Lorenzo Walker Tech HS & Institute of Tech

Monday, September 25, 2006

Banned Books Week

Since 1982, the last week of September has been recognized as Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read! This "freedom to choose or the freedom to express one's opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular" (American Library Association, 2006) is a reflection of our country's foundational Bill of Rights - but it is a freedom which we cannot take for granted.

Taking a quick look at the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books from 1990-2000 helps one appreciate the wide variety of opinions! The list includes some "classics", such as
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
as well as more contemporary and popular books, including
  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  • Harry Potter (series) by J.K. Rowling
Now, check your knowledge with the Banned Book Quiz!

There is really no common theme as to the reason for their challenge - many explore themes in real (though not ideal) life, while others are more fantasy or surreal in nature. No matter the reason, the attempt to deny the basic intellectual freedom, the freedom "to both seek and recieve information from all points of view without restriction" is not only the denial of a right, but it is a key obstacle to an informed democratic citizentry.

Censorship (with the exception of the nonprotected obscenity, child pornography, defamation, and "fighting words") suppresses ideas and conversations which are important for all of us. (ALA, 2006). Just as I would not force someone to read a book that he/she found offensive, I expect that she/he would not expect that book to be banned from public reading. Education and democratic principles and responsibilities are far more precious and enduring! Other thoughts?

photo credit to wfairchild at flickr - Banned Authors

Friday, September 22, 2006

National Hispanic Heritage Month

Celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month September 15 through October 15!

According to the Census Bureau, almost 15% of the United States population is of Hispanic origin - 42.7 million strong. Other interesting facts point to the growing recognition of this group
  • Hispanics accounted for almost half (1.3 million, or 49 percent) of the national population growth of 2.8 million in 2004-05.
  • Of the increase of 1.3 million, 800,000 was because of natural increase (births minus deaths) and 500,000 was because of immigration.
  • The Hispanic population in 2005 was much younger with a median age of 27.2 years compared to the population as a whole at 36.2 years. About a third of the Hispanic population was under 18, compared with one-fourth of the total population.

Hispanic Americans trace their ancestry to many parts of the world, including Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Spain, and other nations of Central and South America. Our rich multicultural diversity is strongly influenced by many Hispanic origins, from foods to entertainment and from leadership to activism. Take some time to reflect and celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month!

photo, Rumba Flamenco, from Adonis Chen's flickr

Monday, September 18, 2006

A Balancing Act

Reflecting on the commemoration of September 17th 1787, two hundred and nineteen years ago, when the Constitution of the United States was signed by convention delegates, I am awed by the continued balance between our three governmental branches (executive, legislative, and judicial). This foundation allows for continued conversation to best interpret the needs for both liberty and order, for both unity and diversity, and for both individual rights and national responsibilities - often seen as oppositional. Those conflicts are not usually “black and white” in nature, nor do they elicit a definitive answer. They are a process for which to contend, born within the ever-changing environment and forces of life.
Civilization is a movement and not a condition, a voyage and not a harbor. - Arnold Toynbee

We continually strive for the state of equilibrium in all aspects of our lives, though the successful end product is often somewhat elusive.
Teaching our students to best navigate the obstacles of life requires both guidance for the desired path and latitude for potential letdown. The internet offers an array of knowledge opportunities for living and for learning - it also masks hidden dangers. Parents, teachers and other mentors are responsible for helping students navigate the internet for the nourishing morsels of knowledge, for alerting students to the ethical responsiblities of the 'information highway', and for coping with unexpected and possibly unsolicited networking conversations. Though most adults wouldn't think of giving the car keys to a teenager without some driving instruction, the computer and its internet connectivity are provided without education or conversation.

In a future post, I will recommend some tips for effective digital citizenship; but, for now, I would encourage discussion with our students. Opening the door for that communication will provide an element of trust, one of the first ingredients for creating and maintaining harmony. One extreme or the other of most continuums is usually not a healthy solution, but 'the balancing act' can illuminate many viable passageways!

photo by ghewgill at flickr

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A National Kudo for Cruz

Congratulations to LWIT’s ACE Automotive Instructor, Eduardo Cruz!!

He was named the National AYES Teacher of the Year – a deserved accomplishment. See the Naples Daily News story

Photo credit to ilkerender at Flickr