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.

Putting Our Motto into Action: Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library

The National English Honor Society (NEHS) motto, “Gelest Sceal Mid Are,” is Old English for “duty goes with honor.” Every year, chapters engage in outstanding projects that exemplify putting the motto into action. This year, NEHS has the opportunity to participate in a joint project with Sigma Tau Delta, the university-level English honor society, and with Sigma Kappa Delta, the honor society for Two-Year Colleges. The project will help raise funds for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, which provides books to enhance the literacy of children in low-income communities.

Dolly Parton's Imagination LibraryDolly Parton’s Imagination Library

The Imagination Library fosters a love of reading among preschool children and their families by providing one specially-selected book each month from birth to the child’s fifth birthday. According to David Dotson, the president of The Dollywood Foundation, “Dolly started the Imagination Library as a gift to the children in her home county [in East Tennessee]. We never dreamed this effort would now span several countries and will soon attain an incredible milestone—gifting books to 1 million children per month.” The Imagination Library’s 2015 Annual Report highlighted some of the program’s achievements during its 20th anniversary year:

  • 2 million books donated in 2015
  • 9 million books donated since 1995
  • A new book is gifted every 3 seconds
  • Over 915,000 children received a book in December

The program has expanded far beyond America and now operates in Canada, the UK, and Australia, with additional efforts in Belize to discover the program’s potential effectiveness in emerging countries.

Fostering Literacy at the Chapter Level

Dolly Parton's Imagination LibraryNEHS has the opportunity to help the Imagination Library reach more students and gift books to over 1 million children in need. We challenge all chapters to sponsor ten children. That is only $250 to provide ten children with a year’s worth of books! This year, proceeds will be split among South Carolina, Arkansas, and Kentucky—three states greatly in need of our help—along with the company that produces books in Braille.

Chapters should mail a check for the money collected to the Central Office by June 1. Checks should be made out to National English Honor Society (NEHS), and the chapter and school name should be entered in the memo line.

NEHS Central Office
Attn: Imagination Library
Department of English
Northern Illinois University
DeKalb, IL 60115

All money raised will be presented to the Imagination Library in a single check. Please do not send money directly to the Imagination Library.

Resources

Follow Hot English Topics on NEHS Social Media

National English Honor Society (NEHS) is on social media and we’re waiting for you! Over the past year NEHS social media has stepped up its game. In addition to our existing Facebook and Twitter accounts, we have joined forces with our sponsoring organization, Sigma Tau Delta, to create joint accounts under the name EnglishMatters across several new social media platforms, including Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest. Just find and follow us on the platforms you currently use for updates on society news. NEHS social media also posts about hot topics in the field of English such as STEAM, college admissions/college transition, EdTech, careers for English majors, pedagogy, grammar, and English humor. If you aren’t following NEHS social media yet, here is a sampling of some of the great content you have been missing:

What Can I Do with an English Major

“The story of the unemployable English major is both powerful and damaging, since students are more than ever concerned that their choice of degree will lead to successful employment—reasonably so considering the lingering effects of the recession and the high cost of postsecondary education in the US. Hence it behooves us to counter the belief that English majors can’t get a job.” Keep reading

The View from Hemingway’s Attic: Political Correctness in Novels

“I was reading Chad Harbach’s novel The Art of Fielding and cruising along and then I just stopped. I had tripped over a word and at first I thought it was a typo, something that slipped through the proof reader if there is such a person anymore. But then I realized the word was intentional and that the novel had fallen victim to the dictates of political correctness.” Keep reading

The Decline and Fall of the English Major

“In the past few years, I’ve taught nonfiction writing to undergraduates and graduate students at Harvard, Yale, Bard, Pomona, Sarah Lawrence and Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism. Each semester I hope, and fear, that I will have nothing to teach my students because they already know how to write. And each semester I discover, again, that they don’t.” Keep reading

English Teacher’s Hip-Hop Curriculum Gets Students Writing

“With new academic standards ratcheting up literacy expectations, many teachers are looking for ways to engage students more deeply in writing and reading assignments.

Lauren Leigh Kelly, an English teacher at Half Hollow Hills High School West in Dix Hills, NY, and an adjunct English instructor at Teachers College, Columbia University, has found that incorporating rap and hip-hop culture into the literacy curriculum can help connect instruction to students’ individual backgrounds and foster their interest in writing.” Keep reading

Flannery O'Connor writing quoteWant to Write Better? Read Better Writing.

“Reading is a critical skill taught in elementary and secondary school. As children, we start with the ABCs and work up to classics such as Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and Zora Neale Hurston’s ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God.’ After graduation, however, many individuals stop thinking about the importance of what they read. Yet the quality of what one reads directly affects the complexity of his or her writing, according to a new study in the International Journal of Business Administration.” Keep reading

Study Finds Allowing Devices in Classrooms Hurts Academic Performance

“When faculty members at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point took away students’ computers and tablets in an introductory economics courses, their students’ grades jumped.” Keep reading

To Write Better Code, Read Virginia Woolf

“The humanities are kaput. Sorry, liberal arts cap-and-gowners. You blew it. In a software-run world, what’s wanted are more engineers. At least, so goes the argument in a rising number of states, which have embraced a funding model for higher education that uses tuition ‘bonuses’ to favor hard-skilled degrees like computer science over the humanities. The trend is backed by countless think pieces. ‘Macbeth does not make my priority list,’ wrote Vinod Khosla, a co-founder of Sun Microsystems and the author of a widely shared blog post titled ‘Is Majoring in Liberal Arts a Mistake for Students?’Keep reading

I'm just a Poe boy memeI Would Rather do Anything Else Than Grade Your Final Papers

“Dear Students Who Have Just Completed My Class, I would rather do anything else than grade your Final Papers. I would rather base jump off of the parking garage next to the student activity center or eat that entire sketchy tray of taco meat leftover from last week’s student achievement luncheon that’s sitting in the department refrigerator or walk all the way from my house to the airport on my hands than grade your Final Papers.” Keep reading

STEAM: The “A” Stands for the Arts

“Last week I wrote a post about STEM . . . how the emphasis in public education is on science, technology, engineering, and math . . . as being the appropriate preparation for today’s jobs. I do not disagree that these fields are where the jobs are. I do, however, think that the ability to communicate clearly is still important, as is the role of the arts in a well-rounded education.” Keep reading

An E-Book UI That Lets You Flip Digital Pages, Just Like a Real Book

“If a book is good, you should be so immersed in it that you don’t care how far you’ve read or how much further there is to go. Does that sound like a good rationalization for the generally terrible navigation schemes that we put up with in our e-books? I love my Kindle, but using percentages instead of page numbers makes me feel like I’m reading a calculator instead of a book.” Keep reading

sentence fragment someecards#Yodify your Grammar

“With the arrival of the anniversary of the initial release of the first Star Wars movie, we at Grammarly started to reflect on what makes the films so great. Being language lovers and word nerds at heart, we are particularly fascinated and charmed by the grammar of the great Jedi master, Yoda. To celebrate our love of Star Wars, we dissected a few classic Yoda-style quotes in order to better understand the patterns that #yodify the English language.” Keep reading


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