In my Rhetoric and Great books class we are writing research papers and were given free choice of what topic we would like to write on as long as it was a current, relevant controversy. I chose to write on book-banning and censorship in American schools.
So off I went to Hell to get books on censorship. I came away with eight books of varying widths and arguments and have spent the last few days reading them. I can't say it was thrilling reading, but it was definitely interesting. I am now thoroughly convinced that this is a controversial topic (in case I needed convincing), since my books disagree with each other rather spectacularly and I disagree with all of them.
Here is a brief summary of the arguments of the sources I got:
1. Our children's text books are being to censored. They are biased to the left because the text books surveyed mention Eastern and New Age religions too often and don't mention Protestantism in America enough.
2. Our children's text books are being censored. They are biased to the right because they ignore women and minorities in their treatment of American history. And they make the Imperialists look like the good guys when in fact they were horrible murders.
3. Resist censorship in all its many and various forms!!! Don't let the Totalitarians take books off your children's school library shelves!!! Don't forget a child's right to know! Here is how to take your school district to court should they curtail your child's rights!!!
4. The things they make children read in school are inappropriate for their age group. They don't take the local beliefs into account at all and just promote all sorts of controversial things that children are not ready to deal with at that age.
5. HERE IS THE WORLDS MOST COMPREHENSIVE DETAILED LIST OF EVERY BOOK EVER BANNED IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD!!!! READ THIS NOW FOR ALL THE GORY COURT DETAILS!!!!
I learned all sorts of interesting factoids. Did you know (according to Herbert N. Foestel in Banned in America) Huckleberry Finn is the forth most banned book of all time? And that, along with Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger and other works that make frequent stays on the “banned” list, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz (gives kids nightmares and promotes the Occult), Little Red Riding Hood (she carried wine to her grandmother and therefore the story must support consumption of alcohol by minors), and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle (promotes New Age worship and a belief in magical powers) all live there as well? (Foestel)
In fact, a lot of the books I enjoyed most as a child have been banned at one time or another. I practically memorized Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and I read A Wrinkle in Time at least twice. I would say I have read at least half the books on this list I am looking at. It makes me glad that I live somewhere where the banning of a book doesn't mean the government hunts down all the copies and burns them. But, I think parents should still have the right to advise their schools of books they don't want their children to read in class or check out of the library.
Yup. Controversial all right.
How do you feel about book-banning? Is it always wrong? Or are there some circumstances under which the banning of a book is right and even best?