Friday, October 2, 2009

Exercise Freedom! Read a Banned Book Today!

"Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing."

The above quote is from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. This book is one of the most frequently challenged and banned books nationwide for its use of racial slurs and its depiction of adult themes.

Other frequently challenged books include The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Catcher in the Rye, The Grapes of Wrath, The Great Gatsby, Gone With the Wind, The Lord of the Rings, The Lord of the Flies, Schindler's List, Beloved, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, The Call of the Wild, A Farewell to Arms (burned in Nazi bonfires), and Of Mice and Men, among others.

A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based on the objections of a person or a group. A challenge is not simply one or more people expressing an opinion; it is an attempt to deny others access to the material by removing it from a curriculum or a library's shelf. Sometimes this is done with the best of intentions: to protect others, especially children, from difficult ideas and information.

Even if the challengers have positive intentions, Free Access to Libraries for Minors, an interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights (ALA's basic policy concerning access to information) states that, “Librarians and governing bodies should maintain that parents—and only parents—have the right and the responsibility to restrict the access of their children—and only their children—to library resources.” Censorship by librarians of constitutionally protected speech, whether for protection or for any other reason, violates the First Amendment: "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 peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind...the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error."-John Stuart Mill, On Liberty.

A more complete list of challenged classics, along with the reasoning behind their challenge, can be found here.

Addendum: My library director has requested me to add The Adventures of Captain Underpants to the above list of challenged classics. It is duly noted.

No comments: