Title

Censorship of Textbooks and Supplemental Books in North Dakota Secondary Schools From 1989-1994

Date of Award

12-1-1996

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Educational Leadership

Abstract

Censorship of school books and other materials has long been an issue in the United States. North Dakota has not been exempt from censorship, and the public schools in Drake, Minot, and Napoleon all experienced censorship battles.

This study examined the extent of censorship in North Dakota public high schools and determined what policies are used to handle challenges to textbooks and supplemental reading materials. A model policy for reconsideration of educational materials is recommended.

This study focuses on academic freedom, challenges to textbooks, library books, and other materials, humanistic education, the new age movement, reconsideration policies, secular humanism, and self-censorship. It contains a portrait of the censor from the "Right" and the "Left," giving motives for censorship, statistics on the frequency, and reasons for the changes. This study provides advice for educators on how to prepare for and deal with censorship.

This study contains interviews with a North Dakota librarian, superintendent, an English teacher, and the publisher of a small town newspaper. The survey asked superintendents, high school principals, librarians, and English teachers in the nine largest school districts and a random sample of the same individuals in the remaining districts to provide information on censorship activities from 1989-1994.

This contains information about censorship activities that took place in the North Dakota school districts of Drake, Minot, and Napoleon. These stories were collected from newspaper articles, letters to the editor, editorials, interviews, personal communications, and school board minutes. There are three case studies for those interested in the history of journalism. Examples of the results of censorship in the three North Dakota cities are the firing of a teacher and the burning of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five, ongoing insults between citizens in letters to the editor, and the removal of Newsweek magazine.

Supplemental English books are most likely to be challenged in North Dakota and parents are responsible for a majority of the challenges. "Vulgar, obscene, and inappropriate language" is the reason cited most often for the challenges. The largest school districts are more likely than the selected smaller districts to have policies in place to address challenges and teachers are the most likely to exercise self-censorship in North Dakota. This study contains recommendations for policy development and further study.

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