Issue 76, Winter 1999/2000

The Tacoma, Washington Public Library uses filters that strip images from ‘restricted’ websites, leaving only text, even for adults, and requires all users to register. The library tracked entries into ‘restricted’ sites and says that 19% are by minors. This raises troubling questions about censorship, the criteria used to decide which sites to restrict, and privacy rights of library patrons. Now some in Yakima cite Tacoma as a model.

Talk about taking the cake: On Mark Twain’s birthday, a committee in Oklahoma’s Enid High School voted to recommend restricting Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to advanced placement or enriched literature courses, potentially dimming the candles for most high school juniors.

Better news from Wisconsin. Eau Claire schools restored four gay-themed books: Baby Be-Bop, When Someone You Know Is Gay, The Drowning of Stephan Jones, and Two Teenagers in Twenty went back on the shelves when the district settled an ACLU lawsuit.

The New York City Board of Education has installed a filtering system that blocks web sites students need for research assignments. As a result, high school students are denied access to important resources for research such as major news outlets, the NRA, Planned Parenthood, the Department of Justice and other policy groups and scientific and medical organizations. The Board’s action makes as much sense as the nursery rhyme, ‘Mother, may I go out to swim…’ Yes my darling daughter. Fold your clothes up neat and trim… but don’t go near the water.?

A coalition of college and high school students has formed an S.O.S. campaign to restore evolution and scientific cosmology to science education and to prevent the teaching of creationism as science. Save Our Science, Save Our Schools is circulating a national web-based petition urging states to stop squelching science in the classroom. For information or to sign on, click here.

PBS will air a four-part series of documentaries on January 26 and February 2, exploring the role of arts in society. The programs are about classic works of art—in literature, music, film, and painting—that have engendered both controversy and acclaim. The series, called Culture Shock, includes Born to Trouble: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; The Devil’s Music: 1920s Jazz; Hollywood Censored: Movies, Morality & the Hollywood Production Code; and The Shock of the Nude: Manet’s Olympia. PBS has also developed a teachers guide to accompany the programs. For more information, contact your local PBS station or click here.

Flash: On December 17th, 1999, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit invalidated portions of the Child Pornography Prevention Act on First Amendment grounds. Two other Courts of Appeals have upheld the constitutionality of the statute in the context of criminal appeals.