“Do No Harm” - National Council of Teachers of English
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“Do No Harm”


The title of this blog is the title of an article in this summer’s ALAN Review in which NCTE members James Blasingame and E. Sybil Durand ask and answer the question “Who is harmed by book banning?”

“When we choose to abandon books that deal with issues of race, sex, abuse, gender identity, discrimination, disenfranchisement, or similar topics, we hurt the people who live with these issues every day by implying that their life experiences are not worth talking about, or are an embarrassment, or are simply wrong. When these stories are absent from the curriculum or libraries, when these experiences are not reflected in the books and stories that are available, accessible, and taught, then we risk telling the young people who face these issues that their lives must not matter.”

They go on to say

“We are morally obligated to read and study literature that exposes our students to the realities of lives lived with difficulty, realities known only too well by the person in the next seat or the next classroom or the next county. We are obligated to provide our students with literature that may show how some of us, teachers as well as students, consciously or unconsciously, are the perpetrators of injustice against our fellow human beings, hurting people by the hundreds, thousands, maybe even millions.”

So when someone says to you, “Why teach books that might offend when there are so many possible books out there to teach?” answer them this way, “There will never be enough books to allow us to censor some.”

You might add the words of Blasingame and Durand,

“Books affect, change, even save, lives. We are called to share the best of them, not the most sanitized, not the least disturbing, not the most disinfected of society’s ills, but the best of them. We may think we do no one ill when we shy away from the most challenged titles, but we actually do great harm. We fail to provide the means to heal and understand life to our world’s most marginalized.”