKLA. / Feb. 14, 2014) ––Over 100 readers have picked up copies of “Fahrenheit 451” for the “One Book, One Community” series sponsored by Stillwater Public Library, OSU library and Sheerar Museum. With book discussion sessions now underway across the community, area citizens are having serious conversations about Ray Bradbury’s dystopian classic. This week, programs on school censorship and privacy rights will help readers delve even deeper into the novel.

“We’ve been thrilled with the turnout so far,” said Lynda Reynolds, Stillwater Public Library director. “It’s important that we give community members the opportunity to assemble and discuss issues important to America and to our lives.”

(Photo: Library user Guyla Houston chooses books from the library's banned book display.)

On Monday, Feb. 24 at 3:30 p.m., an expert panel of teachers and librarians will present "Censorship and Book Banning in Schools." Speakers include Dr. Sue Parsons, Associate Professor and Dr. Jenn Sanders, Associate Professor, both from OSU’s School of Teaching & Curriculum Leadership in the College of Education, and Karen Neurohr and Karen Morris, librarians at the OSU Library.  The panelists all have experience as public school teachers and/or library media specialists.

The program, in OSU’s Willard Hall, Room 010, will include a discussion of the panelists’ firsthand hand experiences with censorship and various incidents of censorship from across the nation.

 “Challenges to books can happen in any state or region.  Oklahoma is not particularly more or less susceptible to book challenges and bans,” said Sanders . “These incidents span all geographic areas and the reasons for the challenges vary widely.”

According to Sanders, many challenges are made due to typical “hot button” issues like offensive language, sexual content, or references to drugs, evolution, LGBTQ issues and magical elements. However, some of the reasons can be surprising.

“Some challenges are made to books that portray parents negatively, such as stories where parents are either not present or are shown as irresponsible,” said Sanders. “Books are also challenged because they represent a non-dominant religion or faith. A particularly surprising instance was one where a parent challenged “A Diary of Anne Frank” for promoting the Jewish religion.”

Each semester, Sanders gives tips to her students on how to handle instances when a parent raises a concern about a book. Her top tip? Communication.

“The main point I make to my students is to keep parents informed,” said Sanders. “If you are using a book that has literary merit and instructional value but potentially objectionable content, let the parents know why you chose the book, what learning objectives will be achieved, and how you plan to responsibly address any objectionable content. If you do that, the parents will usually be okay with the book selection.”

And her advice for parents?

“If you are concerned about a book’s content, read it first,” said Sanders. “Once a parent has read the book, then we can begin to have a conversation about the concerns.”

"Censorship and Book Banning in Schools" is free and open to the public. Parking is available for a fee at the OSU Student Union.

On Thursday, Feb. 27 at 6:30 p.m., the theme turns to privacy when Stillwater Speaks presents "Who's Watching You?: Maintaining Privacy in a Terrorist's World" in a World Café forum at the Stillwater Public Library. 

“Issues of privacy crop up throughout ‘Fahrenheit 451,’” said Kimberly Williams, Stillwater Speaks member. “The government controls public thought through a constant stream of propaganda entering the living room walls; neighbors and family members spy and report on each other; no one thinks independently or spends time alone. Are the thoughts of people in Ray Bradbury’s world even their own?”

In this forum, participants will rotate through four different tables to discuss topics such as the privacy participants value most, ways technology affects privacy, threats to privacy, reasons people choose to give up their privacy and, of course, how privacy in the novel compares to the real world.

“Privacy is a good forum topic because it gives the community a chance to deliberate on the government’s recent involvement in the lives of individuals,” said Williams. “It will be interesting to see our participants compare Bradbury’s version of the future with the path down which current events are leading us.”

The forum is limited to 24 participants and prior registration is required. To register, email askalibrarian@stillwater.org or call 405-372-3633 x 8106. Once registered, participants will receive recommended reading to be completed prior to the forum. Coffee-house style refreshments, courtesy of Friends of the Stillwater Public Library, will be served.

Upcoming programs in the “One Book, One Community” series include an acting class for adults and teens on March 7 at OSU and a performance of "Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451" by Aquila Theatre at 8pm on the same day.  Tickets for the performance are available at http://alliedarts.okstate.edu/tickets

“One Book, One Community: Stillwater Reads Fahrenheit 451” partners include Stillwater Public Library Trust, Friends of the OSU Library, City of Stillwater, Friends of the Stillwater Public Library, KOSU, OK Quality Printing, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, OSU Allied Arts, OSU English Department, OSU School of Media & Strategic Communications, OSU School of Teaching and Curriculum Leadership, Stillwater Journal, Stillwater NewsPress and Stillwater Speaks.

For more information, visit the Stillwater Public Library web site at http://library.stillwater.org.

The Stillwater Public Library is located at 1107 S. Duck St. (the corner of Duck and 12th Ave.).