Have you ever heard of Farenheit 451? To me, this book is the epitome of book censorship. In the book, a dystopian government works hard to find and subsequently burn all books. It is a book that parodies book censorship, showing that an extreme rejection of books causes an inhibition of learning, culture, and truth. Therefore, censoring such a book that in turn is about book censorship represents circular logic that won’t accomplish any goals.
Book censorship is always a hot topic, with parents, teachers, principals, and others weighing in on what they feel is appropriate for their children. While I feel that obviously there should be limits at the extreme ends of things as far as what is appropriate for school-age reading (extreme violence, explicit sexuality, racial hatred, etc), I sometimes think censors tend to hide behind these categories and paint their censorship with a broad brush. Have an occasional “God damn” or “hell” in your book? Censored due to profanity (the case of Farenheit 451 and Catcher in the Rye). Have occasional fight scenes that are appropriate for the intended age group? Censored due to extreme violence (recently happened to The Hunger Games). Basically, the act of censorship can become a slippery slope very easily. Who is to say what is and isn’t too extreme for children and teens to view? Maybe if a few curses is considered too vulgar then we should remove them altogether. Maybe if violence is unwarranted then it should be banned outright. Obviously, these arguments don’t hold water, and therefore neither should the broad censoring advocated by some. I feel that by and large parents and educators do an admirable job at mediating what their children read. However, the few who do take the censoring too far are only harming their children by blinding them from what is actually going on in the real world (hence the picture to the above!)
Also, I feel that overzealous book censorship is almost a moot point in today’s environment. Do people really believe that censoring a few curses or scenes of violence in a book will automatically protect their children from such things? Children are surrounded by violence and profanity now more than ever. Movies, video games, and television standards aren’t what they were when I was growing up, and children become exposed to such things at an earlier age. If anything, these forms of media are actually more explicit in and of themselves, for they don’t rely on the child’s imagination to propagate unwanted images. The blood and gore and cursing is there in full, vibrant color, brought to you in 1080p high-definition. Therefore, those advocating more censorship should think twice about what their perceived effect is. Granted, as adults we should attempt to limit exposure to such things as much as possible, but the world today is much different from what it was when books reigned as one of the sole media sources for children. I believe that hands on parenting and regulation of the overall media content a child experiences is a much better tactic than broad book censorship.
In conclusion, here is a short list of banned books which I feel are important to the literary development of today’s youth. If you’re a parent, I highly encourage you to get your children to read some of the following. They are books that have the potential to change their lives.1984 Animal Farm Brave New World The Diary of Anne Frank The Giver Of Mice and Men A Wrinkle In Time Catch-22 Flowers for Algernon Harry Potter (multiple books of the series) Huck Finn Lord of the Flies A Separate Peace The Color Purple Catcher in the Rye To Kill A Mockingbird Canterbury Tales The Hunger Games