Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Book Banning: A Very Sticky Topic

Have any of you read the book "Speak" by Laurie Halse Anderson? I haven't, but I've heard a lot about it lately. An associate professor in Missouri criticized it in a local paper as "soft porn" because the book describes and deals with the fall-out from a girl getting raped.

I will not comment on the controversy because, as I've said, I haven't read the book. But it brings up a very interesting question. Is it ever appropriate to ban books or block them from being in public schools and libraries?

If you ask most authors, you'll get a resounding no. It is never appropriate to censor.

But I have to admit that I've struggled with this topic a little. It seems to be a slippery slope whichever way you go. If you say some books should be banned based on your individual ethics, what stops other people from doing the same thing with books you approve of? People who believe differently than you. What if someone decides the Bible ought to be banned, or the Koran? The right to choose for yourself-- free agency-- is a fundamental right that ought to be protected vehemently. Banning books could definitely infringe on that right and become a nightmare very quickly.

On the other hand, are all books created equal? Is the value and virtue of the written word so great that all things written must be considered valuable or virtuous? Or is it possible that some books really aren't worth reading? That some may have a real and actual damaging influence. In this world of moral relativism, it seems it's never okay to stand up and say, "I think this is wrong, and I will fight against its harmful influence." People who speak out are often tagged as hateful and prejudiced (and they are labeled these terms in angry, judgmental, and degrading ways by the very people who are proclaiming to be on the side of love, tolerance, and forbearance). Are we so concerned about free agency that we have robbed people of the agency to decide when something is bad?

I honestly don't know the answer. Part of me feels like shouting, "Can't we all just get along?"

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