Orwell Award Announcement SusanOhanian.Org Home

My Censorship Problem with NCTE

Ohanian Comment: Many thanks to the people who left comments at the Daily Censored site...and to those who sent me e-mails. I admit to feeling sad about making the final break with the professional organization that has meant so much to me for decades. But I've faced up to the fact that the organization that nurtured me as a young teacher is no more. The people in power at NCTE have chosen a different path-- forsaking deep principles for expediency and quick profit--and for the chance of getting a seat at that corporate political table.

by Susan Ohanian

As members of an online forum called NCTE Connected Community Open Forum, longtime NCTE member Steve Krashen and a handful of other concerned members have posted items critical of NCTE's refusal to issue a statement of concern about the Common Core Curriculum standards. A few of us have pointed out that instead NCTE has launched a program of publishing books and professional development courses supporting the Common Core. Concern about this seemed to be growing.

NCTE's answer was to dilute criticism of its policies and practices by splitting the Open Forum into two parts, one about "teaching" and the other about "policy matters." I sent a message to Open Forum objecting to this separation and was denied access, even accused of quite disreputable character qualities. This message blocking me was sent from a "do not reply" source. I admit to being stunned by this. This is not the organization from which I received decades of guidance and to which I gave decades of support.

Occupy Wall Street was always about something much bigger than a movement against big banks and modern finance. It's about providing a forum for people to show how tired they are not just of Wall Street, but everything. This is a visceral, impassioned, deep-seated rejection of the entire direction of our society, a refusal to take even one more step forward into the shallow commercial abyss of phoniness, short-term calculation, withered idealism and intellectual bankruptcy that American mass society has become.

--Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone, Nov. 10, 2011

1. National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) statement about change of Open Forum
Improved site moderation:
The Connected Community will remain a welcoming space for NCTE members and visitors. Community moderators will play a more active role in offering helpful resources or channeling discussions that take on a hostile tone.

Member Discussions
The Members Open Forum has included discussions on a wide variety of topics over the last year. Numerous members have expressed concern that while they never intentionally subscribed to a Forum focused largely on education policy matters, often these questions have dominated the Open Forum discussion space. For that reason, we are going to begin clearly labeling and separating the Discussion Forums.

The NCTE Members Open Forum is now the Teaching and Learning Forum; it will focus predominantly on the daily challenges of classroom teaching and planning. We've also created a discussion area just for those important education policy conversations: the Education Policy Forum. If you were subscribed to the Open Forum, you'll now be subscribed to the Teaching and Learning Forum instead. We also encourage you to visit the "Subscribe" page and join the Education Policy Forum as well.

2. I attempt to post a message

From Susan Ohanian to NCTE Connected Community, Nov. 7, tried to post at 1:15 p.m.

I'd say that the teacher who expresses concern about having to enter 27,000+ assessment marks for her kindergartners IS talking about daily challenges of classroom teaching and planning as well as about important education policy.

A professional organization claiming that daily challenges of classroom teaching and planning can be separated from important education policy conversations:

a) is ignorant
b) is hiding something
c) doesn't want to be forced into taking a stand on the Common Core Curriculum Standards
d) just got big money from a foundation with a history of strong support of charter schools
e) all of the above

My website was awarded the 2003 NCTE George Orwell Award for Distinguished Contribution for Honesty and Clarity in Public Language. The award hangs on my wall.

I nominate NCTE for the 2011 Doublespeak Award.

3. NCTE answers (Their message was all in bold; note that it's from "no reply")
Subject: Decline message from ncte.connectedcommunity.org

Date: Mon, 07 Nov 2011 17:55:02 -0500

To: susano@gmavt.net


NCTE has received your post. We will not be publishing the post because it violates the Code of Conduct for the community, specifically the sections noted below:

*All defamatory, abusive, profane, threatening, offensive, or illegal materials are strictly prohibited.

*Specifically as a Connected Community user you agree that you will not post, email or make available any content or use this Community in a manner that is libelous or defamatory, or in a way that is otherwise threatening, abusive, violent, harassing, malicious or harmful to any person or entity, or invasive of another's privacy.

Please refer to the Code of Conduct in its entirety if you have any questions about the appropriateness of any posts you would like to share in the future.

Thank you,
NCTE Connected Community Moderator

4. Susan Ohanian Questions to NCTE:

How does my note exhibit violations of the Code of Conduct? Please check appropriate items:

a) defamatory
b) abusive
c) profane
d) threatening
e) offensive
f) illegal
g) libelous
h) violent
i) harassing
j) malicious
k) harmful
l) invader of privacy
m) honest

Something to consider: Which NCTE Examples of Censorship listed on the NCTE website, does the action of the NCTE Connected Community Moderator exhibit?

a) Exclude Specific Materials or Methods
b) Intend to Control
c) Seek to Indoctrinate, to Limit Access to Ideas and Information
d) All of the above

from the NCTE Common Ground: Speak with One Voice on Intellectual Freedom and the Defense of It

. . . The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of expression:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of people to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

So does Article 19 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights:
"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions, without interference, and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."

Principles regarding censorship from NCTE Website
The following principles of access, diversity, and fairness translate the ideal of the First Amendment into classroom reality:

  • The education community should actively support intellectual freedom within the United States and among all nations.

  • Intellectual freedom in education is sought through fostering democratic values, critical thinking in teaching and learning, open inquiry, and the exploration of diverse points of view. . . .

  • From: Kent Williamson [NCTE Executive Director]
    To: Teaching and Learning Forum
    Posted: 02-21-2011
    We encourage spirited debate about literacy education issues. . . .

    Ohanian Question: Why doesn't the NCTE practice the principles it enunciates so clearly for "classroom reality" in its administration of the Community Forum? Why does it exclude diverse points of view and try to limit intellectual freedom, not to mention democratic values, critical thinking, and open inquiry?

    Just asking.

    5. Final Note: I filed a protest to the NCTE Standing Committee on Censorship and was told that my complaint is outside their purview. The Standing Committee on Censorship "deals with challenges to materials in schools from our members." I was advised to contact the NCTE Executive Director to express my concerns about my posting being refused.

    I assume that the orders of censorship came with the knowledge of the Executive Director. If not, who"s running the show?

    I was also told that the Standing Committee on Censorship holds an open meeting at the convention. So I could spend $618 to fly to Chicago, book a hotel, pay $250 to register for the convention--to go to a meeting where I'll be told "sorry, the censorship of NCTE members is not our concern."

    I would prefer not to.

    by Stephen Krashen

    Susan Ohanian is not the only one to find NCTE's behavior over the last few years to be, at best, irregular and suspicious. Some examples:

    The stubborn support of all federal initiatives, eg the LEARN Act and Striving Readers, in the face of what I consider to be very strong evidence that the initiatives are lacking in empirical support, promoted by non-educators (business people and politicians) and, most important, contrary to the principles many NCTE members believe in.

    NCTE's neutral stance toward Common Core and its spawn, national tests, and most recently NCTE's odd silence in the face of common core leader David Coleman's pronouncement that fiction and narrative writing should be devalued. (I have the feeling that if Secretary of Education Duncan or a common core leader proclaimed the end of fiction and the exclusive use of informational texts in Language Arts, NCTE would not only support it but try to convince us that it is a great idea.)

    The practice of creating NCTE policy by listening to politicians, rather than NCTE members. According to the NCTE website, the development of NCTE policy includes long conversations between NCTE policy writers and members of congress and their staffs. Last year, there was no sign that NCTE policy writers paid any attention to the policy suggestion that were sent in by NCTE members, at the suggestion of NCTE.

    The use of the NCTE magazine, the Council Chronicle as a blatant propaganda outlet, with nearly every article reminding us how good it is that we will have a common core, often written by professional, hired writers. I find the use of outside writers to be bizarre, in a profession of English teachers who teach writing. Are NCTE members aware that the Chronicle does not accept submissions from its own members?

    Promoting (trying to sell) NCTE products and services to members that provide de facto support for the common core, despite the NCTE's official neutral stance.

    Ignoring a popular sense of the house motion passed last year at the annual business meeting that calls for NCTE oppose the common core. A sense of the house motion is not legally binding, but NCTE should pay attention to what its members say.

    What looks to some of us to be manipulation and excessive control of the connected community. The announced increase of censorship to the connected community message board and the separation of policy messages from pedagogy, combined with the misuse of the Council Chronicle, means that NCTE members have even less of a chance of discussing their views within the organization.

    NCTE is supporting a great deal of doubtful policy, and appears to be choking off legitimate discussion of its positions.


    — Susan Ohanian and Stephen Krashen
    Daily Censored





    This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.