The Dangers of Censorship in High School
Every day well meaning parents, concerned members of society, and Christian activist groups across the country fight to censor the literature that is being taught in high school classrooms. The word censorship carries all types of implications and angles; it involve s a denial of an author's right to guaranteed freedoms of expression. However, as it relates to education, this issue goes a great deal deeper than the standard First Amendment argument. In attempting to ban certain types of literature from the classroom, censors are taking away the rights of teachers to prepare students for a reality that their parents do not seem to think will ever affect them. They likewise deny students the chance to learn how to rationally make their own decisions and instead try to keep that control for themselves. Censorship is preventing intelligent, thoughtful teachers from pushing students to reach past what is just on the page. Whatever their motives may be, those who seek to repress the use of certain materials are doing more harm than good.
Those who actively fight to censor, ban, or restrict the kinds of literature that can be taught in America's classrooms are convinced that anyone who truly believes pornography and obscenity are problems must be in favor of censorship. Kristol (1972) points out that students are being corrupted by books and that anyone who doubts this need only look at the lives of the teachers who oppose him to find adequate proof of the damage they do. He finds that it is the responsibility of the educated in society to regulate censorship, but that these are the very people who are convinced that what is being taught by sensitive educators is indeed appropriate and even necessary to the learning process. This seems a telling point about what being educated must do for critical thinking abilities; those who understand how to read all types of texts with maturity are not disturbed by the realities contained therein.
Kristol (I 972) claims that "very few words of real merit ever were suppressed" (p. 649). This is a difficult statement- to agree with because among the literary giants that have been repeatedly censored are Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird, Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl, and John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath. Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn has been frequently attacked on the basis of racial prejudice. J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, the coming-of-age novel loaded with profanity, leads all of these as far as censorship votes are concerned (Donelson, 1997). ) While these and hundreds of other books continue to show up on ban lists in libraries across the country, activists like Kristol (1972) have asserted that "in the U.S., censorship has to all intents and purposes ceased to exist" (p.645).
Censorship in the classroom is about control. Gardner (1997) came to understand this concept when he used "book burning" to make a point to...