Lesson Plan: For Teachers - Margaret Laurence: A View on Censorship
Ask students to think about
censorship and do a quick sketch in their notebooks of what they think about
when they hear that word. Ask students to reflect on what their sketch reveals
about how they feel about censorship.
Read aloud what Margaret Laurence said about censorship in an article called "The Greater Evil:" "As a writer, my response to censorship of any kind is that I am totally opposed to it. But when I consider some of the vile material that is being peddled freely, I want to see some kind of control. I don't think I am being hypocritical. I have a sense of honest bewilderment."
Laurence's own novels have been censored. The most painful experience for her was in her own county of Peterborough where a group of people tried to ban The Diviners from a Grade 13 course and the school libraries for its so-called "obscenity." Ask students: How do you think you would feel if something you created was censored? Do you feel, as Laurence did, that there should be "some kind of control"?
Outline the Opportunity
Students will explore the clips
about Laurence that deal with censorship, particularly the clips titled "Laurence's
books banned", "Laurence's legacy" and "Laurence speaks out against censorship". Have students first define for themselves the
issue of censorship, and then gather ideas about it. They should summarize the key
Then, in pairs, students should share their responses to the information, actively listening to each other and posing clarifying questions where needed. Ask them to discuss what significance the topic has in their lives. Finally, they can write a summary of their response.
Revisit and Reflect
Hold a class discussion about how the issue of censorship can impact students personally. Discuss the books chosen for study in high school: If books are considered Canadian classics, should they be taught even if some readers may find them offensive? What lessons should books impart, if any? Which books would impart these lessons most effectively? What is the importance of context in the study of literature? Should works be rejected because of language?
Students can write a reflective journal entry that describes their own response to the issue of censorship, particularly book banning.