Censorship

Censored_stampI’m being muzzled! Gagged! Restricted! Censored! And it’s all right. In fact, it’s appropriate and right that I am. I’ll let you think about that and see if you can figure out when and why it would be OK.

When I thought about the inability I have to blog about what I’d like to right now, I started thinking about the whole “censorship” charge. Yes, there are people who claim books are being censored in America.

The issue is most evident in school libraries. It seems the American Library Association’s response to parents’ concerns about the content of some books on school shelves is to cry “censorship.” In one instance a book was removed from a summer reading list, and therefore made its way onto the “banned books” list.

Odd. It seems the great complaint from the parents was that some subject matter wasn’t age-appropriate. But the ALA official responded with this comment:

“Young adult is a big trend right now, and a high number of complaints are directed at those books,” said Barbara Stripling, president of the American Library Association, which organises Banned Books Week. “There is a lot of pressure to keep teenagers safe and protected, especially in urban areas, and we are seeing many more complaints about alcohol, smoking, suicide and sexually explicit material.” (as quoted in “Book censors target teen fiction, says American Library Association,” emphasis added)

Imagine that! Wanting to keep kids safe! What are these parents thinking? Silly old adults! Why, don’t they know infants should be allowed to play with razor blades and toddlers allowed to play in the streets? Why goodness, such a provincial idea–keeping kids safe! Absolutely, such efforts need to be contended!

Silliness aside, I don’t think these ALA people and their supporters actually understand the concept of censorship. If a child can still buy a copy of Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian or Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey or any of the other titles on their banned books list, if they can find those books at the public library, then nobody is censoring them.

By taking them off school summer reading lists, or even moving them to a library shelf that requires parental permission is in no way preventing children from reading the book. Rather it’s putting in safeguards for children who might not be ready for such material.

It’s the oddest thing–making rules based on those least in need of protection. Because one four-year-old child can swim, is it banning swimming to put gates around pools so that small children who can’t swim are prevented from inadvertently getting into the water?

In reality, it seems our society has put a premium on protecting kids physically while disregarding their mental and emotional and spiritual health.

Here in California, we regularly have public paid announcements against smoking. Yet this ALA official sees nothing wrong with letting kids read books that might influence them to smoke.

We have the same disconnect about sex. We let kids read about sex with some misguided idea that they won’t turn around and experiment.

Speaking of the book that was taken off the reading list for eleven-year-olds, Charlie Sheppard, editorial director of Andersen Press, the book’s UK publisher of the title in question said, “Some people felt it was unsuitable for 11-year-olds, but I would be happy to give it to my 11-year-old.” The book apparently focuses on alcohol, poverty and bullying, and includes references to masturbation and physical arousal.

Sorry, but I know a lot of eleven-year-olds who aren’t ready for a story like that. Why should they have to be exposed to things children ought not have to carry?

But beyond that point, the idea that removing the book from a required list is tantamount to banning it is ludicrous!

Perhaps if someone told the ALA they could no longer blog about banned books, they’d get a better understanding of what censorship actually means!

Published in: on March 4, 2014 at 7:55 pm  Comments (6)  
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6 Comments

  1. That’s assuming preventing kids from reading about sex prevents them from experimenting with sex. Both anecdotal evidence and actual stats are not on your side. Yay for actual sex ed, with an emphasis on consent, may it happen much more often.

  2. Notleia, thanks for stopping by. I’m curious, though, about your comment. I don’t see reading scenes in a novel about the main character masturbating, for example, to be anything like sex education.

    But the main point of my comments has to do with whether or not those books that some parents don’t want their kids to read are actually being banned and the authors censored.

    The fact is, children mature at different rates, and some eleven-year-olds are not ready to be introduced to the same things as those who are more fully developed. I taught seventh and eighth graders for years and saw some thirteen-year-olds who looked like men and others who could have passed for fifth grade. Quite often emotional and social development mirrors physical development.

    Parents are the best judge of where their own child is, so why should a school have a one-size-fits-all policy when it comes to reading content? Children who are still young in their soul should not be forced to grow up before they are ready. The parent should have the right to judge a book right for his child or wrong. They should be allowed to put “in safeguards for children who might not be ready for such material.” And it is not banning books to do so!

    Becky

    • Nah, what I meant by “yay for actual sex ed” is if that *actually happened* in schools/society/whatevs, kids reading about masturbation wouldn’t be such a big deal. (There’s a good chance they’ve already done it without knowing what it is.) But then my thought process tangents off into wondering why sex is the dirtiest of dirties? How is that the longest-lived Victorian relic?

  3. If your child is not ready to read a particular book, it is usually something the teacher/school can manage for that individual child. To deny the book to an entire class, or school, or public library’s population, is to censor, to control access to information or a work of art that you personally do not believe to have value. Peculiarly, in most cases the person(s) objecting to a particular title have not read it, or have read only portions out of context.

    • Mary, I don’t think anyone was saying the books should be taken out of schools. Rather, they said they didn’t want certain ones on required reading lists, and elsewhere I’ve seen suggestions that some books be placed on shelves which required parental permission.

      I think the real thing at issue is whether or not parents get a say in what their kids read or if the school has the capacity to override their wishes.

      Becky

      • OK, Rebecca. Perhaps in this case, it is not what I have seen in the past. Usually it IS a matter of one or two parents trying to control access for everyone’s children, not just their child. If it is important to a parent to limit his/her child’s world view, that is, I suppose, acceptable, but it is not all right to decide what everyone else should do based upon your preferences.


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