Tuesday, January 10, 2012

High School Student on Censorship

I received a hand-signed letter from a high school student that is so outstanding I decided to publish it, as is, eliding only her name, and without comment from me.  I only added a graphic that goes with her theme and any hyperlinks I could find.  Enjoy:

Dear Mr. Kleinman,

     My name is H P and I feel very strongly about the issue of censorship; generally I am against it.  I feel that, although some discretion is necessary for certain age groups, people should be free to enjoy the literature of their choice, regardless of the fact that some find it inappropriate.  I feel that censorship should not be practiced in a society that preaches the right to information and individuality.

     In my brief sixteen years, I have met many parents, all with different view points on raising their kids.  Yet one common ideal they all express, albeit to different degrees, was the protection of their child's innocence.  I realize that there are some extremely sick people out there who are the authors/originators of a lot of disgusting things.  My objections are not against pornographical items, simply literature that is unfairly judged and refused to people who are willing to read it.  I also realize that discovering all that is out there is a process that progresses with maturity and I respect parent's efforts to ease into that process.  However, a lot of the parents I have encountered take it to the extreme, demanding that because a certain book contains details they believe to be too mature for their child, the chance of reading it should be denied to hundreds of other kids whose parents might feel differently.  And it could not be simpler to do so.  It is as simple as someone saying, "Don't let anyone read this book . . . because I object to it!' (American Library Association).  Most libraries are lacking in some incredible stories, such as The Call of the Wild, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Gone with the Wind, and Of Mice and Men, despite the fact that they are literature classics and amazing reads.  The book, Slaughterhouse Five by Sarah Vonnegut, relating the story of a Nazi POW barrack, was recently banned to the restricted section of school libraries in Republic, MO where it will only be available for check out by parents/guardians (National Coalition Against Censorship).  This may solve any concerns parents may have about their children reading it behind their backs, but what about the other students whose parents allow, and even encourage, them to read such book?  Because of this, "ridiculous notion of a 'compromise', a 17 year-old will have to bring Mom or Dad to check out books of inarguable artistic and educational merit" (National Coalition Against Censorship).  Most American teenagers have a very busy life, what with school, homework, and extracurricular activities.  Parents as well have a day full of work and little time off.  If someone wanted to read that book, where would they find the time to ask their parents down to the school to check it out?  Where would their parents find time to oblige?  Because of one parent's over concern this student has now lost the opportunity to read what might have been a very good, eye opening book.

     Even fun books like the Harry Potter series are being challenged.  Parents do not like the idea of their kids being exposed to witchcraft and some violence displayed in the books.  Some people even went far enough to burn and/or cut up some of the books.  Most kids are not happy about this.  A young lady named Amanda posted on a website regarding the Jesus Party's Anti-Harry Potter Conference and Book Cutting, "They're saying that this book is violent what do they think they are showing by cutting up the books!!!!!" (kidspeakonline.org).  Statistics show that classic books are more likely to be challenged (angelfire.com).  Books such as Ivanhoe and Uncle Tom's Cabin, amazing stories with themes and plots that are challenged because of some material that may be unpleasant.  While the material may be inappropriate for younger ages, it is generally not directed towards such an age group.  Such books can usually be found in junior high and high school libraries depending on content.  Themes exposed in junior high might be of some small issue, but in high school, the idea of banning books is ludicrous.  In high school we truly discover who we are and grow into mature adults.  If we are seen as too young to be exposed to certain themes, when will we ever be ready?  Most people do not realize that, "Censorship is always a dangerous thing.  It can, mentally, hinder someone's right to knowledge" (angelfirecom).  Protecting the innocence of a child is one thing, but where do we cross the line from protection to denial of rights?  As an American, I have the right to express myself in my own way, whether through what I say, wear, or do.  Most express themselves through what they say, acting on their right to free speech.  In any given case, you are going to find someone who disagrees with an opinion.  And yet when someone goes so far as to silence that opinion, they are doing more harm than good.  What they do not realize is "Yes, supporting freedom of speech means you may have to hear and see expression that you don't like.  But if you cave in to censorship, you will still hear expression[sic] you don't like- from the Powers That Be- and be left without a voice to counter it.  Don't be fooled" (Feminists Against Censorship).  Personally, I express myself through what I read.  When I am denied the chance of reading a book I think to be interesting because someone whom l have never met before has a problem with a bad word here and there, it really ticks me off.  If someone has a problem with a book, why not just put it down.  Why would they ruin the chance to read it for someone who might be able to see past the questionable language and some mild adult content and truly enjoy the story.  Just because they did not enjoy it, does not mean anybody else will.

     Censorship is becoming a big issue in our society and I am glad that I have had the chance to attempt to open your eyes to the repercussions.  I hope you will encourage parents to continue doing what they think is best for their child, while keeping in mind that it is not the same for everyone.  Although parents have a right to be concerned about the materials their children are being exposed to, not all parents have the same view on how much is too much.  Censorship restricts our exposure to new ideas and restricts our access to information.  But most of all, censorship restricts our growth as human beings.  Thank you for listening.



     H P

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this student's view on censorship! Hopefully, as a society, we'll be able to keep fear in check, look at the issues with wisdom, and maintain the freedom our country was founded on.


Comments of a personal nature, trolling, and linkspam may be removed.