Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog


Book Banners: The Sequel

By Shawn Healy
Banned Books week ended only last week, and its importance in highlighting issues of academic freedom was only cemented by recent developments. A Georgia mom, Laura Mallory, told the State Board of Education that the Harry Potter series is an "evil" attempt to introduce the Wiccan religon to school children. This is the same school, district that eliminated funding for Spanish-language books only to do an about-face in light of persistent criticism.

The madness in Arlington Heights has now moved to cyberspace. School Board member Leslie Pinney attempted to remove nine books from the school library last May. Bruce Tincknell grabbed her baton and created a web site critical of the teaching practices, reading material, and even movies shown in district classrooms. Teachers countered with a web site of their own to defend curricular decisions. While I commend both sides for contributing to the "marketplace of ideas," I can't help but feel that academic freedom is placed in peril when parents and concerned citizens attempt to veto the classroom-level decisions of educators trained to make them based on sound pedagogy.

The most appalling story of the week concerns Banned Books Week itself. A Harrisonburg, VA, superintendent, Donald Ford, ordered the removal of a banned books display in the high school library. His rationale was wanting: "We are not going to send a message to kids encouraging them to read banned books. Our message should be to read books, a wide variety of books." While the district refused to release the list of banned books, it included Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, Fahrenheit 451, Ann Frank, and The Bible. Are these the "juicy" and "controversial" titles of which he speaks? I have a better solution the next time Mr. Ford interferes with the freedom to read: Leave the books alone and send him into early retirement.


Anonymous Kristiana Zerom said...

The following is a list of the ten most frequently challenged books from 2000-2005, by people who wanted to see them removed from schools or libraries because of their content or appropriateness, according to the American Library Association. pg 6 of the Friday, October 6, 2006 Red Eye newspaper, which is owned and produced by the Tribune.

1. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
2. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
3. The Alice seies by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
4. Of Mice & Men by John Steinbeck
5. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
6. Fallen angels by Walter Dean Myers
7. It's Perfectly Normal by Robie H. Harris
8. The Scary Stories series by Alvin Schwartz
9. The Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey
10. Forever by Judy Blume

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Managing Director

McCormick Freedom Project

Shawn is responsible for overseeing and managing the operations associated with the McCormick Freedom Project. Additionally, he serves as the in house content expert and voice of museum through public speaking and original scholarship. Before joining the Freedom Project, he taught American Government, Economics, American History, and Chicago History at Community High School in West Chicago, IL and Sheboygan North High School in Wisconsin.

Shawn is a doctoral candidate within the Political Science Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he received his MA in Political Science. He is a 2001 James Madison Fellow from the State of Wisconsin and holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, History, and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

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About Fanning the Flames and the McCormick Freedom Project

Fanning the Flames is a blog of the McCormick Freedom Project, which was started in 2006 by museum managing director Shawn Healy. The blog highlights the news of the day, in hopes of engaging readers in dialogue about freedom issues. Any views or opinions expressed on this blog represent those of the writers alone and do not represent an official opinion of the McCormick Freedom Project.

Founded in 2005, the McCormick Freedom Project is part of the McCormick Foundation. The Freedom Project’s mission is to enable informed and engaged participation in our democracy by demonstrating the relevance of the First Amendment and the role it plays in the ongoing struggle to define and defend freedom. The museum offers programs and resources for teachers, students, and the general public.

First Amendment journalism initiative

The Freedom Project recently launched a new reporting initiative with professional journalists Tim McNulty and Jamie Loo. The goal is to expand and promote the benefits of lifelong civic engagement among citizens of all ages, through original reporting, commentary and news aggregation on First Amendment and freedom issues. Please visit the McCormick Freedom Project's news Web site, The Post-Exchange at