What are your thoughts about a teacher blacking out text?

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  1. #1 Jan 12, 2009
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2009
    My son had an assignment this weekend to read a chapter from a book about "Great Groups". His chapter was about Johnson of Skunk Works (the secret makers of the Blackhawk, the U-2, Stealth bomber, etc). For the class she copied the text from the book and had some kids read this chapter and assigned different chapters to different groups. Questionable language, she blacked it out.

    I will also state that my son is in 7th grade in a full time gifted and talented program, so this is an advanced curriculum. I only say this because the reading material they cover is high school/adult level literature since they are at that level and I can see that sometimes appropriateness of language and text can be an issue for young readers at advanced reading levels.

    So... in the text, I see there are several words/phrases blacked out and I was like "what the heck is this." and my son said, "I knew you would be upset about it if you knew." (I think he didn't want to inform us as he knew we would be after the teacher/school - and we will be).

    I was able to find the text on google books and these are the things she exed out:

    "Goddamm", "Goddamm" again, the word "sanitary" in front of napkins so only napkins shows in the text, "like a raped ape" and something else I can't remember offhand.

    Now, I can understand that maybe some parents could be offended by some words, but that, imo, gives the teacher no right to black out the words she finds 'offensive' or questionable. It's actually illegal to alter text and besides that it TOTALLY distorts the chapter if you can't read it how it was meant to be... for instance, the sanitary napkins line was like, "To help keep oil from spraying on the windshield at high speeds, the engineers wrapped sanitary napkins around the pipe to fix the problem." See how taking "sanitary" out changes it?

    But I'm curious.... how do most people feel about such sensorship? The teacher could have not used that chapter if she found the language out of line with the age of students, but... to x it out? And I also have to wonder... in the 6th grade (also full time GT) they read the Red Badge of Courage and I found some of their graphic descriptions of corpses and dying men more inappropriate or perhaps too much for 12 year olds than the words blacked out here.
  2. Being overly PC (especially in our public schools) is the world we live in today. I personally would have preferred that she didn't black out text but I can understand why she did. All it takes is one person to complain so I'm sure she decided to err on the side of caution.
  3. Well, I'm a writer, so I may be biased on this subject, but I think if a teacher is going to teach a particular work, then they should teach the work, not the words or parts that they like. If they find the piece as a whole worth covering, then cover it as the writer intended it to be - it's not that way by accident. Of course, giving the kids an option to not SAY particular words that they're not comfortable with would be fine, but blacking them out as a whole is unnecessary, IMO.

    I mean, I remember 7th grade...those weren't words that were uncommon in my life, kwim? The exclusion of the word "sanitary" is particularly odd - if your child is 12 or 13, then there are girls sitting with him in class that use those things on a monthly basis to take care of a normal bodily function - there's nothing dirty or inappropriate about it. And to send them the message that that's something shameful that can't be said aloud in class? That's the wrong message, I think.

    So, yeah, I wouldn't be pleased. If the teacher is censoring stuff like that, who knows what else she's doing in the class.
  4. If she censors, she should not present the material - many teachers I know simply do not teach certain books when they find the language questionable. They find other books that are more acceptable. I've never seen material censored by teachers. IMO that is not a good way of teaching. Even if the kids are at a high school/adult level there is no lack of books to choose from!
  5. This is the issue with children reading well above their age/grade level, and every teacher with gifted students faces this. The subject material in adult literature is often deemed inappropriate for young people - usually by parents - and the school and teacher knows they face a battle if they allow students to read it.

    Blacking out swearing is probably the only option she had if she wanted to use that passage of text. Yes, she could have chosen something else, but would likely have faced similar issues with another text. So the question is whether she wants to have students read inappropriate material in its proper context and get crucified by parents or to black it out and be accused of censorship. It is a lose-lose.

    Sanitary napkins should have been left in; there is nothing inapprorpriate about their existance. The swearing and references to rape? She would have faced a huge issue with parents for allowing students to read it, so she figured CYA. I think, however, that any text that uses swearing and those references might not be appropriate anyway. There are plenty of military information articles and books that don't.
  6. I was in the same kind of gifted/advanced program in school, and I'm trying to think back to the kinds of stuff we read...I can't specifically remember, but I can't remember anything being censored. I know for a FACT that we read To Kill a Mockingbird, which has some expletives and a description of rape in it. Perhaps its because that book is such a part of Southern culture that no one complained, but I went to school in an extremely conservative, religious area (we're the county that, a few years ago, put "evolution is just a theory!" stickers in science books, for example). My parents certainly never had a problem with me reading anything that was assigned.
  7. See these are my thoughts too. I completely understand that by using the text she was in a lose-lose situation like Hautemama said. Lose if she doesn't address the language and lose if she does address it.

    So, why not choose a different text when there are a gazillion books out there? Why not skip this one chapter of the book?

    Or maybe address this issue with parents (they have a parent/teacher orientation when they started the GT program) about how the level of reading they are now at is adult level and therefore they may be reading material or language that is adult written... like swear words.

    Funny thing is I think she forgot to black out one section. There was a sentence something to effect of solving a problem is like good sex. I had to chuckl at that on still remaining in tact.

    I DO empathize with the teacher, but I cannot agree that text should be marked out. That's like saying kids shouldn't read Tom Sawyer because of the objectionable references to blacks... interestingly, they read Huck Finn and then Tomy Sawyer at the beginning of the year.
  8. This is a "darned* if you do, darned* if you don't" situation. You're going to make a big fuss over it, but another parent would make a big fuss over it if she didn't.

    *censored (lol)
  9. I'm not going to make a fuss, but I will address it. Not saying anything is saying it's OK and it's not OK. I won't rant or whatever, but it should be known that this was an unacceptable way to deal with the text.
  10. I took advanced reading courses as well and I dont' remember getting blocked out text. The teacher only said if anyone had a problem with it, to let him/her know.

    It's a lose-lose situation. I think you just have to go with what you think is right.
  11. Really should not have done that.

    I don't think 12- or 13-year-old kids are too young to read these things, but I agree, HauteMama, there are always those that do, and having a questionable text is always going to put the teacher between a rock and a hard place. However, I do think there are many, many other choices out there for advanced literature, and especially for a very short selection of text. Most novels may get to scenes of a sexual nature, but many short stories do not. Hell, give them essays in ethics! If the course does require novels, she shouldn't need to find more than a handful, and even if I can't remember them I am sure they exist.
  12. #12 Jan 12, 2009
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2009
    Wow, that is just beyond me. If she didn't like the language, she shouldn't have used that particular text. It would bother me a lot too. I think we are all aware of the fact that soldiers are known for their colorful language.

    I am pretty sure your son hears worse language than that in the school cafeteria, in the hallway or on the bus.
  13. I don't think she had to black out the language, but at the same time, she's doing it so parents won't freak out on her. My family is full of teachers. Basically school districts tip-toe around parents because they're worried about getting sued, so they don't really back up their teachers much. The parent is always right. I wouldn't say anything about her blacking out some of the language. It would be best if she didn't feel the need to black out the words, but it's not true censorship like she's trying to burn books or anything. She's doing it to cover her butt.
  14. I agree that she should have chosen something else but there are a lot of times that teachers use poor judgment and end up on the 6 oclock news KWIM ? I think it is really hard to judge how every parent will react so they are probably erring on the side of caution, however,maybe she could have found some other peice that didn't contain such vulgarity. I dont' remember ever reading anything like that even in college.
  15. But it is censorship and I think that is why the OP is upset about it. Censorship isn't just about burning books or banning them.