Essay, Research Paper
To Judge a Book by its Cover
For as long as the quill has been able to catch thoughts on paper, writers have created socially disturbing material. Years ago, the acceptability of a book was either met by beheading the writer, or honoring him with a seat at the queen s table. How times have changed. America, home to freedom of intellect, speech, and expression, has created an environment that allows objectionable material within easy reach of young children. The framers of the Constitution could never have imagined how controversal the First Amendment has become in view of writers unshackling themselves of any shred of morality by authoring pieces of literature that most would find offensive, yet some would find enlightening. Library shelves across the nation are ripe with inappropriate books, within easy grasp of any minor, that have the potential to warp young minds.
Presently, just about anyone, regardless of age, can wander the aisles of local libraries and peruse the contents of any book and then check it out with virtually no safeguards in place. A parent’s signature is required when initially opening the account to ensure checked out material is returned, but after that, youngsters basically have carte blanche access to everything the library has to offer. Parents may never see what their adolescents are finding of interest. The minds of children, full of curiosity, snooping and filling the void that parents have good reason to make elusive, greedily lap up the dribble of some warped author’s pen. Shelves and rows loaded from floor to ceiling with books containing pictures of art illustrating various sexual positions, manuals graphically depicting murder victims, books upon books full of political ideologies, rape, sex, illegal acts, how-to books showing bomb construction–the list is endless. How can impressionable minds of children be exposed to such mature material? Now is the time to start rating books. Television programs, video games, movies, even music is filtered by some rating system. The movie rating system has been in place for decades; the book rating system can be just as simple. A restriction sticker or stamp describing the objectionable content on the cover and giving an age-appropriate notice for reading is all it takes.
In April of 1998, a horrific incident took place in Littleton, Colorado. The shooting is all too familiar. Dylan Klebold, and Eric Harris, according to later findings, spent many hours in their local library researching, Hitler s Nazi ideologies, and even reading his autobiography Miem Kamf countless times fueling their rage (Lessons Learned). Could this have been avoided? So many books over the years have propelled young people to commit horrendous acts and still no rating system on books. Sadly, school children spend between five and ten times the amount of contact with teachers than they do parents. The system could not only draw the attention of library staff, but alarm parents, teachers and fellow students of noxious contents beneath book covers. This system allows teachers and parents to form a type of control, limiting the material viewed by students. Many parents and teachers feel it is good to see children reading, but do they really know what they read. Picture a child burning his eyes into a pornographic magazine laid out on his desk at school, hard to picture because obtaining the magazine requires a specific age, and also the content is so visibly unacceptable the child does not stand a chance viewing it. Picture instead, a child reading a steamy, supermarket checkout-aisle romance novel. Besides Fabio throwing his love over his shoulders in passion on the cover, no way to identify the smut beneath the child s eyes. This system would have ensured that the child never attained the book, because whether purchased or checked out, the child would have been stopped, by the cover indicating a specific age required.
According to the American Library Association, any attempt to restrict access to library services, materials, and facilities strictly violates the Library Bill of Rights. Article V of the Library Bill of Rights states, A person s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views. The right to use a library includes free access to, and unrestricted use of, all the services, materials, and facilities the library has to offer (Library Bill of Rights). The book rating system also faces the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This asserts, Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers (Universal Declaration of Human Rights). Some believe that rating books would undermine every foundation America is built upon, causing the walls of free choice to tumble.
Both, the Library Bill of Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were adopted in late 1948. Since then, masses of objectionable material have come to rest on library shelves. The post war movement of World War II raised a lot of questions concerning censorship after the book burning in Nuremberg square. With widespread fear of communism surrounding Americans, barriers were needed to thwart the possibility of communistic ideology. Also during this time, American s morals were all very balanced, leaving little thought to the bill s implications. Communism is behind us, and so i America s moral balancing act–restraints must be in place to plug freedoms excretion of abhorrent material in the hands of children. Repeal and revise the declarations and bills concerning libraries, and pull the minds of America’s children from the gutters of America s libraries.
American Library Association. Library Bill of Rights. Washington: ALA Council, 1948.
General Assembly of the United Nations. Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Resolution 217, A (III). Washington: General Assembly, 1998.
Norton, Kyle. Lesson Learned From Littleton. Rocky Mountain News 17 June 1999, National Column.: A1-A3.
II. Reason and Support of Position
III. Reason and Support of Position
IV. Opposing Argument