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Survey Notes Steady 16-Year Increase In Challenges to School Library Books

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Washington--The number of challenges to books in high-school libraries has increased steadily over the past 16 years, according to the latest in a series of nationwide surveys of high-school librarians.

This year's survey of 860 librarians was sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English (ncte) and the Wisconsin Council of Teachers of English.

The survey, which was discussed at one of several sessions devoted to censorship during the ncte's recent meeting here, was last conducted in 1977.

Lee A. Burress, professor of English at the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point and incoming chairman of the ncte's Committee Against Censorship, carried out the survey with assistance from his son, David, who is a graduate student in economics at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

The survey, the fourth Mr. Burress has conducted since 1966, found an increase in the overall number of challenges of books. In 1982, 34 percent of the librarians surveyed reported such challenges, compared to 30 percent in 1977.

In 1966, 20 percent of the librarians reported such challenges.

Local Censorship Groups

Mr. Burress also found a dramatic increase in the number of librarians who reported the existence of local censorship groups (17 percent in 1982, in contrast to 1 percent on previous surveys conducted in 1977, 1973, and 1966).

For the 48 books most frequently challenged, the new survey reported, some form of censorship (removal from a recommended list, removal from classroom use, or removal from the library) occurred 54 percent of the time.

J.D. Salinger's The Catcher In the Rye has been the most frequently challenged book, according to surveys conducted between 1965 and 1982.

In the 1982 survey, the most challenges occurred over Go Ask Alice, a nonfiction account of a teen-age girl who became involved with drugs and eventually committed suicide.

As in previous surveys, the highest percentage of challenges was found in the Northeast (56 percent), and the lowest percentage in the region, excluding Texas, that Mr. Burress calls the Old South (44 percent).

Mr. Burress believes more incidents occur in the Northeast "because schools are larger and libraries are larger. Larger libraries generate more censorship because librarians are more willing to order controversial books."

The ncte Committee on Censorship plans to produce a "directory of resources" for teachers facing censorship pressure, Mr. Burress said.

The ncte is planning a conference on the theme "Has the World of Orwell Arrived?" for 1984.

The board of directors of ncte also adopted a policy statement last month "spelling out the distinctions between censoring textbooks and other teaching materials and setting guidelines for selection of such materials."

"Teachers of English must make daily decisions about materials and methods of instruction," the statement reads in part, "choosing from increasingly broad and varied alternatives. ..."

"Whereas censors are motivated by content they find objectionable," according to the statement, "guideline writers are motivated by content that the professionally trained find educationally sound and effective."

Following are lists of the high-school library material most frequently challenged, according to the Burress surveys:

The most frequently challenged books, 1982 survey: Go Ask Alice, Anonymous; The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger; Our Bodies, Ourselves, Boston Womens' Health Collective; Forever, J. Blume; Of Mice and Men, J. Steinbeck; A Hero Ain't Nothing but a Sandwich, A. Childress; My Darling, My Hamburger, P. Zindel; Slaughterhouse Five, K. Vonnegut; The Grapes of Wrath, J. Steinbeck; Huckleberry Finn, M. Twain; It's O.K. If You Don't Love Me, N. Klein; The Learning Tree, G. Parks; The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, T. Wolfe; The Exorcist, W. Blatty; Headman, K. Platt; Love Story, E. Segal; Manchild in the Promised Land, C. Brown; Run, Shelley, Run, G. Samuels; Are You in the House Alone?, R. Peck; Brave New World, A. Huxley; Daddy was a Numbers Runner, L. Merriwether; A Farewell to Arms, E. Hemingway; Hard Feelings, D. Bredes; If Beale Street Could Talk, J. Baldwin; I Hate to Talk About Your Mother, H. Jones; I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, M. Angelou; Johnny Got His Gun, D. Trumbo; Lord of the Flies, W. Golding; The Lottery, S. Jackson; Then Again, Maybe I Won't, J. Blume; A Separate Peace, J. Knowles; To Kill a Mockingbird, H. Lee; Winning, R. Braucato; All Books on Occult.


The most frequently challenged books in American high schools between 1965 and 1982, based on six national surveys of censorship pressures: The Catcher in the Rye; Go Ask Alice; Of Mice and Men; The Grapes of Wrath; 1984; The Lord of the Flies; Forever; Our Bodies, Ourselves; The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; To Kill a Mockingbird; Brave New World; Love Story; Manchild in the Promised Land; The Learning Tree; Slaughterhouse Five; Black Like Me; One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich; My Darling, My Hamburger; One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest; A Separate Peace; The Scarlet Letter; Johnny Got His Gun; The Diary of a Young Girl; Deliverance; The Good Earth.


Challenged periodicals: 1977 to 1982: American Child, American Photographer, American Photography, The Atlas Books, Bay Guardian Newspaper, Bride's Magazine, Christian Century, Christian Science Monitor, Christianity Today, Crawdaddy, Der Spiegel, Ebony, Essence, Esquire, Family Health, Glamour, Harpers' Bazaar, Home Video, Hot Rod, Human Events, Humanist, Ingenue, Japanese, Jet, Ladies Home Journal, Life, Mad, Mademoiselle, Modern Photography, Mother Jones, Mother Nature, Ms. Magazine, National Lampoon, New Ingenue, The New Republic, Newsweek, Parents', Paris Match, Paris Watch, People, Photography, Plain Truth, Planned Parenthood, Popular Photography, Psychology Today, Redbook, Review of the News, Rolling Stone, Science Digest, Seventeen, Shooting Times, Soldier of Fortune, South Africa Panorama, Soviet Life, Sport, Sports Illustrated, Tampa Bay, Life, Teen, Time, Transaction, Truth, True Confessions, U.S. News and World Report, Vogue.

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