In the past year or so, a handful of parental complaints have resulted in books such as Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird being banned in several Toronto-area schools. In an effort to avoid such controversies in the future, the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board, which comprises schools in and around Brampton, Ontario, has come up with a heavy-handed solution that would effectively ban every novel from classroom use unless it is pre-approved by a special committee. From the Brampton Guardian:
Catholic school administrators are proposing all novels and books undergo a central review and approval process before being used in classrooms.
The process would also allow the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board to create a book list teachers can use to select acceptable material for classroom lessons.
“We’re working on a report to take to the board in November that would propose a centralized process around how resources are selected for use in classrooms,” said Marianne Mazzorato, the board’s program superintendent.
The article makes no mention of what titles the board deems “acceptable,” but you can be sure that anything with a whiff of controversy would be relegated to the slag heap. The Catholic board, meanwhile, is spinning the move as being more about pedagogy than straight-up censorship:
Mazzorato said the process is less about “gate keeping” and more about allowing the board to develop resources around those individual literary choices that support a teacher’s lesson plan.
“What we’re attempting to do through this process is ensure that centrally we’re aware of all the novels that teachers are wanting to use in their classrooms,” she said. “If we’re aware of those novels being used then we can help support teachers and develop strong lesson plans.”
Besides ensuring the development of critical literacy skills and delivery of relevant messages for students, she continued, the process should also help mitigate against some of the sensitive subject matter that might occur in novels.