"For the most part, the Republican Party is the only outlet where conservatives have a voice, so we have to use it. But it functions like a rusty knife we use only because we can't cut our steaks with a spoon."- Matthew Rathel

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Censorship: The Debate for the Ages

While I believe that this conservative groups should pick better battles to fight, I think that cries of censorship often more focused on making sure that children are reading the books the accuser finds appropriate. I recently read an article lamenting the fact that a school district removed The Joys of Sex from its middle-school library, but its amazing how often such action is taken and given no coverage by those who claim to be looking out for the freedom of speech. The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm was taken out of many school libraries because of negative portrayals of women. Gone With the Wind, (while deserving a ban due to poor quality of literature) was banned in many schools because of its use of the word "nigger." However, I only hear criticism of book banning when it is directed at right-wing groups.

The truth is that many people who complain of censorship are doing so because they would like to be the all-powerful selector of children's literature. The fantastic power one gains from the ability to choose what children can read and what opinions will shape their young minds often proves too much for your average liberal or conservative (and a lot less often for the conservative than one might think). But most school libraries are limited in space, and the book in question should not be included if other, more important materials are left in the bargain bin at Goodwill. The truth is that nothing should be censored from children old enough to critically examine the content presented, but in the case where such censorship is necessary, the conservative groups deserve just as much say as the liberal.

My image of public school libraries is limited to my elementry school in central Georgia, but as
I look back and think of the books on the shelves, I can understand the conservative complaints of left-wing bias in book selection. Of course, I would like to state clearly that the majority of books geared towards children are neutral, or attempt to find a neutral political center, there are still too many geared towards providing children with liberal values at a young age. Books such as King & King, which caused an outcry back in 2005 as it presents homosexuality to kindergarten-aged children and And Tango Makes Three, are becoming more and more prevalent in public elementry schools as Christian-based books become less and less visible on the shelves. Of course the recent popularity of the Narnia movies have kept Lewis from falling by the wayside, but while secular and anti-Christian writings make their way to the shelves of high schools across the country, the Christian rebuttals are being confined more and more to the Classic sections.

Underlying problems here? The most visible to a recent college graduate such as myself (I don't know how much longer I can continue to add the "recent") is that those who are vying for the low-paying teaching positions across our country tend to be ideological liberals. I will never forget the last party I went to after graduating and before leaving home to pursue a carreer: I was sitting in a stranger's living room sipping on a Miller Lite as I heard in passing one of my friends mention to two random girls that I am a conservative. No sooner had I taken my eyes off of the TV came the high-pitched squeals of outrage and the onslaught of what would turn into a 5 minute condemnation of conservative thought in relation to education and literature. I let them finish, smiled, then retorted using real language instead of the memorized jargon from Judith Butler-worshiping textbooks. I laid out my argument for a fair system of book selection for libraries which takes into account grade levels and intent of the works as well as neutrality and the often anti-neutral search for secular neutrality. Just as I was finishing my argument, a third Mercer School of Education student approached the other two and notified them that the bong had arrived and that they needed to go out to the car if they wanted a hit. I was stopped mid-sentence.

Now three girls at a party don't make a great sample for a plausible poll, but I don't think that these girls are outside the standard deviation for your median education major. Many early childhood education majors are in it for the joy and the satisfaction of working with children, but there is an alarming number of teachers in the system who actively seek the position of influence in order to indoctrinate children with a liberal mindset. They will call it "open-mindedness", "freedom of expression", "or acceptance of other lifestyles," but what it amounts to is forcing their ideologies on children too young to fight for themselves. And, so far as I can see, it is a campaign that starts in the school library.

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