What is censorship? That might be hard to explain. For every person a “word” can mean many things. Yet at the same time can have a similar overall idea. Take these two examples of the definition censorship. The American Civil Liberties Union claims that it means the suppression of words, images, or ideas that are ‘offensive.’ The Global Internet Liberty Campaign states it is the control of the information and ideas circulated within a society. Just by these two definitions alone you can find similarities and differences in their meaning.
Censorship comes in many forms, but I find that books are the most targeted. The reason that is-is that it is the purest form of knowledge. Now you could argue that speech would be that. It is true that speech was here before written word, but speech can be manipulated, especially in this day of age. Books, however, transient all lies, biasness, and distortions. Though to be fair, there are those who try, and sadly exceed.
There have been over four-hundred formal attempts to remove books from our libraries and schools every year. Captain Underpants, Tango Makes Three, and Scary Stories are just some of the most demanded children books to be removed over the years.
But why do the masses allow to be controlled by a selective few? That is a complicated answer, and it based on individual reasons. But you can generalize it with the idea that pro-censorship groups use ignorance by influence. All you must do is get a general stimulus, like well, like actor or expert, and then have that stimulus use your unawareness to push their agenda.
If you like or trust someone enough, you tend to believe it, and quickly spread that information to the next person and so on. You would think that anyone could see though this plan, but the truth is-is that it works almost all the time. Example of this is Harry Potter series. The suggestion and evil of witchcraft is so real in others minds that they seek to ban the books before its influence spreads to children. Another example of this would be a book by Mark Twain called the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Some of the characters within the book use derogatory words against black slaves. Because of these words, it is claimed by other to be a racist book. The question that needs to be asked is if, the ones placing the censorship, had read and understood the books they choice to ban.
I understand their point of view when it comes to censorship. In some ways I’d even approve of it. The prime example would be the atom bomb. When it comes to books, I’d be willing to guess that most of the time it is based on a true belief that they are doing some sort of good for their community. Maybe a child turning to Wiccan after reading Harry Potter. If you take the Christian mindset in this instance, that idea of censorship is the battle for your soul. Even if you don’t believe the Christian view, you can understand that they are not censoring (sorry for the pun) for the hell of it. If you were to look at other organizations or movements, I’d bet the same thing could be seen as well.
Our children are our future. I know that is an old cliché, but that don’t make it any less truthful. Should we be hiding them for things they will soon find out anyways? If the purpose was to survive from a predator I would say that we shouldn’t. The more they know, the more it will keep them safe. How about Santa or the tooth fairy? I think most of us would agree that in this case it would be fine to let them believe in a lie. It does them no harm, and brings a certain magic in the world, that the world needs for children. We need to create balance philosophy and, as adults, form a greater understanding of our children. Some of it is for schools, libraries, and teachers to determine. Some of it deals with the parents or legal guardians. Most, however, it’s for the child to decide. We they start asking those questions that dreads us, as concerned adults, maybe that’s when we need to trust them and show them the answers they seek.
Maybe the issue comes from how we classify our books. If Harry Potter had no child classification would it make any difference? The short answer is no. If the book is good, children will find their way to it regardless. But perhaps there is something to it still. By creating no labels for our books, we as adults, will still create one for it. However if no label was created, it would be harder to ban it. If a book wasn’t label for children, it would be harder to pick it apart. John Milton once said, “In the marketplace of ideas, good messages must drive out bad. If we can’t dry up the supply of harmful material, we have to marginalize it, by teaching and inspiring children to cope with it, reject it and move forward. That calls for the old-fashioned kind of interactivity, not between us and our machines, but between us and our children.”
Once the time comes to counter censorship there are several things that must be done. First thing you need to do is to voice out against it but remember to do your research first. As Diane Chapman said in her article: Defense Tactics: Combating Censorship, “Teachers, librarians, and adults, need to place a good offensive attack against those that deem to censor our books.” Once a communal of teachers, librarians, other officials has been fashioned, it is time to establish a curriculum that makes sense. It should include steps to protect children from true extreme obscenities, but allow them to access them when maturity is shown. Then explanations, with an open public announcement, as to why these books should be allow existing in the public form for all. The more open and honest your idea is, the more likely others will side with it.
In the end we need to understand that censorship is important in some ways, but we have to remember that it has its cost. It’s time to answer the hard questions and only we, as individuals, should make that decision on what we should or shouldn’t read. We need to trust our children more and allow them to make the choice of readiness. Each time we let a book get banned from out of our reach, we are slowly destroying our freedoms and of course, that irreplaceable knowledge.