Crawford conquers competition
BY VIOLET NOE ON MARCH 21, 2014
While many students dread writing essays, junior Monica Crawford found herself excited to write an essay for the Intellectual Freedom Challenge.
“Mrs. Hutchinson told me that there was an essay contest that involved writing about a book that has been banned or censored and why it should or should not be [censored],” Crawford said. “I’m a really big Harry Potter fan and so I figured I could write about Harry Potter very easily.”
The Intellectual Freedom Challenge is a program that began a few years ago and is open to sophomore and junior members of the National English Honor Society (NEHS). NEHS director Dave Wendelin was among those who were involved in the initiation of the program.
“[The program] invites students to write essays presenting articulate arguments for keeping particular texts in the English curriculum or restricting them,” Wendelin said. “The books selected are the students’ choices, but must contain some element of controversy—theme, situation, language, graphic detail—that some may object to.”
In her essay, Crawford defended the wizarding world.
“I argued that the [Harry Potter] books are fiction and so they are not really saying that magic is real because fiction by definition means it’s a made up story,” Crawford said. “A lot of people will say that Harry [Potter] is a bad role model for kids because he gets in trouble all of the time, but he gets punished for everything he does and so that argument is not really that relevant.”
Once it had been submitted, Crawford’s essay moved on to evaluation. The essays are read and evaluated by college English professors as well as Wendelin. Two regional winners are chosen from each of the six NEHS geographical regions, with Crawford’s essay being chosen as one of the winners from the southern region.
“I won 100 dollars and a 25 dollar gift certificate [from Better World Books],” Crawford said. “I’m probably going to save the 100 dollars.”
In addition, the National English Honor Society Chapter at Rose was awarded 50 dollars for Crawford’s success. Crawford’s essay has now been forwarded to the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) for consideration to be added to their files of frequently challenged materials.
“NCTE is the principle organization to which English teachers turn for support if a parent or a community may challenge a book selection,” Wendelin said. “If NCTE feels that the student writing will add to those files, they let me know and those student writers then get an additional 100 dollars and their chapters another 50 dollars.”
As a result of her participation in the Intellectual Freedom Challenge, Crawford has learned that ordinary school activities can be enjoyable.
“I learned that you can do school work on stuff that you enjoy and still have it do well,” Crawford said. “Instead of writing about some boring book that had been banned that I didn’t really care about, I wrote about something that I really enjoy a lot and it actually went pretty far.”