The New York Times - May. 18, 1947
Teachers Are Held Political Censors
Many Would Bar Some Papers Under Guise of 'Scandal,' School Official Says
Dr. Frederick Ernst, associate superintendent of schools, charged yesterday that "hundreds of little censors" were at work in the city's classrooms, emphasizing their personal predilections instead of their public duty as school teachers.
Dr. Ernst, one of five speakers on censorship of books at a meeting in City College, Lexington Avenue and Twenty-third Street, asserted that the classroom censorship was done "consciously with ulterior motives." He did not specify the motives, except as political.
The meeting was attended by 150 members of the Association of Teachers of Social Studies, English teachers and librarians. The discussion centered about the recent removal of Howard Fast's "Citizen Tom Paine" from the approved library list for high schools.
One of the speakers, Louis A. Schuker, principal of Junior High School 85, Brooklyn, insisted that books should be judged on their entirety, their over-all purpose, and not on single allegedly vulgar passages. An attempt should be made to put on the library list every reputable point of view, even if one does not agree with it, Mr. Schuker said.
Dr. Ernst replied that books such as "Citizen Tom Paine" might be all right for young persons to read, but, he added, "not for us to recommend by putting them on our list."
He declared that while he approved the purposes and execution of such novels as "Gentlemen's Agreement" and "Earth and High Heaven," he would not recommend them for youngsters of high school age because of "unsuitable passages."
Defending the Board of Superintendents against charges that it was a "bunch of reactionaries," he said each book would have to be judged on its merits so far as approval for library lists went.
"We can read, we do read, we are fairly intelligent," he continued. "We have a regard for official considerations that you have not."
"As a matter of fact, when it comes to censorship there is more censorship in the classroom than in the Board of Education, much more. That's where 98 per cent is. It's the type of censorship that wants to bar certain newspapers supposedly because they contain scandal, details of feminine anatomy and divorce. But it is the politics that is objected to, not the supposed immodesty."
Dr. Ernst warned the teachers to look out for censorship in the classroom. If they concentrated on teaching broad Americanism there, he said, they would be doing a job that needed doing.
Several of the teachers from the floor questioned Dr. Ernst's criteria for judging books. One woman, who said that she read the Bible every day for inspiration, remarked that under the conditions he set forth it should be banned because of passages on adultery, lechery and deceit. A man wondered why "Gone With the Wind," which he said contained "tawdry love and cheap affairs," remained on the approved list.
Among the other speakers were George F. Pigott Jr., associate superintendent of schools; George Sullivan, a past president of the Association of Teachers of English, and Miss Elizabeth L. Kent, president of the School Librarians Association.
When the discussion ended Samuel Steinberg of Stuyvesant High School, the chairman, reported that the fundamental disagreement had not been resolved; whether books for school libraries should be judged on parts that were objectionable or on their total impact.