Chris Crutcher Inspired Me to be An Intellectual Freedom Activist for Teens

I had only been a school librarian for a few years when a school in a neighboring county had a high profile materials challenge involving Chris Crutcher’s Whale Talk. Area libraries and Crutcher responded by planning some related events coinciding with the 2005 Banned Books Week, and his stops included our local public library. When one of my teachers saw the promotional poster I’d created for Crutcher’s speech, she echoed my belief that limiting access to anything sets a dangerous precedent. We were both eager to capitalize on the opportunity for her students to hear the renowned author and re-imagined her twelfth grade research paper as case studies in censorship.

Chris Crutcher (2005)

The project was successful beyond our wildest expectations in engaging students intellectually and promoting conversation about fundamental rights. Though the event with Crutcher was remote from campus and held in the evening, the majority of the class attended the lecture. He was gracious enough to pose with our students afterwards (above). Crutcher’s talk that night made me understand the needs of young people to see their experiences reflected in literature. As he spoke about his background as a family therapist and the many ways in which his books reflect the lived experience of young people and offer support for those who needed it, it galvanized my belief in intellectual freedom as a fundamental aspect of youth services.
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Positive Use of Social Networking #25 – Freedom to Choose

During October a small group of YALSA bloggers are posting ideas and information about positive uses of social networking tools in schools and libraries. Here’s positive use #25.

Social networking technologies often allow for people to express their own opinions. A teen can set up their own blog in less than five minutes, post a comment on a forums board, or share what materials they are reading through LibraryThing. Check out SLJs recent article and podcast on LibraryThing here.

People who read and contribute to blogs, forums boards, wikis, etc. are being given the choice to be exposed to information that they might not otherwise come across as readily. Is it not slightly ironic, that DOPA targets school and public libraries, which are places that historically protect the freedom to access information?

It is my opinion that there are many parallels between Banned Books and freedom in the digital world. Making connections between the two, as well as being familiar with sites such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation might help us understand why DOPA is not the beginning and is not going to be the end of legislation affecting the digital world. It might help us to want to inform the teens we work with who use these technolgies of what the bigger picture is and not just be reactive or hope it will go away.

I wonder if Teen Tech Week might be one of many places to continue the dialogue of freedoms in the digital world and why/how it is just as important as protecting our freedom to read books.

Posted by Kelly Czarnecki