• About Farm School

    "There are obviously two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live."
    James Adams, from his essay "To 'Be' or to 'Do': A Note on American Education", 1929

    We're a Canadian family of five, farming and home schooling. I'm nowhere near as regular a blogger as I used to be.

    The kids are 17/Grade 12, 15/Grade 10, and 13/Grade 9.

    Contact me at becky.farmschool@gmail.com

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    "If you want a golden rule that will fit everybody, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."
    William Morris, from his lecture "The Beauty of Life"

    "The world of books is the most remarkable creation of man. Nothing else that he builds ever lasts. Monuments fall, nations perish, civilizations grow old and die out; and, after an era of darkness, new races build others. But in the world of books are volumes that have seen this happen again and again, and yet live on, still young, still as fresh as the day they were written, still telling men’s hearts of the hearts of men centuries dead."
    Clarence Day

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    Cicero

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    Sir Francis Bacon, "Essays"

    "The chief aim of education is to show you, after you make a livelihood, how to enjoy living; and you can live longest and best and most rewardingly by attaining and preserving the happiness of learning."
    Gilbert Highet, "The Immortal Profession: The Joys of Teaching and Learning"

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    Attributed to Groucho Marx in "The Groucho Letters" by Arthur Sheekman

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    Alice Roosevelt Longworth

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    Jean Hagen as "Lina Lamont" in "Singin' in the Rain" (1952)
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Lewd, indecent, filthy, obscene, treasonous, explicit, and injurious to public morality

Books won’t stay banned. They won’t burn. Ideas won’t go to jail. In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost. The only sure weapon against bad ideas is better ideas. The source of better ideas is wisdom. The surest path to wisdom is a liberal education.
Alfred Whitney Griswold, president of Yale University, from “A Little Learning,” The Atlantic Monthly, 1952

* * * *

The University of Pennsylvania’s Online Books Page site for Banned Books Week, September 27-October 4, 2008 [all links are from the original source]:

Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Boccaccio’s Decameron, Defoe’s Moll Flanders, and various editions of The Arabian Nights were all banned for decades from the U.S. mails under the Comstock Law of 1873. Officially known as the Federal Anti-Obscenity Act, this law banned the mailing of “lewd”, “indecent”, “filthy”, or “obscene” materials. The Comstock laws, while now unenforced, remain for the most part on the books today; the Telecommunications Reform Bill of 1996 even specifically applied some of them to computer networks. The anti-war Lysistrata was banned again in 1967 in Greece, which was then controlled by a military junta.

The Comstock law also forbade distribution of birth control information. In 1915, Margaret Sanger’ husband was jailed for distributing her Family Limitation, which described and advocated various methods of contraception. Sanger herself had fled the country to avoid prosecution, but would return in 1916 to start the American Birth Control League, which eventually merged with other groups to form Planned Parenthood.

Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman’s famous collection of poetry, was withdrawn in Boston in 1881, after the District Attorney threatened criminal prosecution for the use of explicit language in some poems. The work was later published in Philadelphia.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s autobiography Confessions was banned by U.S. Customs in 1929 as injurious to public morality. His philosophical works were also banned in the USSR in 1935, and some were placed on the Catholic Church’s Index of Prohibited Books in the 18th century. (The Index was a primarily a matter of church law, but in some areas before the mid-19th century, it also had the force of secular law. A summary of the contents of the last edition, published in 1949, is available from the Internet Archive. The Index was finally abolished in 1966.)

Thomas Paine, best known for his writings supporting American independence, was indicted for treason in England in 1792 for his work The Rights of Man, defending the French Revolution. More than one English publisher was also prosecuted for printing The Age of Reason, where Paine argues for Deism and against Christianity and Atheism.

Blaise Pascal’s The Provincial Letters, a defense of the Jansenist Antoine Arnauld, was ordered shredded and burned by King Louis XIV of France in 1660. France also banned Tasso’s Jerusalem Delivered in the 16th century for containing ideas subversive to the authority of kings.

Jack London’s writing was censored in several European dictatorships in the 1920s and 1930s. In 1929, Italy banned all cheap editions of his Call of the Wild, and that same year Yugoslavia banned all his works as being “too radical”. The Nazis also burned some of his socialist-friendly books like The Iron Heel along with the works of many other authors. …

Unfit for Schools and Minors?

The Savannah Morning News reported in November 1999 that a teacher at the Windsor Forest High School required seniors to obtain permission slips before they could read Hamlet, Macbeth, or King Lear. The teacher’s school board had pulled the books from class reading lists, citing “adult language” and references to sex and violence. Many students and parents protested the school’s board’s policy, which also included the outright banning of three other books. Shakespeare is no stranger to censorship: the Associated Press reported in March 1996 that Merrimack, NH schools had pulled Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night from the curriculum after the school board passed a “prohibition of alternative lifestyle instruction” act. (Twelfth Night includes a number of romantic entanglements including a young woman who disguises herself as a boy.) Readers from Merrimack informed me in 1999 that school board members who had passed the act had been voted out, after the uproar resulting from the act’s passage, and that the play is now used again in Merrimack classrooms. Govind has a page with more information about the censorship of Shakespeare through history.

John T. Scopes was convicted in 1925 of teaching evolutionary theory (best known at the time via Darwin’s Origin of Species) in his high school class. (For more about this famous trial, including excerpts from the Civic Biology textbook Scopes actually used in class, see this site by Doug Linder.) The Tennessee law prohibiting teaching evolution theory, more specifically that “man has descended from a lower order of animals”, was finally repealed in 1967, but further laws intended to stifle the teaching of evolution in science classes have been proposed in the Tennesee legislature as recently as 1996.

An illustrated edition of “Little Red Riding Hood” was banned in two California school districts in 1989. Following the Little Red-Cap story from Grimm’s Fairy Tales, the book shows the heroine taking food and wine to her grandmother. The school districts cited concerns about the use of alcohol in the story.

Read the entire page, and see all the links, here.

The Online Books Page website was founded and is edited by John Mark Ockerbloom, a digital library planner and researcher at UPenn. Many thanks to Mr. Ockerbloom for such a wealth of information and vital public service.

And just for fun, some original Atlantic reviews of literary classics that have been banned:

THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER, by Mark Twain, 1876
LEAVES OF GRASS, by Walt Whitman, 1882
THE SCARLET LETTER, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1886
ULYSSES, FINNEGAN’S WAKE, and A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN, by James Joyce, 1946
RAINTREE COUNTY, by Ross Lockridge
, 1948
LOLITA, by Vladimir Nabokov, 1958

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, by Harper Lee, 1960

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4 Responses

  1. I have read almost all of these books. I must be a real heathen. Just to prove my point I think I will read the rest. I will just click over and see what should be next. Anybody want to join me?

  2. I love this sort of thing. I found some really good books for teaching sex ed to kids a couple of years ago on one of these lists (It’s Perfectly Normal and the other one by the same author). My local library did a display a while ago of banned books, with little notes on them explaining why they had been banned. It was on the wall that is right in front of you when you walk into the library before you turn to go either up the stairs to the adult section or into the children’s section on the same floor. There seemed to be a lot of books circulating from the display if the rate of change was any indication.

  3. Count me in, Wisteria.

    And Farm School, what a wonderful website this is – the links are going to keep me busy for days. Chet Raymo’s Science Musings, The Museum of Online Museums….

    I bet you would like the Ted Talks site. Check it out:

    http://www.ted.com/

  4. Wisteria, if you do, I think you should tell Mr. Ockerbloom your plans — he’d probably be delighted to hear about it.

    JoVE, patrons either love or loathe such displays, much like the idea of Banned Books Week, I suspect! The former enjoying new titles, new ideas, the latter want to keep them covered…

    Julie, welcome and many thanks for the kind words. Yes, I do like the Ted Talks. I have a post somewhere in here about the Gever Tulley, at the very least, possibly another. They do tend to make the rounds of the home schooling lists!

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