Fresh Ink: Local Sixth Graders Fight on the Forefront of Censorship in New Jersey, by: Saranya Mandapaty

Image

Photo Credit 

Freedom of speech is intrinsically born out of freedom of thought, something that can only be enriched by open access to knowledge. In a nation where, in the past three years, thousands books have been banned, the prospect of such an ideal is becoming increasingly unattainable. 

The “Community Problem Solvers” from West Windsor-Plainsboro Grover Middle School are taking the lead in combating censorship, both statewide and nationally. Amassing support from over 300 students across districts, the team led by Justin Dolcimascolo-Garrett, an educator at GMS, will present their achievements at a town council meeting on May 28th.

The Community Problem Solvers (CmPS) are a team of nine sixth graders from Grover Middle School participating in the nationwide Future Problem Solving competition. In this competition, students must identify an area of concern, outline community challenges related to that issue, define a desired outcome, propose solutions, and generate a plan.

The students have identified that censorship is raging across our nation. As students, in an age where open streams of education are pivotal, they’ve recognized that censorship diminishes creative thought and restricts imagination. They’ve also realized that censorship can disproportionately affect marginalized communities and that book bans are being employed as a political means of suppressing information. In pursuit of the truth, these students are challenging what they’ve been told to accept as the “norm”.

In their efforts, the CmPS have sought to educate themselves and their community on the complexities of censorship. Over the past six months, the CmPS have spoken to administrators and teachers not only in the WWP school district but also across the state. The activists have even broadened their initiatives to include experts in the field of literature like Ms. Ewa-Dreidzic Elliot, a librarian at The College of New Jersey and immediate past president of the New Jersey Association of School Librarians. The students garnered a wealth of resources and context to further their project from their discussion with Elliot. 

They also spoke to Marayah Greene, author of "Good Things," a novel that has repeatedly been banned for discussing themes of grief, to gain insight into censorship laws affecting authors. To ban a book is to condemn the subject matter the author chose to illuminate. What kind of message does this send about discourse on those subjects? The CmPS students sought to understand the societal threat behind such implications.

These students are relentless in their fight to inform their community and the nation at large about the dangers of censorship, especially as bright minds at the beginning of their educational journeys.

On Tuesday, May 28th, the West Windsor Town Council will recognize the students for their accomplishments thus far, their plans for the future, and their ambitions as a student activism group. Come show them your support.  When: 7pm.  Where: The Municipal Building,  Room A, 271 Clarksville Rd, 08550

2 2
I'm interested (1)
I disagree with this
This is unverified
Spam
Offensive

Replies

It's commendable for West Windsor's teachers to help students understand the ugliness and damage that censorship brings. 

I hope these students can learn to see how censorship is exercised in public matters that go far beyond "book burning." For instance, the adoption by the Biden Administration of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of "antisemitism" will lead to violations of our first amendment free speech rights, and the "Antisemitism Awareness Act of 2023 (H.R.6090), has already passed the House. This latter bill also incorporates the IHRA definition, and should it also pass the Senate, it will further restrict our free speech and result in much damage to our democracy. 

For instance, such restrictions on free speech have much to do with the fact that our government is now complicit in the genocidal behavior of Israel.

There's a great lesson here for all of us, not just high school students.

I disagree with this
This is unverified
Spam
Offensive

Hate speech is a marketing tool that often sparks hate crimes. There has to be some reasonable way to restrict it. For example, you cannot enter a movie theater and scream, "FIRE!" because you endagner lives. Not all speech can be free. With so many minds coming together to try to write mandates, I expect that no legislation will be acceptable to everyone. If a genie gave me wishes, the first would be to make it so that hate was never a thing... Imagine that! Maybe the next one to go would be greed... 

I disagree with this
This is unverified
Spam
Offensive