To Censor Literature is to Censor Life
"All that mankind has done, thought, gained or been: it is lying as in magic preservation in the pages of books. They are the chosen possession of men." Thomas Carlyle spoke these words in the early 19th century. Two hundred years later, it seems we still do not understand the breadth and magnificence of the written word. Americans have forgotten the magical experiences that can be found in the pages of books. Instead of respecting the chosen possession of men, they wield it as a tool to achieve their own ends. If we lose our respect for knowledge, we lose our respect for ourselves; indeed, as Milton so eloquently wrote, "As good almost kill a man as kill a good book"
Despite First Amendment rights, censorship abounds in the United States. One of the most popular targets for censorship is literature. Of course, this is nothing new. As long as writers have been publishing books, censors have been burning them. Perhaps not always literally, but as author Ray Bradbury points out, "there is more than one way to burn a book"(545). Special interest groups, be they secular or religious, left or right wing, politicians or PTA's, all feel they have the right to "burn"or otherwise obliterate, destroy, edit and censor material they feel is subversive according to their specific agenda or belief system. One of the genres that especially comes under the often misguided blaze of these groups is youth and adolescent literature. For a myriad of reasons, most of which are based more on emotional reactionary ideals rather than actual fact, incredible books written for our nation's children are targeted, dissected, and then discarded like so much garbage on the rubbish heap left by closed minds and intolerant morals.
For purposes of brevity, although there are many different censoring groups with many different agendas, this examination will be restricted to three main arguments purported in the defense of censoring children's literature. These are core arguments offered by a majority of the pro-censorship population. The first, and perhaps most widely argued, is the issue of language, specifically, profanity in children's literature. Many people argue that curse words have no place in books, and exposing children to such inappropriate language will contaminate them. Proponents of censorship also object to plot lines in children's books that deal with confusion and uncertainty; they do not think books should address issues of morality or the meaning of life. They feel that children are not equipped to deal with these issues or, if they are, then their sole guidance should be parents and other authority figures. Finally, some groups object to exposing children to literature at all because they feel that it encourages the child to live in a fantasy world. They believe that imagination is dangerous and must be tightly reigned.