As many of you know it’s Banned Books Week, a week-long event celebrating our great nation’s freedom to publish and read and a reminder of the perils of constraining the free exchange of thought. The website Banned Books Week even has an interactive map of the books that have been challenged and banned in the last couple of years.
Banned Books Week has not been without controversy as the Wall Street Journal published a chiding editorial about the celebration, noting that very few books have actually been banned in the last couple of years, which in the opinion of the editorial shows that the ALA has far more power over what kids read than the parents who (almost unanimously unsuccessfully) challenge books.
While I don’t particularly agree with much of the editorial, I do think it raises some interesting points for discussion.
Censorship and book-banning was certainly an important issue pre-Internet, when libraries and bookstores (if you were lucky enough to have both) were the only places where books could really be acquired. But these days the Internet has made any book readily available. Is the issue of censorship as pressing as it used to be, when the banning of HUCK FINN at a library meant a kid really couldn’t read it? Is the editorial correct that if censorship means actually suppressing a book’s availability, it is moot in the Internet age?
And perhaps more importantly, where is the line between parental and public discretion vs. censorship? Should public libraries stock everything and let patrons decide what is inappropriate? What about books that, say, incite prejudice or that the majority of a community feels is inappropriate for children?
Who should decide?
Lots of questions!