There is an epidemic in our country, and it is growing stronger daily. Someone is not
being allowed to live her/ his life to the fullest degree because of this disease. Its traits can be
found in every city, town, and state across the country. No, this epidemic is not AIDS or cancer:
however, if left alone, its long term effects can be just as detrimental. The name of the epidemic is
censorship, and last year, the number of censorship cases in the school systems across America
reached a new high because certain interest groups feel they know what is best for students to
think. The censorship of academic materials must be banned because no group has the right to
impose its ideas of politics, morality, or religion to a group of students who have the right to
inform themselves on all subjects and to exercise their own sense of reason.
"The injustices of censorship were in full force at least as early as 1644, the year English
writer John Milton wrote his famous Areopagitica to defend freedom of the press" (Tax 154).
Last year alone, there were more instances of school censorship than any year since 1982 (Clark
171). The most challenged books deal with the following subjects: sex, feminism, teen
rebelliousness, AIDS, homosexuality, the negative African-American experience, and non-Christian viewpoints. The overwhelming majority of book objections come from parents in the
community who have no authority on what should be censored and what should not be censored
(Clark 54). Deanna Duby, director of educational policy for the American Way, expects
censorship to be on the rise in the future. (Solin 98).
The fundamental purpose of schools is to allow everyone to have the opportunity to learn,
Thus, whenever a school system denies a student materials because of censorship, that school
system is acting against its original purpose. School libraries are a distinctively American
institution, invented to insure that lack of money to buy books would never mean that anyone was
denied the chance to learn. "The American Library Association has long believed that it is the
responsibility of libraries to furnish to the public widest range of materials" (Opp. Views. 141). It
is right to expose children to the weaknesses of our society and encourage them to improve
society. Students should be taught objectively in order for them to make unbiased decisions. That
is why it is in the public interest for publishers and librarians to make available the widest diversity
of views and expressions, including those which are unorthodox or unpopular with the majority.
The school systems do not need to endorse every idea or presentation in the material they make
available. It would conflict with the public interest for them to establish their own political, moral,
or aesthetic views as a standard for determining what materials should be published or circulated.
Educational institutions serve their educational purpose by helping to make available knowledge
and ideas required for the growth of the mind and the increase of learning. They do not foster
education by imposing themselves as mentors for patterns of their own thought. It is wrong that
what one man can read should be confined to what another thinks proper. What is obscene to one
person may merely be tiresome to another (Alpert 66). Therefore, if we were to censor every
book that someone found obscene, then there would be nothing left to read.
Censorship violates our fundamental rights and our sense of dignity. Parents have a right
to determine what their own children read, but not what others read. Students should be allowed
to determine for themselves whether they agree or disagree with what they see, hear, and read
based on values instilled by their families. In society, everyone is guaranteed the right to life,
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In order for these rights to be protected, the government
devised the First Amendment. The First Amendment absolutely ensures that Congress shall make
no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or
abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people to peacefully assemble
(E.W. 57). The censor is always quick to justify his functions in terms that are protective of
society. But the First Amendment, written in terms that are absolute, deprives the State of any
power to pass on the value, the propriety, or the morality of a particular expression. Therefore,
censorship contradicts the First Amendment. Censorship robs the individual of his or her sense of
dignity because censorship, in any form, represents a lack of trust in the judgement and
discrimination of the individual (Opp. Views. 171). Censorship means that a majority seeks to
impose its standards on a minority; hence, an element of coercion is inherent in the idea of
censorship. Without considering censored material and using it to question what is thought to be
true, the true material will lose its credibility, In other words, even if something is entirely true,
without questioning it and seeing the other side of an issue, it will lack the essential backing and
Today, there are many signs that our society is in trouble. This is nothing new. All
societies are always in trouble. However, as long as the First Amendment is in effect, as long as
individuals have the opportunity to examine all the evidence and to make informed judgements,
there is a chance that we will find ways of reforming our problems. Education is set up to benefit
the student, censorship does not allow for this to happen. Censoring academic materials is
presenting a greater evil because it is not allowing for students to maximize their guaranteed
rights. Censorship hinders a student's ability to progress into the future and take responsibility for
his / her actions; therefore, censorship must come to an end. If the epidemic of censorship
continues to flourish in our societym we will lose all chances of reforming society, When
censorship wins, everybody loses.
"Burn, Baby, Burn." Entertainment Weekly 6 Mar. 1992: 54
Clark, Charles. "School Censorship." The CQ Researcher Feb 1993: 147-156
Hollis, Alpert. Censorship: For and Against. New York: Hary, 1992.
"Is School and Library Censorship Justified?" Opposing Viewpoints Jan. 1985: 137-174.
Solin, Sabrina. "Don't Read This." Seventeen September 1994:98
Taz, Meredith. "Keep Censors Out of School Libraries." Parents Magazine April 1995: 171.
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