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The question of censorship

The question of censorship

In the ISD Senior School Libraries, we are proud – and grateful – to have policies that safeguard freedom of information and access to a broad range of curriculum-based and personal reading materials. But what if we didn’t? During Banned Books Week every year we turn McWilliam Library policy on its head, and try to imagine a school library in which censorship were part of our students’ everyday education.

To bring censorship to life this year, we gathered a collection of books that have been banned or challenged in schools or libraries around the world. Some of them have been taped shut so that students cannot read them. Other books are displayed along with the reason that they were banned or challenged, with justifications ranging from violence, to portrayals of sex, to wizardry and the supernatural, and to controversial social issues. We have a small collection of new books this year that deal with the topic of censorship – so important in the digital age and at a time where so-called ‘fake news’ is so prevalent. We ask students to think about reasons for banning books, and whether they are justified.

We also have a range of essential questions for students to engage with:

Are you free to read whatever you like?
Should the ISD libraries stop you from reading certain books?
What does censorship mean to you?
Are there circumstances in which censorship is appropriate?

Why do we do this? The issues of free inquiry, intellectual freedom, and access to information are central to our desire to expose young minds to a wide variety of facts and ideas. We want ISD students to think carefully about the rights they have as students, so that these rights are not taken for granted. And by asking students to engage with this complex issue we hope to support the mission of the International Baccalaureate to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.