“Words Ignite”: Censorship and the Get Lit Organization

Now, three things I want to address before I get into my blog.

  1. I understand that this segment is called, “Somewhere in America,” but that doesn’t mean that it does not apply to us. I am aware of the title of our course, but I think this video carries some very important messages.
  2. My main interest in this segment is the mention of censorship by schools and by the government. However, I am also interested in the mission of “Get Lit,” a non-for profit organization focused on teaching teens about literacy. I will talk a little bit about “Get Lit,” but if you’re interested in learning more about them, check out their website: http://getlit.org/getlit/
  3. I do not own the rights to this video. This video was borrowed from YouTube. If the link doesn’t work, copy and paste it into your browser, or search “Changing the World, One Word at a Time!”

This video came to me through Facebook, and I think the general message it carries is very important. Like Get Lit, I wanted to spread the word about this organization and the work that they are doing for youth, not only in America, but also, as we live in the technological age, the world. A catchphrase for Get Lit is “Words Ignite” and I would love to spread this video around like wildfire, so please, if you haven’t already, watch the video, show it to your friends, post it on your own blog, your Facebook, MySpace (is that still around?), Twitter, Instagram, etc., etc., because we should embrace our role in the technological age and spread the important messages, because if I read another damn thing about Kanye or Kim Kardashian, I swear I’m going to scream…loudly… and probably all over social media.

Get Lit’s “Mission” and “Vision” say it all. This organization’s programs are “designed to boost literacy, foster cultural understanding, and encourage creative self-expression.” They aim to “empower youth to succeed by drawing connections between the emotions and experiences fuelling the work of classic writers to the complexities and struggles teens face in their daily lives” (http://getlit.org/getlit/about-us/). This organization acknowledges the importance of literature and the role it plays in young adult lives, and in my opinion proves why censorship in classrooms is damaging to the learning environment. For example, in this video, the girls powerfully explain that the reason they are not allowed to read Maya Angelou in school is because they are not allowed to discuss rape. They say, “Just because something happens doesn’t mean you have to talk about it;” a problem that I believe could be remedied by the open discussion of “inappropriate” content in the classroom.

For me, the amount of information so easily accessed nowadays is sometimes a little frightening; especially for youth/young adults/adolescents (pick your definition and role with it). The level of accessibility to “young adults” is why I feel so strongly about censorship in schools. It is pretty obvious (as shown in this video) that if students don’t find something in the classroom, they WILL find it elsewhere. (Like come on, the KKK website is open to the public, but kids can’t read To Kill A Mockingbird because of the use of the N-Word.) As a future education student and future parent, I would much rather have my students/children learn about these topics that have been deemed “inappropriate” or even outlawed, in an environment that encourages discussion, questions, and provides the services/an outlet to help answer and even deal with these “real life” questions and issues.

If you want to do the math of the amount of time a student spends in the classroom with their teacher (8 hours/day, typically 5 days/week, almost 10 months/year, for 12 years) you can see just how much influence that teacher can have on that one student. Now multiply that one student to say 30 students/year for 20 years (as a teacher, potentially). Yay, math! So, if this teacher did not spend one single minute in all that time in all those years dealing with any of these “harsh reality” topics, you would be sending your kid into a world with no idea what to do with themselves, or how to deal with anything. Catch my drift?

I believe that organizations like Get Lit are opening eyes to these worldwide issues, and are paving the way to a greater understanding and hopefully a change in practices that will benefit rather than hinder young adults in their learning and growing experiences. I encourage everyone to check out the Get Lit website, watch the many videos on YouTube dedicated to “Changing the World, One Word at a Time,” and spread the messages they send like wildfire, because “Words Ignite.”

Brianne Graham


5 thoughts on ““Words Ignite”: Censorship and the Get Lit Organization

  1. This video is awesome, I love the way poetry can often act to bring complicated issues to light in such simple and elegant words. It’s really awesome. The line about not having to talk about things just because they happen really hit me. It’s just so true! It’s so easy to get caught up in curriculum or trying not to get in trouble as a new teacher that it’s easy to forget what made you want to teach to begin with. I know I want to make a difference, and that won’t happen by hiding behind a curriculum and claiming your hands are tied.
    That said, I do think Canada is a little better off than America. In Alberta in particular English teachers get to pick what they read with their students, and I know To Kill a Mockingbird wasn’t banned from my school at least. School board wide censorship is an issue, especially since we all know that it really doesn’t stop students from reading the banned books anyways. I just wish schools were a place more widely accepted to be places of discussion about important issues instead of places of indoctrination. Our students need to be critical thinkers.


  2. I am so happy you posted this Brianne! I actually saw this video on Facebook a couple weeks ago (YAY for social media!) and have shown it to at least three people since then. I believe censorship is such an important issue, especially today – like you said – when almost anything can be found online. I believe a large number of schools and curriculum’s focus solely on meeting a specific list of standards and do not stray beyond that. They are forcing the creativity out of students, and not allowing anything that varies even minimally from their “norm”.
    Obviously censorship is gaining more and more awareness so spreading this video should further the cause. Well done 🙂
    -Krista Stout


  3. Wow! I hadn’t seen this video yet so I’m really glad you posted this. The message in that poem is so powerful, and it really portrays the inconsistencies in our school systems. It’s not okay to read about rape, or swears, or racial prejudices, but then students are naively separated from real life circumstances. Or, those who are living with these realities are made to feel that this subject matter should be kept hushed up. How are we ever going to learn from history’s mistakes if we don’t take a critical eye to them? Censoring fictional subject matter does nothing but make people feel that they can’t talk about issues in their lives, ones which may be very similar to some of the topics in books. At least through literature, we can distantly observe some of these issues – maybe as a way to cope, or as a way to instruct students about the realities of society. Either way, sooner or later students will be faced with these inconsistencies, so wouldn’t it be better if we prepared them for it?
    Great post Brianne! 🙂
    -Michelle Howe


  4. Danielle Schmold says:

    I have found that students love to talk about the big issues. Sometimes they are hesitant because it feels like they shouldn’t be aloud to, but if they are comfortable in the classroom they will want to talk. I think poetry is a great way to introduce these topics. Slam poetry is really interesting to most students and it deals with touchy subject matter. I think sometimes teachers and school boards are forced into censorship because of what the parents would think rather than what the students will actually think.


  5. Miranda MacKenzie says:

    I LOVE THIS VIDEO! But what I am going to focus my comment on is the idea that “just because something happens doesn’t mean we have to talk about it” – this is in my opinion the biggest problem with censorship in YA literature. When we tell students they can’t read books about rape, homosexuality (When Everything Feels Like the Movies), teen pregnancy, etc. what we really tell our students is “these things are bad and we shouldn’t talk about them”. Now don’t get me wrong, rape is bad – but what message does this send to the girl who was raped? What message does this send to the boy being bullied because of his sexual preferences? What message does this send to the girl contemplating whether or not to have an abortion or try and raise a child, when she is still a child? It tells them that they are alone. It tells them to be ashamed, embarrassed and it definitely tells them not to talk about it.

    As a future educator, I hope that my students read the “controversial” books, ask the difficult questions and that good literature changes peoples perspective and influences society.

    – Miranda


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