September 25 – October 2 is Banned Book Week.

All of the books shown below have been or are banned.

and the American Library Association has once again published a list of banned or challenged books.  The September issue of the AARP Bulletin listed 50 banned books.  The Merriam Webster Dictionary was banned in a California elementary school in January 2010.

Yes, you say, so what?  How does that relate to program evaluation?

Remember the root of the work “evaluation” is value.  Someplace in the United States, some group used some criteria to “value” (or not) a book– to lodge a protest, successfully (or not), to remove a book from a library, school, or other source.  Establishing a criteria means that evaluation was taking place.  In this case, those criteria included being “too political,” having “too much sex,” being “irreligious,” being “socially offensive,” or some other criteria.   Some one, some place, some where has decided that the freedom to think for your self, the freedom to read, the importance of the First Amendment, the importance of free and open access to information are not important parts of our rights and they used evaluation to make that decision.

Although I don’t agree with censorship–I agree with the right that a person has to express her or his opinion as guaranteed by the First Amendment.  Yet in expressing an opinion, especially an evaluative opinion, an individual has a responsibility to express that opinion without hurting other people or property; to evaluate responsibly.

To aid evaluators to evaluate responsibly, the The American Evaluation Association has developed a set of five guiding principles for evaluators and even though you may not consider yourself a professional evaluator, considering these principals when conducting your evaluations is important and responsible.  The Guiding Principles are:

A. Systematic Inquiry: Evaluators conduct systematic, data-based inquiries;

B. Competence: Evaluators provide competent performance to stakeholders;

C. Integrity/Honesty: Evaluators display honesty and integrity in their own behavior, and attempt to ensure the honesty and integrity of the entire evaluation process;

D.  Respect for People:  Evaluators respect the security, dignity, and self-worth of respondents, program participants, clients, and other evaluation stakeholders; and

E. Responsibilities for General and Public Welfare: Evaluators articulate and take into account the diversity of general and public interests and values that may be related to the evaluation.

I think free and open access to information is covered by principle D and E.  You may or may not agree with the people who used evaluation to challenge a book and in doing so used evaluation.  Yet, as someone who conducts evaluation, you have a responsibility to consider these principles, making sure that your evaluations respect people and are responsible for general and public welfare (in addition to employing systematic inquiry, competence, and integrity/honesty).  Now–go read a good (banned) book!

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