An Education in Democracy: Understanding and Subverting Censorship in the English Classroom
Date of Graduation
Master of Arts in English
The politicization of education has presented a challenge to offering students diverse English Language Arts instruction. Across the county, lawmakers have proposed legislation that limits discussion about race and sex or allows parents to restrict their child’s exposure to materials that violate their moral or religious beliefs. In this tug-of-war, teachers will be forced to decide between avoiding controversial topics or risking dismissal. Increasing censorship, now codified by law in many states, is rooted in our polarized political landscape, divided along cultural and geographic lines. The challenge facing educators, then, is how to create space for inclusive, social justice-oriented instruction without “violating” the rights of parents. In rural schools where teachers have fewer resources and less support, this task can be especially precarious. These issues are exacerbating the already worsening teacher shortage nationwide. The success of censorship in the classroom relies on the idea that educators are the bestowers of knowledge. Paulo Freire’s answer to the banking model of education is the empowerment of students as independent, critical thinkers. In the tradition of liberatory pedagogy, Giroux argues that educators have a responsibility to create an environment in which students can develop the skills necessary to engage in and uphold democracy. Contextualizing the debate over censorship as a crisis of democracy provides a framework through which educators can provide meaningful, inclusive instruction despite efforts to stifle discussion in the classroom. As Nadia Behizadeh suggests, Freire’s concept of problem-posing education is in alignment with project-based learning and other student-led instructional strategies. In this thesis, I will explore the potential of problem-posing education as a tool for including diverse perspectives in classrooms under threat of censorship. Woven throughout are narrative “excursions” that illustrate the challenges of teaching today and the consequences of censorship for students. Despite policies that seek to censor instruction, the English classroom can maintain a focus on social justice by providing a safe, open space for discussion and empowering students to engage meaningfully with diverse perspectives.
censorship legislation, censorship in schools, ELA education, project-based learning, democratic pedagogy, teaching under censorship
Curriculum and Social Inquiry | Educational Methods | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Higher Education | Language and Literacy Education | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies | Rhetoric and Composition | Secondary Education | Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education
© Hannah R. Woolsey
Woolsey, Hannah R., "An Education in Democracy: Understanding and Subverting Censorship in the English Classroom" (2023). MSU Graduate Theses. 3827.
Curriculum and Social Inquiry Commons, Educational Methods Commons, Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Commons, Higher Education Commons, Language and Literacy Education Commons, Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies Commons, Rhetoric and Composition Commons, Secondary Education Commons, Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education Commons