Thursday, November 15, 2007

Anti-Censorship, Pro-Literature

As I was doing the meme yesterday, I found myself in varying states of shock and outrage about censored works of literature. I get pretty heated up about the issue.

In my second semester of college, we had to write an argumentative paper for Honors. Being the child of conservatives, I thought I should talk about the horrors of partial birth abortion. The paper was boring, but okay--I'm sure my instructor read more than one of them*. Then we had to pair up and write a paper about some issue. My friend Wes and I chose to write about censorship, an issue I immediately and passionately threw myself into. After completing the project (and enjoying it), I realized: for the first paper I picked a topic I thought I should care about deeply but really didn't. But censorship--now that was something I could fired up about.

Why do I care so much? Part of it is that I don't believe kids should be as sheltered as some parents want them to be. I grew up over-sheltered, yet books taught me about the world in ways I didn't have to experience. Books (and some that my parents wouldn't have approved of) allowed me to escape from those unbearable teenage years for a short time.

The other part is that it pains me to see beautiful, wonderful, magical books treated like filth, like they have nothing to offer readers. And it pains me even more to see how those calling for censorship judge the works: off a word, a scene, a situation. They don't take the work for it's full value; they act like themes of violence, sexuality, and crudeness can never have a deeper meaning. And they can. A book like Speak can enhance rape awareness, for so many people who refuse to speak out about it. So many good books get tossed out because they aren't mundane and "wholesome". But they are beautiful works of literature.

I could go on and on, but censorship of these kind of books that are real and marvelous is such a mistake. Though, if parents try to hide books from their kids, maybe the kids will try to read them more...

*When I taught a homeschool writing class, I forbade any students writing their argumentative papers on things like abortion, gun control, and the death penalty. I really didn't want to read 20 paper on how horrible abortion was when all they were doing was spewing back everything they'd heard from their parents, church, and community for the past 14-18 years. I wanted them to choose an issue that they had a vested interest in.

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