Intellectual Freedom: The Right to Read

Banned BooksNational English Honor Society (NEHS) strives to honor literature and promote free and open access to books; the Society endorses the American Library Association‘s (ALA) celebration of Banned Books Week. Banned Books Week unites community members, educators, and readers in the shared endeavor to protect the right to express ideas. In celebration of Banned Books Week NEHS hosts the Intellectual Freedom Challenge, inviting students to craft arguments in support of frequently contested books or those likely to be contested in the future. Students may also write narratives suggesting decisions to read particular books that should perhaps be challenged. ALA’s theme this year is “Words Have Power. Read a Banned Book.” Quoting from their website, “The words in these banned and challenged books have the power to connect readers to literary communities and offer diverse perspectives. And when these books are threatened with removal from communal shelves, your words have the power to challenge censorship.”

Prepare to Fight Banned Books

Banned BooksAs the school year begins, teachers make myriad decisions as they prepare to welcome students. The selection of texts to assign students—the novels, plays, poems, short stories, films, graphic novels, and non-fiction pieces that are often the centerpieces of the discipline—is key to the decisions about curricula, particularly for English teachers. Educators must consider the students with whom they work as well as the expectations of the unit of study. At times, the selected texts may, in the view of some, be controversial due to language used, action depicted, or thematic complexity contained. It seems wise for educators to have written and posted rationales for the use of all texts; such rationales should be an integral part of every English teacher’s files, reflecting the decision-making that goes into the selection of particular texts for study.

Students should be engaged in the process of text selection and defense as well; we want all life-long readers to be informed consumers of texts, readers who investigate texts that challenge and clarify their own thinking and open new realms of knowledge. As students are guided to read challenging and in some cases controversial texts, they begin to develop their own sense of appropriateness and, we hope, become defenders of the written and spoken word. Teachers serve as role models in this development. The future needs individuals to stand for the right to read that exists in a democratic country.

The Intellectual Freedom Challenge

Timed to coincide each year with the celebration of Banned Books Week, NEHS encourages participation in the Intellectual Freedom Challenge. Sophomore and junior NEHS members are invited to submit essays dealing with a text that may be perceived by some as controversial. Students are to submit essays that delineate a careful argument for the inclusion of the text for classroom study or support restricting the text in some way. Sigma Tau Delta university professors and members of the National Advisory Council of NEHS evaluate the essays; the best essays garner monetary awards for the students ($100) and their chapters ($50). Essays may be submitted from September 1 through October 23.

Intellectual Freedom

Intellectual Freedom Challenge Submission Guidelines

Overview
Guidelines and Procedures
Censorship and Reading Links


Dave WendelinDave Wendelin
NEHS Executive Director

2017 Banned Books Week Social Media Contest

In celebration of Banned Books Week Sigma Tau Delta and National English Honor Society are teaming up to host the second annual Banned Books Week social media contest. To participate you must tag us in a post on any of the following social media accounts:

What to do in your post: Books are banned for a variety of reasons. Take a photo of your favorite banned book and share with us (on one social media platform) one of the reasons it has been contested. If you wish to post on a second platform, please choose a second banned book to post about.

The contest will run from Sunday, September 24-Saturday, September 30. Everyone who participates during this time frame will be entered in a drawing to win one of three $25 Amazon gift cards. A $45 Amazon gift card also will be awarded for the best overall post.

Cassaundra Bell Receives NEHS Outstanding Advisor Award

Cassaundra Bell, 2016-2017 Outstanding NEHS Advisor

With pride, National English Honor Society (NEHS) recognizes the leadership and contributions of Cassaundra Bell, Chapter Advisor at Woodland High School in Stockbridge, GA, by awarding her the 2016-2017 John L. Manear Outstanding Advisor Award. Bell was nominated by her principal, colleagues, and a former student, all of whom shared wonderful descriptions of the passion she brings to the English classroom as well as to her NEHS chapter.

This award is named for John Manear, whose career has now spanned fifty-two years in education, almost all of them as a classroom teacher at Seton-La Salle High School in Pittsburgh, PA. Manear, a founding member of NEHS, has served on the Advisory Council since the inception of the honor society in 2005. Manear’s inspirational story of service to the profession sets a standard of excellence that Bell certainly emulates.

Among the NEHS activities Bell has initiated are:

  1. organizing after-school tutoring where NEHS members tutor students in need of help in their English classes;
  2. organizing a yearly book drive in which over 800 books have been donated to community organizations and schools;
  3. spear-heading a field trip for NEHS members to visit “Books for Africa,” where the students sorted donated books to be sent to schools in Africa;
  4. encouraging her members to volunteer in local libraries and read to individuals unable to read themselves; and
  5. involving her chapter in “Read Across America” at local elementary schools and leading the faculty at Woodland High School with its own Read Across America Day, promoting activities in every discipline in the school; all classes were involved in reading and writing activities, partnering with the Literacy Team (also led by Bell) to create lessons for the day.

These activities are just a few of the many in which Bell has modeled her love of literacy.

Cassaundra BellWoodland High School Principal Dr. Shannon Ellis shares the following statement from Bell’s colleagues: “Ms. Bell is not just an English teacher, she is a miracle worker. She often wears three to five hats at one time while maintaining a smile and positive attitude. Her classroom is always filled with students who need her help or who just want to sit and read in the wonderful learning environment she has created.” Finally, former student, Maddie Pascavage, says, “[Ms. Bell] uses every moment as an opportunity to teach, inspiring growth in her students as scholars and people. She is one of the most impactful teachers I have met in my entire career as a student.” On top of all of this, we understand Bell plays a mean saxophone!

NEHS celebrates the accomplishments of Cassaundra Bell as an outstanding representative of NEHS Advisors who dedicate themselves to excellence in English studies. Bell receives a $500 award and a plaque commemorating her service to NEHS.


Dave WendelinDave Wendelin
NEHS Director

Sports Writer Buck Harvey Shares Writing Tips with Students

Buck Harvey

Buck Harvey

Each March, the Charles Dickens Chapter of Saint Mary’s Hall in San Antonio, TX, hosts its Annual Speaker Tea, featuring esteemed novelists, journalists, bloggers, and presidential speech writers. Each of these individuals attended Saint Mary’s Hall or has some connection to the school, either through a spouse or child. To mark the Tea’s fifth anniversary, the Charles Dickens Chapter invited critically acclaimed journalist Buck Harvey, who officially retired from his role as a sports writer this year.

A local Texan, Harvey grew up in Dallas and attended the University of Texas at Austin to pursue an undergraduate degree in journalism. As a student, he was the editor of the university newspaper, eventually working with the Boston Herald and the Dallas Times Herald. After moving to San Antonio in 1982, he began working at the San Antonio Light and his daughter, Robin, started school at Saint Mary’s Hall a few years later. During his career, Harvey has covered the Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans, Texas Longhorns, and Texas A&M Aggies, along with other Texas collegiate teams. In his thirty-four years of impressive journalism, he also has covered the Masters, the Olympics, multiple Final Fours, and numerous Super Bowl Championships. According to our discussions with him, his favorite stories that he covered were the expansive careers of Tim Duncan and David Robinson (not to forget the five Spurs NBA championships he reported!).

Buck Harvey

Harvey, Lena Brysacz, and NEHS Chapter Vice-President Prerna Pamar

It was truly an honor to have Harvey present at our Tea. His interesting perspective on the importance of writing has led many students to consider majoring in journalism in college. He also gave interesting insight on the new prevalence of fake news and the effects of technology on his career. We wish Buck Harvey the best in retirement and thank him for his wonderful career in San Antonio.


Lena Brysacz
Charles Dickens Chapter, Chapter President
Saint Mary’s Hall, San Antonio, TX