Wednesday, August 20, 2008


I will probably be talking about censorship more and more as it looks like I will be co-speaking with an education professor in a few weeks on banned books at a fireside chat. I will be doing a lot more reading about the issue as we figure out what we will talk about... and look up some good recipes from banned books to serve that night (suggestions welcome!).

I have mixed reactions to a young woman's essay on censorship, which was featured on LISNews. The blog is called Safe Libraries, and is dedicated to undermining the ALA's stance on censorship. The describe the purpose differently, of course. Hey, even I support not forcing pornography on children!

Whenever I bring up the issue of censorship, I feel the need to point out a few things. During my junior year of high school, I complained to my parents about having to read The Chocolate War based on the discomfort I felt within the first few pages, which did not seem to have any point. My father read it and talked about my objection with the teacher, who gave me a different book. I believe every book she had us read that year was on the banned list, and almost all were classics that I am very happy to have read, I just couldn't do this one.

There is a very clear line, though, about a high school teacher requiring to read a book and the library offering it. There are books that are age-inappropriate. As much as I dearly, truly love The Lovely Bones, the rape scene at the beginning of the book is very graphic. It's important to the story, but I'm not sure I would give it even to a high school class unless they were warned and the entire class approved. But it should be in the school library, and it should be in every public library except maybe the smallest ones.

I can't remember what is objectionable in Catch-22 or Catcher in the Rye besides excessive profanity, which you can't avoid anymore. This young woman is wrong to think these were mere tricks to sell more books. She is not so bright as she claims to be if she simply labels these books "garbage" without respecting the opinions of so many others. Sticking to the literature that doesn't offend anyone will deprive the rest of the class, and reduce the course content to mere fluff. The thing that terrified me most about Fahrenheit 451 was the utterly mindless television programming. That's what our schools will be like if we go overboard on this issue. And who decides? Where do you draw that line?

I furthermore feel that while high school students and parents should be able to make reasonable claims for alternative books, that all bets are off in college. Perhaps if she attends Brigham Young, her view will be sheltered enough that this won't be an issue. But back to my comment from a few weeks ago, no one has the right to live an unoffended life, especially now that you are an adult.

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