Monday, September 27, 2010

Ideas are Dangerous

It's that time of year of again, Banned Books Week, when all of us in favor of intellectual freedom rally against the forces of censorship who seek to protect us from ourselves. Of course, the majority of challenged and banned books are books written for children and teenagers as a way of protecting them. But it's what they are protecting them from which is often disturbing.

In many cases it's simply ideas. It some cases it's exposure to concepts that might be disturbing or uncomfortable. Now I'll be the first one to admit that there are certainly books out there that are inappropriate for this child or that child, but it's on an individual level...not a school wide level, not a town wide level, or nationally. No one has the right to inflict their values or insecurities on others. What might be disturbing for one child to read could actually be crucial for another.

The Diary of Anne Frank (a most-often challenged book) comes to mind. Some might find it upsetting, others simply object to her innocent first observations and thoughts about sex. But for many young readers, it makes learning about the Holocaust personal. It stops being a subject told in black and white pictures and history text books or Hollywood interpretations and becomes about a girl you end up knowing and thinking of as a friend by the end of the book. To make something as powerful as that unavailable is the kind of mentality that led to books' existence in the first place.

Everyone needs to make decisions for themselves and their families...but don't make them me or mine.


  1. Good post - a complicated issue as I would wecome Anne Frank but am iffy about books on Holocaust Denial and anti-Darwinism. I don't like propoganda.

  2. Agreed, but I would never suggest banning them. When these radical fringe ideas are banned or censored, it only strengthens their appeal.