I’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!