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Censorship in School Libraries

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Censorship in School Libraries

The most debatable and controversial form of censorship today is the banning of books in school libraries. Banning books that educate students is wrong and selfish. Censorship of books in school libraries is neither uncommon nor an issue of the past. Books with artistic and cultural worth are still challenged constantly by those who want to control what others read. The roots of bigotry and illiteracy that fuel efforts to censor books and free expression are unacceptable and unconditional. Censoring school books in libraries can often lead to censorship of our basic freedoms guaranteed in the First Amendment. In some cases, a minority ends up dictating the majority in censorship cases. To be told what is permissible reading material and what is not is a direct violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution.

The First Amendment of the Constitution is the most important and debatable of them all. The First Amendment states; "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, of prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Freedom of expression is an inalienable human right and the foundation for self-government. Freedom of expression defines the freedoms of speech, press, religion, assembly, association, and the corollary right to receive information. Human rights and intellectual independence; the two are inseparably linked. Freedom of opinion and determining what you want to read is not

derived from or dependent on any form of government or political power. This right is inherent in every individual. The power of freedom cannot be yielded, nor can it be denied. True justice comes from the exercise of rights.

Students enjoy going to the library and being able to read what they want to read, without any indecision. As soon as a censor claims a book should be censored, the student's hope of reading that book is diminished. Censorship, ignorance, and limitations on the free flow of information are the tools of dictatorship and oppression. The "tyrant" simply chooses to pull that book from the shelves of knowledge, and the students right of the First Amendment is violated (Appendix A).

Books like The Chocolate War, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and Of Mice and Men have been placed on the controversial bookshelf of many school libraries. The Chocolate War and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings were challenged for reasons of being "sexually explicit" Of Mice and Men, challenged for using "offensive" language. Also Harry Potter for encouraging witchcraft, sorcery, and Satanism. If it's not one "ism," it's another. Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time has been targeted by censors for supporting New Ageism, and Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for promoting racism. Sometimes books are banned or censored for unusual and often ridiculous reasons. An example of such banning is of Little Red Riding Hood in two California districts in 1989. In the story, Little Red Riding Hood is bringing a cake and a bottle of wine to her grandmother's house. The districts claimed they were concerned because of the use of alcohol in the story. Where does that leave today's

children? It appears that the children of today are in danger of being "protected" from a lot of great literature. I feel that by the time a child can read these books, they are at an age where they can distinguish between things that should and should not be said. I think that it is up to the parents to educate the child that just because they say it in the book, does not mean he or she should do or feel the same. I can just imagine next years headline: "Goodnight Moon: Banned for Encouraging Children to Communicate With Furniture!" "If we got rid of everything these people object to, there'd be nothing left, but Black Beauty, and after a while that gets a little thin for adolescents" (qtd. in White 91). One man in South Carolina has gone so far as to demand that the Bible be placed on an adult's only shelf of the library because parts are too graphic for young children (Hunt 89).

A particular target for censorship in schools is books on homosexual issues. In June of

1998, a Republican state legislator introduced a "no promo homo" bill that would make it a felony for anyone to provide a minor with a book that shows "alternate lifestyles" without the child's parents' consent. The proposed bill would require any group or individual to have parental permission before distributing such information. The bills sponsor did not explain

what he meant by "alternate lifestyles," although a parent testifying in favor of the bill said she was alarmed that books such as Leslea Newman's, Heather Has Two Mommies are available in school libraries.

School libraries are stations for information and ideas. All books and other library materials should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all students in the school. Libraries should provide books and information presenting all points of views on cultural and historical issues. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility

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