Censorship really burns me

There are a lot of things in this world that frustrate me. Very near the top of the list is censorship. It really pisses me off that any one person or group believes they have the right to decide what I have access to read, watch or listen to. So when I read this story this morning about a group in Milwaukee seeking the right to “publicly burn or destroy by another means the library’s copy of Baby Be-Bop, I was angry.

The group claims:

“the plaintiffs, all of whom are elderly, claim their mental and emotional well-being was damaged by this book at the library,” specifically because Baby Be-Bop contains the “n” word and derogatory sexual and political epithets that can incite violence and “put one’s life in possible jeopardy, adults and children alike.”

You know what else incites violence? The Bible. Yep, let’s throw out what is widely considered a great piece of literature (at best, it’s difficult to really understand great literature without a foundational knowledge of the Bible), because it calls for the murder of women, children, slaves, infidels, etc.

“Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled, and their wives ravished.”
Isaiah 13:16

“For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death . . . ”
Leviticus 20:9

“. . . Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour.”
Exodus 32:27

” . . . whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.”
Exodus 31:15

No, not really. Because getting rid of information is not the answer. Teaching peole how to use and filter information is the answer. The Christian Civil Liberties Union is offended that

library Director Michael Tyree has “publicly stated that it is not up to the library to tell the community what is appropriate.”

Actually, Michael Tyree has it exactly right. It is not up to the library, or the CCLU, or you, or me to decide what books should or shouldn’t be available to read. Parents should take on the [admittedly daunting] task of knowing what their kids are reading, and be willing to talk with the kids about difficult subject matters. Also, parents should have their fingers on the pulse of what their kids are and aren’t able to handle. Age-appropriate ratings are a good mechanism, but parents also need to know the maturity level of their own kids. The important thing here is that communiation is key.

Alternatively, adults, especially those who have been in the world for a long time (like the “elderly” involved in this complaint) should know that the world is not perfect, and pretending that it is does not make it so. We cannot address things which we don’t ackowledge. Although, my understanding of this book (which I haven’t read, but now, of course, plan to) is that it is essentially the story of a young gay boy. This induces an entirely different fit of anger for me – that of the bigotry of homophobia – about which I’ve blogged before and will therefore not dwell on it here.

Now, I know there are probably some of you sitting there, reading this tirade on censorship, and thinking, well, what about all you heathens trying to take creationism out of the classroom? Isn’t that censorship, too? Well, fine. I’ll tell you why I think the two scenarios are different. Not that I think I’ll change your mind, but because I may as well preempt the question I know will be coming:

Libraries and bookstores are resources for anyone who wants to use them. Schools, on the other hand, are educational facilities, designed to teach specific curriculum about the real world. Creationism (or ID, if you insist) does not belong where it is currently being taught – in science classrooms – because it is not science. It is an ideology that postulates no testable hypotheses, which are the basis for the scientific method. It belongs in an elective philosophy or Bible class, but it does not belong in the science classroom. And that is what the fight has been from the beginning. Not even to remove it entirely from schools, just from the science curriculum.

This is similar to what we do expect libraries and bookstores to do for us: categorize material by age and topic so that our decisions in choosing material appropriate for us is well-guided, and we find particular books where we expect to find them. Likewise, putting creationism in its appropriate place is not equivalent to censorship.


1 Comment

  1. Ken Kuhns said,

    July 22, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    It is also worthy to note that you don’t say anything about removing books about creationism or intelligent design from the library – nor do most opponents of ID and creationism.

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