NEHS’s Intellectual Freedom Challenge (IFC) invites sophomore or junior NEHS members to write argumentative essays based on potentially controversial texts and, in doing so, compete for the Crafton Awards. These awards are named after Dr. Robert Crafton, past president of Sigma Tau Delta.
Students are challenged to select and read a text that may be considered, by some, to be controversial. The controversy may be based on the ideas presented, the language used, or the scenes depicted. They must then write a rationale for the book, promoting an argument for the value of the text to be available to a wide, age-appropriate audience.
While all educators need to be thoughtful about such selections and have clear rationales for the decisions made concerning texts, all too often books are set aside, limited, or challenged because of content. The American Library Association (ALA), through its celebration of Banned Books Week each year (October 1 – 7, 2023), along with other organizations like National Council of Teachers of English, urge all to push back against censorship attempts.
The ALA once again focuses on the challenges of censorship in schools and in society at large. This statement from ALA highlights the importance of this effort: “Our 2023 Banned Books Week theme—‘Let Freedom Read’—captures what’s at stake for our democracy: that the safety of our right to speak and think freely is directly in proportion to our right to read.” Visit the ALA’s website for suggestions for activities and print materials for distribution.
IFC essays will be accepted Monday, September 11 through Tuesday, October 10, 2023, 11:59 p.m. CDT; submissions will be made through the AwardSpring system.