ClassCast Podcast Ep.043 features host Ryan Tibbens discussing wide-reaching, intrusive, and imperfect policy changes in his school division that are resulting in suppression of teachers' First Amendment rights, paranoia among employees, book banning, censorship, and more. Banned Books Week 2020 runs from September 27 through October 3 and, ironically, included Tibbens' first personal run-in with book banning during his 15 year teaching career. The new policy not only infringes upon employees' first amendment rights in hopes of protecting the division's public image and efficiency, but it declares a universal ban on racial slurs "regardless of intent" as well. That, of course, sounds great, but it results in a wide variety of high quality texts becoming unsafe -- or possibly banned -- for classroom use, rendering teachers' efforts to support national and local antiracist goals harder to achieve because teachers have fewer options for texts to inform and guide those discussions. In this episode, Tibbens addresses problematic aspects of the new policy, connects it to classroom realities, and defends The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Of Mice and Men, To Kill a Mockingbird, Just Mercy, and more.
If you are serious about fighting racism and censorship while promoting critical thinking and intellectual freedom, this episode is not to be missed.
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~~ Disclaimer: This recording includes ideas and opinions of the speaker, Ryan Tibbens, and do not reflect the views of his employer nor any other organization or agency. ~~
~~ UPDATE: Since this episode was released, several leaders within the school system have reached out for clarification. Contrary to initial comments, they say that no specific books are being banned. Additionally, in part because of the awareness and concerns raised by this podcast, the proposed Professional Conduct Policy has been sent back to committee for revision. Final language is still pending. Individual leaders have clarified their statements and suggested that teachers will have their support to teach whatever quality books they choose. That being said, their comments also suggest a shift from what the American Library Association calls "direct censorship" (a formal ban by school leaders) to "indirect censorship" (an informal ban imposed by teachers/librarians on themselves in order to avoid conflicts or problems at work or in the community). At this point, the censorship seems to be individual teachers' problems, not leadership's, because there is no formal ban or limitation on the texts. School leadership has since issued guidelines on how to handle books with racially offensive language, which includes "DO NOT use audio books or read passages with sensitive language or racial slurs aloud, nor should students read these passages aloud. Teachers may not read the passage and omit the offensive word or supply a substitute word. Language spoken aloud that is oppressive causes violence and trauma to students and provides tacit permission for students to use these terms outside of the classroom." This guideline makes the texts addressed in this episode (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, and The Autobiography of Malcolm X) unusable for whole class and small group applications because the texts can't be read or discussed aloud. Again, based on recent comments from leadership, they are not prohibiting any text; however, the limitations on how to use the books likely leads to indirect censorship. School leadership also requested the clarification that books including gender reassignment surgery are not included in elementary classroom libraries, though the other texts/topics I mention are present. Overall, I sympathize with everyone involved in the situation and understand that everyone is doing what they think is best to improve education and fight racism. That being said, the broader arguments and positions stated in this episode still stand. We cannot fight racism by making anti-racist books unusable in the classroom.
Banned Books Week Links:
- ALA's "Banned Books Week"
- NCTE's "Guidelines for Dealing with Censorship of Instructional Materials"
- NCTE's "The Students' Right to Read"
- NCTE's "Statement on Academic Freedom"
- NCTE's "Position Statement Regarding Rating or 'Red-Flagging' Books"
- ACLU's "Banned Books"
See Ryan Tibbens' written defense of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn here.
Table of Contents
- Introduction & Conduct Policy -- 0:00-8:09
- Racial Slurs -- 8:10-12:03
- Huckleberry Finn -- 12:03-23:19
- Banning Words, Banning Books -- 23:20-44:29
- Banned Books Week -- 44:29-47:20
- What's This All About? -- 47:20- end
Food for Thought
ClassCast Podcast Ep.040 features Garrett Pierce, a recent online college graduate AND face-to-face college graduate, sharing insights into distance learning, the rigidity of high school, students' mental health struggles, improving schools, school choice, and learning by doing. Garrett, a former student of host Ryan Tibbens, also shares his passions for music, movies, brewing beer, baking bread and pizzas, and the finer things in life. If you're interested in a student and young professional's perspective on education and worthy reforms, look no further.
Check out Garrett's cooking-related social media accounts he mentions late in the episode: newbridge_eats and ursamajorbaking.
Check out the Table of Contents below to identify clips and sections that fit your interests, or enjoy the whole conversation. Don't forget to like, follow, share, retweet, subscribe, and leave a positive review wherever you get your podcasts.
Table of Contents
This page contains links/audio streams for four highlight clips from ClassCast Podcast Ep.021, which features one of the most accomplished and sought-after dance teachers in the mid-Atlantic Region -- Ashley Tibbens. In addition to being a talented teacher, Ms. Tibbens is also owner/operator of Tiny Toes Dance LLC. Through these quick clips, she discusses her experiences in dance and dance education, extracurricular for preschool youths, her own schooling, starting a business, and a special add-on at the end in which Ashley describes how she pivoted her business in response to the Coronavirus pandemic and school closures. In this discussion with her husband (our host, Ryan Tibbens), she describes the significance of dance, extracurricular participation, how school could work better for all students, and how businesses like hers have responded to the economic and health issues resulting from the Coronavirus. [Clip 021.1 -- Dance Education Online & the Coronavirus Pivot was released separately before the full episode; it is linked at the bottom of this page.] If you love dance, school, extracurriculars, or small business, these highlights are not to be missed!
Clip 021.2 -- Ashley Tibbens -- PreSchool & Elementary Extracurriculars
In this highlight clip from ClassCast Podcast Ep.021, dance teacher, business owner, and parent Ashley Tibbens discusses the availability and value of extracurricular programs for young children as well as the dangers of over-scheduling. This quick clip provides great insights for anyone who has or works with young children.
Clip 021.3 -- Ashley Tibbens -- Learning the Right Way Early
In this highlight from ClassCast Podcast Ep.021, dance teacher and former professional dancer Ashley Tibbens discusses the importance of learning the right way early, of making good habits, and why strong foundations are vital for later successes. This discussion starts with dance but ultimately encompasses nearly everything we do in life and reaffirms the wisdom that "it's easier to make a good habit than to break a bad one."
Clip 021.4 -- Ashley Tibbens -- Becoming a Professional Dancer
In this highlight clip from ClassCast Podcast Ep.021, former professional dancer and current dance educator Ashley Tibbens talks about her dance journey, including college, dancing at the elite Jacob's Pillow, setbacks, and post-performance career plans. If you or someone you know dances or is considering a career in the arts, this quick clip contains some great insights.
Clip 021.1 -- Ashley Tibbens -- Dance Education Online/ Coronavirus Pivot
The first highlight clip from ClassCast Podcast Ep.021 features dance teacher and owner of Tiny Toes Dance, Ashley Tibbens, discussing her pivot to online dance education in response to closures and social distancing due to the Coronavirus. This clip was recorded several days after the main portion of Ep.021, which will be available soon, because her business and teaching situations had changed so much so quickly. If you are a teacher shifting to remote/online teaching or a business owner trying to stay afloat during these trying times, this clip includes some great insights in how quick changes can make progress possible.
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