Intellectual Freedom Challenge

As English teachers and students engage in literature study, some selected texts become controversial due to the ideas presented, the language selected, or the scenes depicted. At times, this controversy becomes the catalyst for significant critical analysis of the work; at other times, objections are raised by students, faculty, administrators, and/or parents that move the text in question to a public discussion forum. These public debates about the quality and appropriateness of the texts may be rancorous, resulting in attempts to ban or restrict the books in various ways.

While educators do not assign literature simply because it may be controversial, we do believe that a critical aspect of education, perhaps centered most significantly in English classrooms, is to develop in students an understanding of the importance of intellectual freedom in a democracy. Across the country and, indeed, around the world, students select or are assigned texts that may contain ideas or actions that might be questioned and challenged by someone else.

Crafton Awards

National English Honor Society (NEHS), in partnership with Sigma Tau Delta, presents the Intellectual Freedom Challenge that will encourage students to write rationale essays based on such potentially controversial texts and to compete for monetary awards. The "Crafton Awards" are named after Dr. Robert Crafton, past president of Sigma Tau Delta, whose vision generated this effort.

The essays will be submitted to NEHS for assessment by members of Sigma Tau Delta and the Advisory Council of NEHS. This project is open only to sophomore and/or junior members of NEHS from chapters in good standing.

  • From the pool of submitted essays, up to twelve will be selected for the Crafton Awards; each student writer of the top essays will receive a $25 Better World Books gift certificate and $100. Their sponsoring chapters will receive $50.
  • Winning regional essays will be forwarded to National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE); essays selected to become part of the rationale holdings of National Council of Teachers of English (up to a maximum of six) will result in an additional $150 award for the student writers and $50 for their sponsoring NEHS chapters.

Submission Deadline

Submissions are due October 23, 2017.

2016-2017 Winners