Seniors in Matt Laufer’s Literature and Censorship class celebrated their freedom to read by saluting Banned Books Week recently.
Shortly after students assembled for class, Laufer returned the posters they each made featuring quotes they individually chose from various authors’ banned books—and texts about censorship—from throughout history. Laufer encouraged them to spend part of class papering the common spaces in the Upper School in support of the freedom to seek and express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.
Billed as a course with the premise that we can learn about a society by studying the literature that it blacklists, bans and censors, Laufer’s Literature and Censorship class spends the semester reviewing banned novels, short stories, plays and poetry, while exploring the stunning beauty, variety and creativity of the language and images that have so unnerved—indeed, outraged—individuals and governments during the course of our country’s history.
When asked why he enjoys teaching this class and encouraging students to take part in activities like papering the halls during Banned Books Week, Laufer shared, “Every moment in history foists certain expectations and limitations on us, and this moment—what with cancel culture, for example, and continued crackdowns on Ethnic Studies and fear about direct talk about racism—is no different. We have to think about expression. We have to talk about artistic and academic freedom and repression. Luckily, high school students are naturals at this.”
It’s clear from the enthusiasm of the students posting the quotes and their peers who stop to take them in that banned texts clearly have a place at Parker!