C R V E 2 0 0 7
Common Reading and Viewing Experience
THE STRUGGLE FOR
While you are reading the books, viewing the films, listening to the dramatic readings, and responding to the panel discussion, consider the following questions:
1. What are the expressed rights and interpretations of free expression articulated in the U.S. Constitution, particularly the First Amendment?
2. How do or should these rights, and their limitations, apply to Allen Ginsberg's poem "Howl?"
3. Consider the following questions about how rights and limitations apply in the following contemporary conflicts over free expression and free speech. How are they similar to and different from the issues and resulting judgment in the 1957 trial over the publication and sale of "Howl"?
- The Supreme Court's 1990 ruling in upholding the "decency and respect" criteria for funding artists, originally imposed by Congress, for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) - was it correct, or was the Court's reading of the law unrealistic, ignoring the effect of the "decency and respect" language on artists, arts institutions and the agency itself?
- Should activist writer and poet Amiri Baraka's position as New Jersey Poet Laureate have been eliminated because of his refusal to apologize for reading, in 2002, a controversial poem about 9/11, "Somebody Blew Up America"?
- Was the radio boycott of the Dixie Chicks in 2003 following their comment about being ashamed of President Bush justified and/or legal?
- Was the worldwide "Muhammad cartoon" uproar in 2006 over caricatures of Islam's founder in the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten a defensible act of free expression or an insensitive, blasphemous insult to people of the Muslim faith?
- Was it legal to suspend three Westchester public high school students in 2007 for saying the word "vagina" during their performance of a passage from Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues?
- Was CBS justified in firing radio talk show host Don Imus in 2007 for describing the Rutgers Universities women's basketball team as "nappy-headed hos"?
- Should Google, Wikipedia, and the communications media community be held responsible for the accuracy and truthfulness of the information they present? What would the nation be like if Congress passed laws making free expression absolute, barring libel and slander lawsuits against the communications media?
- Can you think of another contemporary incident where free expression and censorship have come into conflict?
4. What is the role of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in interpreting limits of the First Amendment? How do organizations like the ACLU help or hinder our ability to maintain our constitution as citizens?
5. In what similar and differing ways are journalism, literature and art susceptible to censorship?
6. How free is free expression, and should there be circumstances in which expression should be limited or censored? To what extent should artists and others be allowed to speak out in any society?