I have no problem with parents taking an interest in what their children are reading, and therefore, at times, deciding that something is inappropriate for their own child. What I find reprehensible is the decision of some parents to take their own views and attempt to spread them over entire schools or school districts. This sort of behavior expands parental rights into a form of attempted dictatorship. Strong words, perhaps, but true nonetheless.
I would also like to point out that while I have links to certain larger organizations in the sidebar of this site, that does not mean that I believe any of them are the be-all or end-all of censorship authority. Each organization does valuable work and therefore deserves to be heard, but this does not endorse any group as the final word on the subject. With that in mind, I would like to turn to the 2009-2010 list of banned and challenged books by Robert P. Doyle. This is a resource put out by the ALA, but also endorsed by a multitude of other organizations. The foreword contains some valuable information and defines censorship and challenges in a particularly enlightening and simple way. So without further adieu, I end today's entry with these words:
Sex, profanity, and racism remain the primary categories of objections, and most occur in schools and school libraries. Frequently, challenges are motivated by the desire to protect children. While the intent is commendable, this method of protection contains hazards far greater than exposure to the “evil” against which it is leveled. U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Brennan, in Texas v. Johnson, said, “If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the Government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.” Individuals may restrict what they themselves or their children read, but they must not call on governmental or public agencies to prevent others from reading or seeing that material.
The challenges documented in this list are not brought by people merely expressing a point of view; rather, they represent requests to remove materials from schools or libraries, thus restricting access to them by others. Even when the eventual outcome allows the book to stay on the library shelves and even when the person is a lone protester, the censorship attempt is real. Someone has tried to restrict another person’s ability to choose. Challenges are as important to document as actual bannings, in which a book is removed from the shelves of a library or bookstore or from the curriculum at a school. Attempts to censor can lead to voluntary restriction of expression by those who seek to avoid controversy; in these cases, material may not be published at all or may not be purchased by a bookstore, library, or school district.