Banned Books I never heard of anyone who was really literate or who ever really loved books who wanted to suppress any of them. Censors only read a book with great difficulty, moving their lips as they puzzle out each syllable, when someone tells them that the book is unfit to read. ~Robertson Davies Throughout all of history, human beings have been continuously seeking new mediums of communication, specifically for the purpose of exchanging ideas and information. This has been done in a series of ways, including spoken language, hand gestures, and, most importantly, the written word. The written word has an advantage over all other forms of communication, for it allows many people access to information otherwise unavailable; a story heard can be easily misconstrued and passed incorrectly, while a physical representation remains solid, and may be reproduced in large numbers, making it available to many people at the same time.
With this benefit, ideas, facts, and opinions may be spread to diverse groups of people, spawning fresh ideas and advances in most every field of human development. When the first moveable type was invented by the Greeks in 1700B.C., making it possible to transfer hieroglyphics onto clay disks, an almost immediate explosion of philosophy and education began to develop as a direct result (Banned Books screen 1). Years later, the Chinese developed the very first books — blocks of bamboo bound with silk — doing for communication what nuclear energy did for fire. From there, the book went through a slow evolution, eventually reaching the form that we are familiar with today. Such a vast sharing of knowledge doesn’t come without consequences, however.
When opinions are made readily available to a large group of people, beliefs clash, provoking anger and insecurity. For example, in Athens, Socrates was sentenced to death by the Athenian Assembly for his writings which glorified male homosexuality, among other things(DeCamp 4). When a piece of literature doesn’t conform to older ideals or questions a widely practiced religion, people tend to take dramatic action, even going as far as to ban the work or editing it, only allowing filtered bits to reach the intended public. This practice, known as censorship, forces thousands of eager readers to yield to the ideals and standards of others. Although this is disgustingly un-American, this is commonly practiced in schools, libraries, and book stores, and is most often spurred on by an angry parent, demanding their child not be corrupted by such vulgar, radical ideas (Heins 8). In a classroom setting, complaints such as the above are commonplace, and a surprising number of these complaints are carried through to the fullest extent, that being the barring of a certain title from the classroom.
This is partly done on fear that comes from teachers and school boards who dread either a lawsuit or a grim reputation. What threatens us today is fear. Not the atom bomb, nor even fear of it, because if the bomb fell..tonight, all it would do would be to kill us, which is nothing, since in doing that, it will have robbed itself of it’s only power over us; which is fear of it, the being afraid of it. Our danger is not that. Our danger is the forces in the world today which are trying to use man’s fear to rob him of his individuality, his soul, trying to reduce him to an unthinking mass of fear.. (Faulkner, quoted in Noble 43).
This seems to be a growing, dangerous trend; a single group of parents becoming censors for an entire group of children, even those who do not share the adult’s point of view. It seems that overnight we have all of these self-appointed advocates of clean literature, says Gene Lanier, Chairman of Library Science at East Carolina University. A book is easier to burn than to explain (quoted in Noble 119). This statement holds a startling amount of truth, for when a book is banned, it is usually carried out by a small group of fist-shakers who all subscribe to a similar set of ideals, say, Christianity. Something offensive to perhaps a few individuals of a certain faith, but not to the many others who want to read the book is still enough to get a book banned.
When unfamiliar ideals are presented to a child, parents have a tendency to shun the new idea rather than acknowledge or explain it’s existence. An example supporting this theory is an event that took place in Lubbock, Texas. A mother came to the schoolboard with an objection to Stone Words: A Ghost Story, by Pam Conrad, a book stocked by the local elementary school library. The book, which is part of a Texas Bluebonnet Program, was put in the library as an incentive for children to develop sophisticated critical-thinking skills; the book itself was selected by a committee of librarians, parents and educators on the basis of literary merit and age-appropriate content. The objections presented about the book by this parent were it’s morbidity, lack of family values, new-age theology, and apparently being anti-religion.
The parent requested the removal of this book from the school library (PFTAW 165). I realize we are not allowed to teach religion in school; however, we should not be allowed to teach anti-religion, either, which this book is..even though it does not state clearly that there is no God, the parent said. Most kids don’t have responsible parents. That is a problem. One half of the kids in this school don’t have responsible parents (PFTAW).
Although the mother delivered her argument vehemently, the board agreed that the book promoted reading and creative writing, one member stating, Students like this kind of book. Kids come into the library time and again asking for scary books; it’s a very safe, controlled way to scare themselves. If it’s too scary, they can close it and go on to something else. In my experience, kids who read books only absorb what has value and meaning to them, and if it’s too scary or if it’s something they don’t understand, they just go right on, they don’t worry about it (PFTAW). Another member, in order to admonish the parent said, You are attempting to impose your deeply held beliefs on other people..I don’t think it’s proper for you to say that every parent in Lubbock who has a child in the school district should be deprived of having that child read this book simply because they do not share your beliefs (PFTAW). Although the possibility of another book being banned was shut down in the Lubbock school district, all too many books, many considered classics, have been banned from classrooms across America, the supposed land of the free.
This is possibly one of the more dangerous issues facing this country, a country founded on defying such things as censorship; if this trend continues, we run the risk of creating generations of opinionless (is that a word? My computer doesn’t seem to think so) people who will always rely on others to dictate what they find right or wrong. As a supporter of the strict interpretation of the first ammendment which gives Americans the right to read or write any material they see fit, I feel that schools should abide by the standards set forth in the first ammendment. It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate, for this is America, and in America, students may not be regarded as closed-circuit recipients of only that which others choose to communicate with them. If schools would choose to educate and culture students, as opposed to pleasing their parents, a new interest in learning would be sparked in young people everywhere, and the quality of public education would certainly increase. Bibliography Bibliography DeCamp, L. — Lost Continents Book, 1954 GN, 751 .D38 Heins, Marjorie — Sex, Sin, and Blaphemy Book, 1995 Z, 658 .U5 H 43 Marsh, Dave — 50 Ways to Fight Censorship Book, 1991 Z, 658 .U5 M37 Noble, Bill — Bookbanning in America Book, 1990 Z, 658 .U5 N6 People for the American Way — Attacks on the Freedom to Learn Book, 1992 658 . U5 A87 Reichman, Henry — Censorship and Selection Book, 1988 Z, 658 .U5 R45 Education Essays.