Issue 86, Summer 2002

  • NCAC salutes New York parent Jeanne Heifetz, for her initiative and persistence in documenting the censorship on the New York English Language Arts Regents exams. The mother of a NYC high school student, Heifetz’s interest in literature and education, and vigilance of high-stake exams, led her to smoke the problem out.
  • Shades of Mel and Norma Gabler (!)—the Texas twosome who, for more than a decade, used the Texas Textbook Adoption Process to purge textbooks of ideas they didn’t like. In 1995, Texas policies were revised to limit grounds for rejection to “factual inaccuracy,” yet censorship flourishes. Publishers still revise textbooks in order to sell to the nation’s second largest buyer. In November, a science book was altered to appease anti-environmentalists. “Destruction of the rain forest could affect weather over the entire planet” was changed to “Tropical rain forest ecosystems impact weather over the entire planet.” The following was added: “In the past the earth has been much warmer than it is now, and fossils of sea creatures show us that the sea level was much higher than it is today. So does it really matter if the world gets warmer?” A best-selling history book, Out of Many, was withdrawn from consideration this month because of objections to a brief discussion of prostitution in cattle towns in the days before the West was settled.
  • In South Carolina, The Drowning of Stephan Jones, by Bette Greene, was pulled from the libraries of Horry County’s middle and high schools at the behest of a lone objector. The superintendent of schools banned the book after a resident who had once been expelled from school for writing a profane poem, objected to the noteworthy novel for its “vulgarity and profanity.” A lesson learned too well, perhaps?
  • Student journalists at Baltimore Southern High School learned a great First Amendment lesson when the school principal banned the student paper for criticizing plans for a magnet school. To the rescue came State Senator George W. Della Jr. who offered resources to help students publish an uncensored underground newspaper and distribute it off the school premises.
  • To the alarm of booksellers, librarians, and readers, the USA PATRIOT Act, passed overwhelmingly by Congress in October, gives the FBI the right to secretly seek library and book store records in investigating terrorism. Libraries and bookstores are prohibited from revealing the inquiry to anyone, including the person whose records are sought. During the cold war, the FBI visited science libraries to ask about reading habits of anyone with a foreign name or accent. Public pressure caused the demise of the highly controversial program.
  • During Banned Books Week, NCAC will again have a booth at New York is Book Country on Sunday, September 29th from 11 to 5. All are invited to visit us on Fifth Avenue in New York City.
  • Zayed Yasim, a Harvard student, came under attack for the title of his commencement address, Of Faith and Citizenship: My American Jihad. Protestors, who hadn’t heard the speech, petitioned and rallied, causing him to drop the last three words of the title. Yasim described “jihad” as a struggle for personal growth and for wider peace and justice.